I’ll admit, while I’m a Marvel girl. Spider-Man isn’t necessarily my fandom. I don’t dislike Peter Parker, but he’s not my favorite. One of my biggest issues with the character on the big screen has been the constant change in who portrays him on screen over the years. I like consistency, and when you have had no fewer than three actors (Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire, and Tom Holland) across two studios portraying the character in the last six films (not to mention spin-offs and animated series), it gets a little meh. It might as well be Batman or Superman for me at that point. Cynical, I know. And in a way, the fact that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse exists outside of any other Marvel continuity and storyline makes the movie exciting…no failed set-ups for sequels. Stand alone movies are great like that sometimes.
No one really needed another Spider-Man movie, but surprisingly, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is anything but “just another Spider-Man movie.”
New spider-bite origin story
This Spider-man story is a beautiful mesh of that famous “spider-bite origin story” and a coming of age in Brooklyn story. With great power, comes great responsibility—something that 13-year-old Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) learns the hard way.
Miles is the son of an African-American cop dad and Puerto Rican nurse mom who send him to a swanky boarding school across town to give him better opportunities than what he has at his local public school. His cop dad isn’t thrilled with “cool” Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) who tends to live on the thug side of life, but Miles has a soft spot for him.
Uncle Aaron takes Miles to an underground graffiti stop via the subway tracks to perfect his art, where he gets bit by a radioactive spider. This mimics the 2011 comics, where Miles transitions to spidey superpowers to become another Spider-man version. (Miles Morales first appears in Ultimate Comics: Fallout #4, which was published in August 2011.)
During that transition, Miles accidentally stumbles upon evil supervillain mobster Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber), who has opened up a space-time portal to other dimensions.
The portal turns out to have a few benefits, because he meets his training squad and other versions of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, from other dimensions: Peter B. Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson), an alternate version of Spider-Man who’s divorced, depressed, been kicked out of his dimension, and is anything but excited to teach Miles how to be Spider-Man: Gwen Stacy, aka Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld); a film noir Spider-Man (voiced by Nicolas Cage—I actually am not a Nicholas Cage fan ever, but wasn’t hating on him in this role); a heroine anime named Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot; and Peter Porker, aka Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney).
They reach out to Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) for help (you’ll likely love this new and improved Aunt May), and Stan Lee’s cameo is perfection in the way it moves the story along.
Good teaching moments and heart
As a parent, I love movies to have good, teaching moments. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has plenty without overdoing it. One of things I like is that they come from sometimes older people, but not always parents. Often peers–the people kids would actually listen to in real-life scenarios, and that’s critical for delivering messages.
Unbelievably unique storytelling
Let’s talk about the storytelling style for a moment. Animated movies are fun but sometimes animated movies can be boring. The animated storytelling style of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was sick–it brilliantly used the visual language of comic books. The combination of both hand-sketched and CGI will blow your mind. The storytelling that was done with animation in the movie simply could not have been accomplished with live action.
They use the fact that Miles is a street artist and incorporate that style of artistry as visual inspiration into the film. They also use the 1960s pop art comic book style graphics that are original to Spider-Man and other comics. The vibrant use of two-dimensional comic-book art with three-dimensional movie art was unlike anything you’ve ever seen. There are points in the movie that look like you’re watching a comic play on screen. You won’t be disappointed.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who previously worked on The Lego Movie, served as producers under the guidance of Sony Pictures Animation directors, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman.
The story is clever and just intricate enough to keep you entertained, but that animation is what really seals the deal.