Review: ‘Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse’13 December 2018
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is like no other animated or superhero film around. It’s a visual spectacle full of witty one-liners, weird and wonderful characters, and a whole lot of heart, all accompanied by a head-bopping soundtrack.
By far, the most notable feature of the film, and the one that will undoubtedly leave a strong impression with audiences, is the visual style. Each frame is rich in colour, with the usual neutral hues expected for a modern, urban landscape swapped out for experimental bursts and tints of bright colours like red, blue and purple. One frame that I found particularly striking had Miles’ face washed in pink as he sat in his dorm room. It wasn’t a particularly remarkable moment in the film’s plot, but the subverted expectation on the colour of light coming in through the window ingrained the image in my mind regardless. The ingenuity and attention to detail required to have every single scene—whether eventful or mundane—be a feast for the eyes is truly astonishing. The unique colour scheme is accompanied by a visually arresting animation style akin to a comic book. Visible lines on faces give the effect of characters being hand-drawn, while boxes housing Miles Morales’ thoughts appear on screen around him just like if he was the protagonist in a comic. These details, along with tons more, allow for the film to straddle the stylistic line between comic and 3D animated film. The result is an innovative and memorable visual style that treats viewers to an enjoyable, immersive experience.
The look of the film is not the only feature that will leave a positive impression on the audience. The ensemble of characters, in particular the various versions of Spider-Man, provide both humorous and heartfelt beats to the story. Peter Parker, Gwen Stacy, Spider-Ham, Spider-Noir and Peni Parker are all distinctive characters despite sharing the identity of Spider-Man (Spider-Person?), and all display traits that make them likeable and welcome additions to Miles Morales’ origin story. I never knew I needed a film about these lesser-known characters (hell, I never knew Spider-Noir and Peni Parker even existed before this) but I’m glad to be introduced to this weird yet delightful bunch! I particularly enjoyed this new Peter Parker, voiced by Jake Johnson. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse portrays a Peter Parker that I think a lot of audience members wouldn’t have encountered before. He’s past his prime and faced with the task of mentoring a teenager. After so many opportunities in the spotlight, I think it’s a great idea to see him take a supporting role and the film handles it with grace. It’s clear that Peter isn’t the central character, but he’s not disregarded or insignificant to the birth of a new Spider-Man. And this brings me to another feature of the film that I thoroughly enjoyed: the emphasis on collaboration. With superhero origin stories, it’s often the case that the protagonist has to (or feels that they have to) deal with everything on their own. They must carry their burden alone. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse throws that trope out the window, when early on in the film, it’s established that Miles Morales will be working with other Spider-People in his journey to becoming a superhero. Here, we have a hero who can ask for advice and share his traumas with others who know him both with and without the mask. The plot point of Miles finding himself and establishing himself as a superhero is interwoven within a larger concept of companionship and teamwork, and I think it’s a fresh and entertaining take on the superhero origin story.
Finally, on to our protagonist. Miles Morales is the perfect amount of awkward, inexperienced and eager that one would expect from a teenager suddenly thrust into the superhero life. Refreshingly, he doesn’t suddenly become cooler or more accomplished when he gets his superpowers. He certainly doesn’t become adept at being Spider-Man after a single montage sequence. A large part of his story is about growth and I appreciate that even by the end of the film, you still get the sense that he has a lot to learn. A picture-perfect protagonist with no flaws and no areas for improvement makes for a very boring individual. It’s easy to resonate with and root for the Miles that is coming into his powers and his new sense of responsibility. Another factor in Miles’ character to note would be his ethnicity. For many, Miles’ time in the spotlight has been long-awaited, for he is one of very few heroes of colour to grace the silver screen, especially in a leading role. Within the film’s world, the fact that he’s half-Puerto Rican and half-African American is acknowledged, but it isn’t shoved down your throat. Miles doesn’t have to prove that people of colour can be superheroes, nor does his ethnicity wholly define his identity or his journey. As a person of colour myself, I’m all for works that bring to attention the plights of people of colour. However, I’m also appreciative of works that deal with characters of colour in such a way that acknowledges how there’s more to them than simply being a person of colour and the struggles that come with that. Because there is more to people of colour than stories about racism and oppression. There are stories of love and triumph. Miles’ story is one of family and friendship. His greatest motivation is the urge to do right by those he cares about. And that, regardless of ethnic, cultural or religious background, is something we can all relate to.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in cinemas now.