By Hayley Van Allen ’21
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is one of those rare movies that you walk into with high expectations and still leave completely blown away. From the stunning visuals, to expressive voice acting, to its incredible energy, the film was a treat to watch from start to finish.
The protagonist of the movie is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), an afro-latino middle schooler from Brooklyn. He lives in a universe parallel to the audience’s that already has a Spider-Man named Peter Parker (Chris Pine). After being bit by a special spider in classic superhero fashion, Miles gains the same powers of Spider-Man and is suddenly caught up in a the plot that might destroy not only his universe, but many others.
Miles meets spider-themed superheroes from multiple other dimensions: Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson) who seems to be from the audience’s universe; a Gwen Stacy based Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld); Spider-Man Noir who comes from a 1930’s version of the the superhero comics (Nicolas Cage, in a role he was born to play); an anime variation named Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn); and Peter Porker/Spider-Ham based on a 1980’s cartoon style (John Mulaney, also in a role he was born to play).
One of the most impressive aspects of the movie was the animation style. So much thought and detail went into the way the movie utilized traditional superhero comic styles. As Miles is thinking, we can see his thoughts pop above his head in the classic box that you’d find in the panels of a comic book. During fight scenes, onomatopoeia like “WHAM” and “BOOM” would appear as text in the air. By using a combination of hand-drawn and digital animation with still frames, the creators were able to set the movie apart from the more standard “Disney Style” of animation that’s become so popular over the past decade or so.
The animators seem to have been given so much creative freedom, and as a result created a beautiful and stylized world where anything seemed possible. Every character and background appeared both realistic and like a piece of art at the same time. You could almost see the work and care put into the creation of every character. They moved in an almost stop-motion like fashion at times, but still had so much life and energy. Visually, the characters looked like a 3D representation of classic comics come to life, with a hint of dotted shading on their faces and clear lines around their noses.
The story itself was compelling and exciting. Fans of “The Lego Batman Movie” might notice a similar style of humor that comes from joking about its existence as a franchise. The original Peter Parker even references the poorly made Spider-Man popsicles usually found in ice cream trucks. Many jokes throughout the film rely on satirizing the original comics in a fun and refreshing way.
A really wonderful part of the movie was (minor spoilers ahead) the revisioning of Doc Ock from the classic comics as Liv Ock. It’s so rare to see a female villain who isn’t sexualized and stands up in comparison to many better written male ones, but Liv Ock was fantastic. She perfectly fit the mad scientist desperate to learn everything she could about the world no matter the cost, exactly the way Doc Ock was originally intended.
Another amazing representation was afro-latino Miles Morales. In watching him interact with his Puerto Rican ER nurse mother and an African-American beat cop father, the audience was able to see him be a part of both his parents cultures/identities. Additionally, for young black kids to get to see a superhero that looks like them is so important. Representation matters, and it feels like “Into the Spider-Verse” really delivered.
The result of all this wonderful thought and work is the wonderful and heartwarming story that “Into the Spider-Verse” told. In an age of so many dark and gritty superhero films, this movie managed to be warm hearted and full of love. Promoting heroism and sacrifice, “Into the Spider-Verse” tells its audience that anyone can be Spider-Man. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” isn’t just one of the best animated movies of the year. It’s one of the best animated and best superhero movies of all time.