This animated Spider-Man adventure seems designed to please anyone who is tired of seeing Spider-Man movies. It acknowledges the saturated market place of comic book movies in an opening that pokes fun at recent Spider-Man movies starring Andrew Garfield, Tobey Maguire and Tom Holland. It’s the kind of self-awareness and pop-cultural savvy that made the early Pixar films so great.
The big trick of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is to make use of all these different versions of Spider-Man, plus a plethora of comic book sources, with all their differing origin stories, to create a contemporary Spidey tale, one in which Peter Parker is not the principal protagonist. It’s Spider-Man, but not as we know it.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the directors of The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street films, serve as producers here with Lord doubling up as scriptwriter alongside 22 Jump Street scribe Rodney Rothman. Lord and Miller were famously fired from directing the Star Wars spin-off Solo, and on this evidence one suspects that may have been a rash and hasty decision, as once again they show an inimitable ability to poke fun at their source material, whilst creating a unique story that adds layers to the franchise in question.
This post-modern reboot of Spider-Man revolves around the African-American / Puerto Rican protagonist Miles Morales, who first appeared in a comic book created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli in 2011, when Marvel began a process of correcting decades of making all their most popular superheroes white and male.
Morales (voiced by Shamelik Moore) is a reserved Brooklyn teenager who adores Spider-Man. He is struggling at a private school for gifted students until one day he’s bitten by a radioactive Spider and hey presto, he becomes a superhero just as Peter Parker’s Spider-Man is killed by a nuclear supercollider that bends space and time.
Fret not, because while the Spider-Man archetype is dead, he is replaced by infinitely more groovy iterations, including a fat, depressed Peter Parker, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, Spider-Gwen and futuristic anime Peni Parker. They have to band together to defeat the broad-shouldered Kingpin. With so many characters, and a plethora of jokes, the convoluted plot is sometimes hard to follow. But whenever the action gets too complicated, the filmmakers bring the story back to Morales and his immediate family: cop dad, nurse mum and oddball uncle.
It’s a funny, delightful and reassuringly contemporary film with a cool aesthetic that pays homage to Golden Era comic books, this look has been created by mixing hand-drawn animation techniques with state-of-the-art CG animation that makes it look more analogue and less digital. Some scenes draw characters out of focus, giving the image an enriching depth of field, others have speech bubbles that remind of us of the paper origins. In putting so much effort in the retro look and feel this movie is totally fresh.
Is Spider-Man Into the Spider-verse a Good Movie for Kids?
In between all the mayhem, Spider-Verse is the story that teaches us to accept who we are, understand that life is full of ups and downs, including tragedy, that we cannot save everyone and we have to try and do our best, and seek help whenever we can. There’s also some quantum physics for kids to wrap their heads around, ensuring that the film becomes an introduction to physics and science, adding a welcome educational element to the thrills, spills and bellyaches.