Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse marks a new era in comics, animation and storytelling
Spider-man is having the best year ever. After reestablishing fanfare in last year’s Homecoming, Peter Parker broke our hearts in Infinity War. He took our my time with the PS4’s exclusive video-game-of-the-year nominee. And to round out 2018, he took the back seat for a new webslinger to take center stage.
Comic fans have waited with baited breath for Miles Morales to jump from illustrated page to screen. We missed our chance with The Amazing Spider-man; but, received some solace when his uncle appeared in the Tom Holland-led film. Then Miles appeared as a playable character in Spider-man: The Videogame, cementing we could be the AfroLatino hero in the pending sequel. Some Miles was better than none.
So imagine the slight frustration when Into the Spider-verse – an animated fare – was announced by Sony.
Blerds across the world groaned in indignation. We finally had a hero of color as the focal point, and he’s going to be geared toward the 12 and under crowd. We were ready to set ablaze to Sony’s already troublesome record.
With expectations bungee jumping in my head, I sat in my theater seat Saturday evening, wanting a win. What I received was a certified, slam dunk after a 90s Bulls championship run. A Barry Bonds grand slam. A Venus and Serena first serve of defeat. Game. Set. Match.
Into the Spider-verse is a fun, smartly-written film that propels a little known character into the stratosphere that is superhero entertainment today. The way Marvel catapulted D-heroes to the A-list, Sony has grounded Miles Morales’ story and world into mainstream canon.
Our story centers on 15-year-old Miles — a Brooklynite whose hectic life as the new kid at school gets bombarded when he’s bitten by a radioactive spider. When tragedy strikes, he is left with the daunting task of saving the world as he knows it. Luckily he isn’t alone in this fight in a story that reinforces anyone can be behind the mask.
This message of commonality among differences is threaded through the relationship he forms with the various Spider-heroes from other realities. Despite one of them being an Asian girl with a psychic-operated mech; or, a cartoon pig whose nostrils mimic his eyes – they all experienced the same transformation as Spider-men. With great power comes great responsibility.
The tried and true mantra rings greatest in this narrative as Miles experiences the massive risk being Spider-man brings. Although animated the film never shies away from the real consequences of its villains – who are led by Kingpin. This seriousness adds an emotional depth that felt fresh despite being very familiar.
In addition to the story, the voice work is amazing. Shameik Moore is perfect as Miles, and the supporting cast is unrecognizable until you review the list: Jake Johnson, Mahersala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry and Liev Schreiber just to name a few.
The animation is as much as a character as Miles. The world artists created with different forms of 3D-rendering and animation is breathtaking. There’s never a dull moment. If you aren’t panting with Miles during an action scene, your taken aback by the mouth-gaping beauty of it all.
In a year that brought us Wakanda, there’s something more potent when the hero lives in a city just like yours. He could be riding next to you on the train. She could hand you your bags at the corner bodega. In times like these anyone can be behind the mask, and we’re all better for it.