Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse
IMDB YEAR RELEASED:
Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoe Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicholas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Shreiber, Chris Pine
Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Spider-man: Into the Multi-Verse is an animated movie where a young Miles Morales becomes the Spider-man of his reality and is involved in a complicated scheme by Kingpin where he seeks to unite multiple alternate timelines that will bring back the Kingpin’s family and destroy the multiverse.
Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask.
The animated movie begins with big pixels of color, bleeding together with frenetic and loud video game sounds, vivid animation interrupted by a quick exposition of the Spider-man mythos that most everyone finds familiar. My first thought was that this was just inserted as an ancillary prologue, but that is not the case. That bit of exposition is a very important touchstone that is repeated throughout the movie as a necessary framing device. I will explain in due course. Suffice it to say that the framing device becomes important as the story moves along.
Despite the intro, the story is about a teen-aged, Miles Morales, who is preparing to attend a special private school away from his Brooklyn neighborhood. He is not exactly thrilled to be leaving his neighborhood, but his parents believe that it will benefit him greatly to experience the challenge this new school is supposed to present. Miles is struggling to meet his parents’ high expectations, especially his father’s, who is a New York City Police Officer that despises Spider-man. At the school, he fails to make a good impression on his first day, so he sneaks off to hang with his uncle. His uncle takes him to a secluded subway station where Miles proceeds to paint a graffiti mural. While he is spray-painting the wall, Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider. (Yeah, I know! We’ve heard this one before, but it’s different, in a way.)
The next day, when Miles finds that he has powers akin to Spider-man, he has a bit of a meltdown. He returns to where he was bitten, only to find a particle accelerator by which Kingpin wants to access parallel universes in which his wife and son live, in order to be reunited with them. Spider-man is attempting to stop Kingpin, who has both the Prowler, and Green Goblin as his lackeys. When Spider-man saves Miles from the particle accelerator’s powerful beam, he takes his eyes off of the Green Goblin, who exploits the momentary diverting of his attention to shove Spider-man into the collider and cause an explosion that very nearly kills Spider-man. Spider-man hands Miles a USB drive that’s supposed to disable the collider, and warns him that the machine can destroy the city if it’s reactivated. Miles watches in horror as Kingpin kills Spider-man, then runs away pursued by the Prowler.
After eventually escaping pursuit, Miles buys an ill-fitting Spider-man costume, in order to explore his powers without discovery. When falling from a building, he inadvertently destroys the USB stick that was supposed to be used to disable the collider. In grief and shame, Miles goes to Peter Parker’s grave to apologize, only to discover Peter B. Parker, an older, fatter Spider-man from an alternate universe. Cue the framing device and we get a new addition to the Spider-man mythos, that includes a future divorce to Mary Jane and a pathetic future for Peter Parker. Reluctantly, this older Spider-man offers to train Miles if he helps him find the necessary schematics to construct another USB device. When they access Wilson Fisk’s research facility, Miles discovers that he has the ability to turn invisible. Olivia Octavius captures Peter B. Parker and from a blood sample she extracts from Peter, she finds that his cells are degenerating and that if he stays too long in this dimension, he will die.
Peter and Miles are rescued by Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman from another dimension. Insert the framing device and again we have an addition to the Spider-man mythos. The three discuss where to go and ultimately they decide to go to Aunt May’s home, figuring that they might be able to lay low and work there. When they arrive at Aunt May’s house they discover that she has been sheltering three other incarnations of Spider-man: Spider-man Noir, Peter Porker — Spider-Ham, and Peni Parker (anime). We find out about each of these by the framing device, which has become significant in the scheme of things. Here at Aunt May’s house we witness a great battle between Kingpin’s forces: Doc Ock, Scorpion, Tombstone, and the Prowler vs. Miles, Peter, Gwen, and the other Spider-People. After the fight, the Spider-People must get to the collider, and insert the USB not only to stop Kingpin, but so that they can all get home.
I will leave the story here, in order to give my review. The story flows at a frenetic pace to a satisfying conclusion, and although you might think that with so many characters, you might lose the heart of the story, I don’t think so. Miles Morales’ story is at the heart of this movie. His relationship with his father and his uncle is reminiscent of the Peter Parker relationship with Uncle Ben. There are story beats that resound and echo in all the various Spider-People, but I never forget that the narrative is about Miles Morales and his becoming Spider-man. The animation is gorgeous and the colors are vibrantly lush. The musical score is uplifting. The plot is complex, but not so complex that it is beyond understanding. The characters are fun and the actors chosen to do the voice-work are almost perfect. The animation of each character is unique and drawn in various, distinct ways that are evocative of each specific character.
For instance, Kingpin is illustrated like a Bill Sienkiewicv painting with a misshapen body and a small head, gliding like a tank on treads, while Spider-man Noir is rendered as if he has a black and white bubble around him. It’s really incredible to behold. It is extremely stylish. My only complaints are that in order for Miles Morales to become Spider-man, Peter Parker has to die, and that the pacing is too frenetic at times. Peter’s death happens early on so that is not a spoiler. In this universe, Peter Parker dies ten years after being Spider-man. That sucks. I love Spider-man, almost as much as Batman. Even so, I cannot in good conscience take away too much for my love of Peter Parker. Therefore, I will give this movie a whopping 4 and a half Grey Geeks, which is a very high recommend.
Also, if you did not find my review convincing, this movie has garnered high accolades. It has won Best Animated Feature Film at the 76th Golden Globe Awards, AND the 24th Critics Choice Awards. It has also won an Oscar for the Best Animated Feature at the 91st Academy Awards. This is a SUPER movie.