‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’: A refreshing superhero story with a revolutionary animated style

13 December 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the latest film in what seems to be an unrelenting stream of Spidey-related media.

Since the release of the Sam Raimi’s seminal film Spider-Man in 2002, we’ve had a total of nine films featuring Spider-Man (with six being main Spider-Man films, not just an appearance), thirteen Spider-Man video games and four Spider-Man TV shows.

If you’re starting to feel a bit webbed out, I wouldn’t blame you. This year alone has seen the release of Avengers: Infinity War featuring Spider-Man, an amazing new Spider-Man game on the PS4 and, now, a new animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

However, Into the Spider-Verse goes out of its way to present a story that is new and completely untold (at least in the realm of cinema). Everything here feels fresh. Even if at its core it is still just another Spider-Man movie, there’s probably enough new ground covered to push past some of the Spider fatigue you might be feeling.

Instead of Peter Parker, the movie follows Miles Morales – an alternate Afro-Latino version of Spider-Man with slightly different powers, drawn from the 2011 run of Ultimate Spider-Man comics.

We follow Miles as he gains his powers and learns his Spidey ways, but with a twist. Miles is joined by several alternate universe versions of Spider-Man, including Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker and Spider-Woman (an alternate universe version of Gwen Stacy), along with the well-known, original Spider-Man/Peter Parker, who most savvy viewers will assume to be a washed-up, less enthusiastic version of the character from the Raimi films.

Miles has to help return each Spider-Man/Woman/Ham to their respective universe, while a plethora of villains from Spidey’s rogues gallery stand in his way. Despite the movie’s title, at the end of the day the movie is really about Miles and his journey to become Spider-Man.

The way the movie explores this common story is actually quite refreshing and well thought-out, either ignoring or blatantly calling out all of the origin story tropes we’ve come to loathe. It still doesn’t entirely escape the origin movie vibe, but there’s enough fresh elements to make you forgive the well-trod narrative basics.

The film’s animation is also strikingly beautiful. The film meshes CGI and traditional hand-drawn style together, giving the film the look of a modern, revamped comic book brought to life. The directors achieved this by using a lot of traditional linework—similar to comics—on top of modern CGI modelling, giving the film a new look fused between two styles. It’s a style that we haven’t seen in any other animated films thus far.

Beyond the visual aesthetic, the characters and their movements within the film were also only animated at twelve frames per second, which harks back to the days of traditional animation and gives the action even more of a comic-y look. It’s a technical marvel, and a new style that will no doubt be emulated to a less successful degree by other animated films in the years to come.

Overall, Into the Spider-Verse is narratively compelling, strikingly beautiful and surprisingly emotional. Although there a lot of nods to the Spider-Man comic lore, the film will be enjoyed equally by the Spider-Man nerd and the Spider-Man noob.

Despite being part of the often lamented superhero film genre, Into the Spider-Verse has something for everyone. It’s not just a superhero film – it also has groundbreaking animation, snappy comedy and an emotional and compelling plot.  

My first thought coming out of the cinema was that 10-year-old me would have thought that Into the Spider-Verse was the coolest movie of all time. What it took me longer to realise, and embrace, was that 22-year-old me thought exactly the same thing.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in cinemas now.

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