Directors: Bob Persichetti; Peter Ramsey; Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Mahershala Ali, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Lily Tomlin
Words – Nathan Scatcherd
It’s a good time to be a Spider-Man fan right now. The character got one of the most emotionally impactful moments in Infinity War (you know the one), with his next solo film, Far From Home, due in July next year. The new Spider-Man PS4 game by Insomniac is excellent, featuring strong storytelling and motion captured performances alongside its more visceral thrills of web-slinging and villain-punching. And now, we have Into the Spider-Verse.
I’ll get this out of the way upfront; this film is not only the second best Spider-Man movie ever made (Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 will always be the gold standard), it is easily one of the best superhero films ever made, full stop. This is an absolutely wonderful movie, packed with sharp humour and smart storytelling, tied together with a kinetic visual style which looks appropriately ripped from the pages of a comic book.
It primarily tells the story of Miles Morales, who made his comic book debut in the Ultimate Spider-Man series back in 2011. Morales is a teenager who idolises Spider-Man and – through events which won’t surprise fans of the comic, but I won’t spoil for everyone else – comes to gain spider-powers of his own and must step up as a new Spider-Man. There follows a story involving multiple Spider-people from various alternate universes, all reliant on the newly super-powered Miles to get back to their own dimensions.
The voice cast are all on top form, grounding the madcap visual style with genuine emotion and selling the comedy and pathos in equal measure. The most impressive thing the film achieves is this very balance; the humour (replete with winks and nods to other Spider-media) consistently lands, while never overpowering some real heart-rending moments and, ultimately, a sense of sheer ecstatic joy.
Into the Spider-Verse mines how much pure fun Spider-Man and the world he inhabits can be. Its tale of clashing dimensions and multiple Spider-folk moves along at such an infectiously lively pace, filled with such likeable and well-drawn characters, that it feels effortless.
For all the spectacle of Into the Spider-Verse, and for all the ways it honours the character and the mythos, this isn’t a film purely for those who love Spider-Man already. Those who do will no doubt adore it just as I did, while those who aren’t fans already may well find themselves converted by this.
The film’s ultimate message – that “anyone can wear the mask” – speaks to the best sides of all of us, collectively. It is an ebullient ode not just to Spider-Man, but to everyday heroism; to the capacity for nobility and compassion in everyone. It is perhaps the most uplifting, inspiring superhero film of the last decade.