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Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse - Review

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

MARVEL’S multi-faceted cinematic universe continues to throw up incredible surprises thanks to Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

A visually rich, emotionally compelling, and consistently thrilling alternative Spider-Man movie, this wildly inventive animated adventure from the creative minds behind the 21 Jump Street franchise pretty much exhilarates on every level, while simultaneously breathing new life into a superhero universe that many would have been forgiven for thinking was becoming exhausted.

Or rather, it breathes new life into five new universes, setting up infinite possibilities in the process.

Predominantly, the story focuses on teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who unwittingly becomes the new Spider-Man after being bitten by a radioactive spider.

Barely ready to accept the challenge, he must try and prevent over-sized crime lord Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from opening up a portal to other alternate realities, only to find himself thrust into a crazy new world in which there are numerous other web-slingers, including the original Peter Parker (Jake Johnson, now somewhat out of shape), the kick-ass Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), the ultra-cool Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), and the totally surreal cartoon pig, Peter Porker (John Mulaney).

Each one of these characters has a clearly defined back-story and comes from an alternate reality that we’d all like to see, no matter how briefly glimpsed.

As confusing as all of this sounds, however, directors Peter Ramsey, Robert Persichetti Jr. and Rodney Rothman ensure that everything makes sense, while deftly balancing moments of outlandish cool with heart-breaking emotion.

And this is where Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse really stands out. You care. Moore’s Morales is a likeable kid, whose coming-of-age may feel familiar in terms of plot beats, but whose journey feels emotionally authentic and real. There are several moments your heart will cry out to him, such is the script’s ability to juggle vulnerability and self-doubt with a mounting sense of heroism.

But the other characters score highly too, not least Johnson’s ageing Peter Parker, whose own trajectory takes the Spider-Man character into genuinely engaging territory. He offers a glimpse at the emotional toll of prolonged super-heroism, while still being savvy and ‘cool’ enough on his own terms to be a suitable mentor to Miles. Johnson nails the vocals here with effortless aplomb.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Cage, as we’ve come to expect, makes Spider-Man Noir unmistakeably his own (and you’ll pine to see him in his own movie ass-kicking the Nazis), while Steinfeld strikes a blow for feminism in suitably gutsy fashion, and Mulaney is just plain weird (but hilariously so) as Peter Porker.

The villains, too, are well defined, with Kingpin’s motivations under-scored by his own tragedy, and several other surprise characters adding to the emotional complexity at play.

But while remaining completely engaged on that all-important emotional level, the film also stuns visually. The animation is vividly drawn, feeling fresh. It’s edgy, it’s colourful, it’s playful and it’s alive with invention. It’s often breath-taking to look at.

While the accompanying set pieces are superbly well realised, making the most of the possibilities offered by the animated medium to bring genuine dazzle, while also capably mixing peril with humour at various points, thereby maintaining a consistent tone.

Heck, there’s even a very cool soundtrack to accompany it, a brilliant Stan Lee cameo, as well as – mid-credits – an applause-worthy tribute to the late, great man himself.

Given the ambitious nature of the multi-verse, it would have been easy to put a few steps wrong. But the creative geniuses behind it have knocked this one out of the park, meaning that Spider-Man fans of every age will be rejoicing. This is as fresh and vital as comic book movies can get.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 2hrs
UK Release Date: December 12, 2018