A feature length animated film brought to us by Sony Production Studios, Spider-verse is a really enjoyable film with terrific effects and telling an excellent story with the first big screen appearance of Miles Morales here voiced by Shameik Moore. As the title suggests and seen in the trailer, a distinct combination of spider-people across the comics history are brought into Miles Morales’ world. Spider-verse is an action packed film but at it’s core is the story of Morales origin with coming into his own in his new circumstances and what it means to be Spider-man.
Sony, in partnership with Marvel, bring this animated incarnation of a Spider-man story and does in a gratefully novel approach both technically and making Miles Morales as the main web slinger. Telling the story of Morales becoming Spider-man in a different New York from what had been seen in previous Spider-man stories brought to the big screen. Morales comes from an African-American father and Hispanic mother living from Brooklyn. This friendly spider-man comes from a neighbourhood that is noticeably diverse, adding that additional layer to the portrayal of New York lacking from the previous films. Also one that is a tad darker than expected but the tone works well in terms of the plot.
A one in a million chance leads Morales to be bit by a lab research spider and soon after developing super abilities and at the same time an experiment involving accessing other universes accidentally leads to some of their Spiders being pulled into Morales’ world including an alternate Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson). Morales tries to get to grips with his new abilities while navigating his personal life and school. Gradually meeting the other spiders and helping each other with getting to their respective universes back home and stopping the Hadron Collider type device from ever being used again.
The decision to transition and have a new hero be at the forefront since the last 16 years have given a bit of Peter Parker fatigue and allowed Sony & Marvel to introduce new characters. Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy (voiced Hailee Steinfeld) giving a fresh perspective and some diversity to the franchise which has felt a tad absent from Sony and Marvel productions previously. Seeing this expansion to the roster of characters, Peni Parker from the future especially does feel like breathing new life here and for non comic readers like myself does give prominence to lesser known spider-people. The choice of those pulled to Miles Morales Earth not only shows the range from the comic universe but also different genders, races, ages and from different eras of time. While also detailing Miles Morales origin story it does feel a little like the other heroes don’t get their due with Gwen Stacy particularly getting little to do.
Still a supporting character however, Peter Parker is in his late 30s and is rather jaded by how his alter ego affected his life. Somewhat reluctantly, he becomes a mentor to Miles with both Shameik and Johnson conveying this dynamic and respective struggles very well. Both characters have a lot of heart as their relationship progresses and their stories expand as they both help each other continue their journey. Johnson’s Peter Parker particularly bringing some levity to the film alongside his longer serving Spider-man dealing with a teenager and showing the ropes to the latest addition to their ranks. The choice for the characters at these particular ages works well and also a nice change of pace from the high school or early college aged Peter Parker. The supporting characters notably Nicholas Cage as Spider-man Noir and Liev Schreiber’s Kingpin give gravitas to the characters but not given as much to do but contribute to the action comic book theme of the film juxtaposing the character development of Peter and Miles. Unfortunately not all of the characters get their due like Gwen Stacy but with the plan for future movies and spin offs hopefully that will change.
A departure from live action of the normal Marvel-Sony films, the use of animation does work well in terms of being visually appealing but also allowing freedom in production that live action can’t provide. Not unlike the Marvel Spider-Man video game released earlier in the year. I believe it was close to 140 animators who worked on the film to combine animation and hand drawn art style to deliver the final product with great results. The technical style didn’t feel cartoony or childish and delivered striking visuals especially during the action scenes but even something as simple Miles walking down the street.
Overall Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is an excellent film Sony has made in partnership with Marvel, perhaps the best since joining forces. With a solid voice cast and moving away from the run of the mill Peter Parker story we see more of what the studio is capable of. Introducing less main stream characters from the comics or known characters in different forms works well with the story that has begun. A little busy like many superhero origin films but not to its detriment. With further films in the works before major release and is easy to see why with the fresh protagonist and animation style in what may be the best Spider-man film so far.