‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’: wild, weird and wonderful

Semler at the Cinema features Brandon Semler’s thoughts on the world of film, including reviews, think pieces, previews and more.

By Brandon Semler

If five years ago, someone would have approached me and said “you know, in 2018 there will be an animated Spider-Man film — released at the same time as a successful live-action franchise featuring the hero — that will include multiple Spider men, girls and a ham,” I would have called that person insane. 

But, yet, here we are. And we’re quite lucky for it. 

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a chaotic, colorful foray into a world of multiple Spider-beings, displaying some of the most impressive animation in recent memory. The technology at play is, at times, truly jaw-dropping, offering a dimension and texture to Spidey’s web slinging that has not been seen before (there is a reason Sony is currently seeking patents for the tech). 

The film sets its sights on Miles Morales, a high-schooler living in Brooklyn with his family and attending a specialized prep school. He is — you guessed it — bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him the ability to awkwardly walk on walls with sticky hands and gnarly senses. But soon, he realizes that because of an inter-dimensional portal, he is not the only Spider-Man in his orbit, not by a long shot.

A blend of hand-drawn comic-book images and computer animation gives the action a unique sort of electricity, like its jumping off the screen. According to Wikipedia (only the best sources for this journalist): around 140 animators were used for this project, the largest of any Sony Pictures Animation film.

Aside from the incredible animation at work, this film is hilarious, drawing the best from the powers of Lord and Miller, and an exciting cast of voice performers. The film navigates the inter-dimensional madness with elements of slapstick humor, meta-commentary and heartfelt drama. While sometimes the humorous and dramatic notes are sporadically mingled, the film’s inherent weirdness seems to give it a pass to do so. Or perhaps it was just so funny, I didn’t care. 

Shameik Moore delivers a terrific performance as Miles, while Jake Johnson plays perhaps the most compelling Peter Parker ever. Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney) is a straight-up loony toon running amok and Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir  is a dark, black-and-white figure who brags about beating up Nazis.

The film is an absolute oddity, and a refreshing step in the world of comic-book adaptations. One can only hope it will be successful, and will cause studios to lean a little less formulaic and a little more risky. The gamble paid off with this film. 

Status: Strongly Recommend

Drawing by William C Hensley

Brandon Semler can be reached at popdiversifies@gmail.com, or on Twitter @BrandonSemler.

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