Fans of all things Spider-Man have benefitted from some great material released over the past eighteen months with more on the way. From Spider-Man: Homecoming in July 2017 to the Playstation 4 exclusive title, Marvel’s Spider-Man in September of 2018, things have been looking good for the wall-crawler’s PR lately, and his next journey to the big screen does of great job of capitalizing on the momentum of that upwards swing.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an animated feature film centred around Miles Morales, a teenager who assumes the mantle of Spider-Man after Peter Parker in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book universe. Into the Spider-Verse is far from just an origin story, though. It draws inspiration from a comic book storyline of a similar name, Spider-Verse, by drawing the Spider-People of multiple dimensions together to combat a massive threat.
I was fortunate enough to see the film early, so I’ll do my best to let you all know what’s what with this film without going into any spoilers.
Fist, I’ll address the Spider-Man comic book fans reading this. This movie isn’t the same plot as the Spider-Verse comic storyline you may be familiar with, which features Superior Spider-Man jumping through dimensions and battling Morlun. Rather, it takes the concept of multiple versions of Spider-Man (or Spider-People) coming together and tells its own story centred around Miles Morales’ origin story. There are still plenty of comic references in the movie, but as far as I can tell, the events of the movie do not belong to any particular comic continuity.
Now, for everyone else: Into the Spider-Verse is a fun movie executed Spectacularly by an Amazing cast. It does an excellent job of balancing a self-contained story with the background knowledge its audience is more than likely to have. Oftentimes, superhero movies have a difficult time including an origin story that doesn’t monopolize the film (Spider-Man movies, in particular, have had this issue due to the franchise being rebooted so often), but Into the Spider-Verse keeps things interesting by giving us a new perspective through Miles. His origin story is likely not a familiar one to most audience members, but even those who know the story from the comics will get something new from the added dimension of Miles’ tutelage under the other Spider-People.
Speaking of the other Spider-People, the ensemble cast is terrific. If I have one major complaint about the movie, its that we didn’t get to see more of the characters really shine.
The prime Spider-Man many of us know and love is played by Jake Johnson. You may know Jake from the TV show New Girl. He was an unexpected choice to me when I first heard he was cast, but even after watching the first couple trailers, it became clear he was the ideal choice. His dry delivery is a perfect match for this older, haggered version of Peter Parker. For those who are fans of the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy, you’ll likely enjoy this Spider-Man.
Hailee Steinfeld–who you may have seen in True Grit (2010) or Pitch Perfect 2–plays Spider-Gwen, the spider-powered hero from a dimension in which she is bitten by the radioactive spider and Peter Parker is killed. Steinfeld delivers an incredible, dynamic performance as Gwen Stacy, able to shoot off Spider-Man worthy quips in one moment and reflect on deep regret in the next.
Comedian John Mulaney of Saturday Night Live provides the voice of Spider-Ham–a version of Spider-Man that is a pig. Yes, that’s actually in a comic book. Honestly, I was worried I’d find Spider-Ham annoying when I first saw him in the trailers, but Mulaney does a great job of riding the line between the over-the-top cartoonish performance a character as inherently ridiculous as Spider-Ham requires and something that fits with the serious moments of the film. Part of the credit for that balance, of course, goes to the writers and editors who likely put intentional effort into inserting Spider-Ham into certain moments and not others.
Another unconventional Spider-Person featured in the film is the anime-inspired Peni Parker, played by Kimiko Glenn of Orange is the New Black. Peni is a little girl who pilots a spider mech called SP/DR. Like Spider-Ham, Peni and SP/DR don’t spend much time in the foreground of Spider-Verse’s plot.
Next up is Spider-Man Noir, played by Nicolas Cage. Anyone who knows Cage’s filmography knows he has a very odd but very wide range of acting ability. It turns out the darkest of the Spider-People, who, in the comics, is essentially a gun-toting Batman version of Spider-Man, dialed back a few notches and juxtaposed against the light-hearted backdrop of this movie is a role well-suited to Cage’s talents. He, unfortunately, doesn’t have many lines, but when he does, he delivers them perfectly.
In the lead role, Shameik Moore plays Miles Morales. Moore hasn’t been acting for a long time but has made a great impression in the industry with his skills as not only an actor but a singer and dancer as well. His portrayal of the young Spider-Man 2.0 of his dimension captures the essence of being a teenager with grand new powers very well, and his dynamic with Johnson’s Peter Parker feels perfectly natural. If Columbia Pictures opts to put out a sequel, I’d be more than happy to see Shameik Moore up front as Miles Morales again.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse comes to theatres on December 14th, but you’re here in Edmonton, I have good news: you can see the film a day early. Regardless of where you live, I highly recommend Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to anyone with even a moderate interest in the Spider-Man franchise.
Depending on how things go in Avengers: Endgame, this might be the last we see of the webslinger on the big screen until Spider-Man: Far From Home releases in July 2019, so I hope you all enjoy the film as much as I did.