‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ is best animated film in long time
Sony Pictures Animation
‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ is best animated film in long time
January 12, 2019
2018 was a great year for films. However, there was one film that pushed the boundaries of what film is capable of: “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse”. Most of you are probably thinking to yourself: “Sam, really, an animated film? Isn’t that some kind of kids movie? You probably just picked it because you’re a comic book fan.” Into the Spider-Verse is so much more than just another comic book movie, it’s a beautiful work of art that totally changes preconceived notions of what an animated film should be, and that makes it the best film of 2018. There were several factors that went into my pick and if you want to know why, not only do you need to see this cinematic masterpiece, but I urge you to keep reading.
Into the Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who is a high school student that was recently accepted into an elite boarding school. As Miles is walking to his new school and greeting his friends, Miles’ Dad (Brian Tyree Henry) picks him up in his police cruiser when Miles falls down on the pavement. On Miles’ drive to school we can see on surrounding screens and newspapers that there is a resident Spider-Man (Chris Pine) in Miles’ universe. After an embarrassing confrontation with his dad, Miles goes to each of his classes and starts to get bogged down with all the work he has to do. After school, he meets up with his uncle Aron (Mahershala Ali), who is the person that Miles connects with the most, and he finds ways of spending time with him. They go to a abandoned subway tunnel where Miles puts up his graffiti. During this scene Miles is walking out, and a radioactive Alchemex spider bites him. We see the venom of the spider course through Miles’ veins as he slaps off the spider off with a grunt.
Miles begins to experience weird things. He goes to confront a girl he met the previous day, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), but when he talks to her his hand sticks to her hair and the nurse is forced to cut Gwen’s hair. Through more embarrassing events, we see that Miles has obtained the same powers that Spider-Man has. That night he ventures back to the tunnel where the spider was, but when he starts to look for the insect, he hears strange noises and ventures further into the tunnels. He comes to an enormous structure made of hexagonal white tiles, and just as he is about to venture into the tunnel the gargantuan Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone) busts out of it chased by Spider Man. After a back and forth between Miles and Spider-Man, Spider-Man tells Miles he needs to shut down the “Super Collider.” We are introduced to the mafia crime lord, Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), when he makes the call to turn on the machine from his viewing box in the wall of the Collider. Several universes open and we see that different parts of New York morph and change in ways that are reminiscent of the art styles of the other universes. The test goes wrong and the collider collapses. Miles exits the rubble and sees a dying Spider-Man lying on a stack of rubble. Spider-Man tells Miles that he needs to shut down the supercollider in order to save New York and hands him a U.S.B stick that has a code to shutdown the machine.
The rest of the film chronicles Miles’ path to becoming his own Spider-Man and shutting down the Super Collider. He joins forces with Spider-Gwen, alternate reality Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage), Penny Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Peter Porker (John Mulaney) and Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) in order to take down Kingpin and his mischievous henchmen. There are twists and turns along the way that surprised me every time, and there were multiple moments that gave me chills when they came up on screen. The visuals are paired with an original hip hop score, and the song “What’s Up Danger?” is perfect for a series of shots showing Miles coming into his own.
The visual style is beautiful in a way that is difficult to describe. Every frame feels like reading a comic book with interesting new spins on classic characters. Never once did I find the experience cheap or inconsistent, and because of this, I think it truly works. I smiled to myself when a specific sound would play in the audio and text bubbles would come up on screen that mimics the sound being played. There were small details such as different frames being totally made up Halftone dots that added to the immersion of the film. I loved the fact that every Spider-Man was drawn in a different art style that made each one feel like a unique and fully realized character from a different dimension. Spider-Man Noir is done in a black and white Noir, Penny Parkers Spider-Man is drawn like an anime. Spider Ham is drawn like classical animation and Miles Morales, alternate reality Peter Parker and Spider Gwen are drawn in a contemporary comic book style. However, the animators never sacrifice the human element of character for style over substance, which holds the film together.
Into the Spider-Verse has excellent writing as well as visuals, and that factor ultimately makes it the best film of 2018. There is so much care put into every character in the film and plot, always from Miles’ point of view. Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman knew the characters they were writing thoroughly. Every character in the film changes or evolves. Miles Morales realizes that he can’t be like his universe Spider-Man, he has to figure out what it means for him to wear the mask. Alternate reality Peter Parker mentors Miles through the toughest parts of becoming a hero, and learns that he is ready to be a father in addition to being a better Spider-Man. Gwen Stacy learns that in she needs to let go of her guilt over Peter Parker’s death and let people back in to her life. Spider-Man Noir realizes that the his universe doesn’t have to view the world in black and white, but rather that it is full of unseen colors. Penny Parker realizes that in order to become a better spider person she needs to let go of her father. Even the main villain of the film, Kingpin, realized that he will never get his family back and ends up losing his humanity as a result. I’m so glad they made sure each character had a complete arc, because otherwise the plot would have felt weak and lifeless.
Ultimately, Into the Spider-Verse is an experience. All great films are experiences because film is at its best when you are taken out of your current situation, you empathize with the characters and lose yourself in a different reality for a while. In the words of the great film expert and reviewer Roger Ebert, “If a movie is really working, you forget for two hours your Social Security number and where you car is parked. You are having a vicarious experience. You are identifying, in one way or another, with the people on screen.” There is something for everyone in Into the Spider-Verse. As we are told in the end. “Anyone can wear the mask.” This film sets a new bar for comic book films, and we can expect so much more out of the genre.