Sony Pictures have found the perfect recipe for their Spider-Man film property. Instead of creating more Spider-Man films, the perfect recipe calls for having more Spider-Men in a film.
That’s exactly what Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (“Into The Spider-Verse”) did and went on to become one of the best Spider-Man films to date.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, Into The Spider-Verse introduces an alternative history to Marvel’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and introduces us to the character of Miles Morales for the first time on the big screen.
The film follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as he becomes the Spider-Man of his universe, after developing mysterious powers from a radioactive spider bite. Crossing paths with different versions of Spider-Man from alternate dimensions, Miles and the other web-slinging heroes must work together to stop a crazed madman from destroying the Spider-Verse.
First and foremost, the concept of having multiple Spider-Men in one film is ingenious, simply because, having multiple versions of one’s self exist within the same universe can only lead to confusion, chaos and catastrophe, which in this case resulted in a whole lot of fun; and laugh out loud, good-natured fun is exactly what Into The Spider-Verse manages to focus on throughout the duration of the film, something that other Spider-Man films lack.
Narrative-wise, the film manages to simplify a complex premise by doing away with unnecessary introductions and fluff, treating its audiences as being reasonably well-versed in Spider-Man lore as well as assuming the audiences’ familiarity with comic book film tropes. It also manages to uniquely reference previous iterations of Spider-Man films in a comical and humorous way to showcase the aforementioned fact, offering a clean break and fresh start for Sony’s Spider-Man property.
With other Spider-Man films focused on retelling the same story, this new focus on a brand new Spider-Man with a very different origin story is incredibly refreshing. Having multiple characters, each with their own unique personalities stemming from their respective genre origins provides an added breath of fresh air to what has, to me, become a rather tired Spider-Man franchise.
Having such diverse personalities on screen provides Into The Spider-Verse with the ability to get away with the kind of slapstick absurdities that most traditional superhero films shy away from. The way in which the film provides an effective balance between the different characters is also a brilliant feat, allowing Miles Morales to truly stand out as more than just a boy who becomes Spider-Man.
Unlike previous iterations, which placed more emphasis on the typical comic book, good versus evil, hero saves the day narrative, the character development in this Spider-Man film, allowed audiences to truly identify with Miles, a character who, throughout the film, struggles with being a typical teenager, eager to find his own place in the world.
Another important factor to note is that Into The Spider-Verse manages to highlight diversity in the superhero genre without having to change the identities (or ethnicities) of well-known characters. With the concept of there being multiple universes, and therefore multiple Spider-Men, the notion that Spider-Man is just one ‘guy’ need not be adhered to. Instead, what we end up seeing is a plethora of ideas of what it means to be a Spider-Man. After all, if a cartoon pig and an out of shape, middle-aged man can be considered as the hero, Spider-Man, then technically, so too can anyone else (given they too are bitten by radioactive spiders, of course).
While the film’s story and characters made for an incredibly enjoyable experience, it was the film’s unique visual style, using a combination of CGI and comic book animation, that really set Into The Spider-Verse apart from other comic book adaptations and animated films.
The art style is certainly unique and one that hasn’t quite been done before. The brilliant use of traditional animation combined with comic book effects, an array of colours, and modern graphics illustrates the film as almost out of this world; something that highlights each of its individual differences but ultimately works together as one balanced whole. This almost acts as a personification of the individual characteristics and personalities of each Spider-Man in the film, illustrating that upon working together, a sense of harmony and balance is created.
Another stand-out effect produced by the visuals is the way in which the animation breathes life into the city of New York. The bold and striking colours highlight the life of the city and the people within it. It allows audiences to identify with the city’s culture and lifestyle.
Whilst the visuals are tremendous and sets Into The Spider-Verse as a class above all other comic book adaptations, there are moments where the intense actions, lights, colours and effects do overwhelm the senses. There were several moments where I had to rub my eyes or look away from the screen for a split second to allow my eyes a break.
Overall, the visuals showcase the filmmakers’ experimental style and the willingness of the studios behind the film to allow for the creations of a new era of Spider-Man films, one that stands out and apart from other iterations of Spider-Man.
In many ways, Into The Spider-Verse ushers in a brand new era for films, particular comic book adaptations. It’s combination of daring visual effects, emotion-filled storytelling and character depth makes for a roller coaster adventure filled with plenty of humour and heart fitting for both adults and children, regardless of whether they’re fans of the web-slinging superhero or not.