I like to think the idea for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was sparked by Marvel creatives sitting around a room discussing how their movies have become somewhat repetitive and formulaic. But then I also wonder what took them so long to notice.
Into the Spider-Verse is definitely a new chapter for the studio. However, I don’t want to see them try and cross-over animation with live-action and consider them part of the same canon.
The movie follows Miles (Shameik Moore), a teenager living in Brooklyn, as he navigates his way through his new boarding school, which he hates. He’s smart, but he starts intentionally failing classes so they’ll kick him out. Miles is also into graffiti art. One night, while tagging an abandoned subway station, he’s bitten by a radioactive spider and turns into Spider-Man. But there’s already a Spider-Man living in New York. But then also, I guess there could be more than one radioactive spider.
Long story short, the original Spider-Man is battling a villain, named Kingpin (Liev Schreiber)–who has a look like he could literally have no other profession other than being an evil villain. Kingpin is trying to create a device which taps into multiple parallel universes in hopes to bring back his deceased wife and son from an alternate dimension. Things go haywire and multiple Spider-People from multiple universes get sucked into Miles’ dimension and the story goes from there.
We’re not entirely sure how this portal works, and the movie doesn’t really attempt to draw it out for us. Perhaps that scene was taken out due to convolution (but not explaining it makes it less convoluted?).
The movie does a good job creating a legitimate motive for the villain while still letting us know he’s bad. We want to feel sorry for him, but we realize the damage he’s trying to reverse was done to himself, and living with that hasn’t changed who he is at all.
Into the Spider-Verse tries to not make a choice between action and comedy, but the audience can still tell which side it’s leaning towards. At its core, this movie is a comedy. Fortunately the jokes are really funny and are never run into the ground.
The animation is very unique, like watching a comic book unfold on screen. The characters and scenery are so realistic you almost forget you’re watching an animated movie. But actually, this works against it in one circumstance.
Characters are developed so pleasantly, even before any action happens. Though they becomes hard to connect with because of how realistic they are. We subconsciously expect to feel for them in a different way than a normal animated film, yet there’s still a certain disconnect preventing us from doing so–unlike a movie such as Toy Story where we know the main characters aren’t human, so we don’t think to compare them to actual live-action humans.
Cartoon action usually isn’t the greatest compared to real life action and that’s no different here. Despite how realistic this movie looks, one of the other few times we’re reminded of its animation is when there are battle sequences. And although these scenes might be executed better than most other cartoons, the action is still a little incoherent.
As far as animation goes, there are very few movies that have influenced the genre as a whole in the last 30 years. The aforementioned Toy Story, and Shrek come to mind. And flaws have no bearing on influence in these cases either. So regardless of its flaws, I have a feeling that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will be joining that short list years from now.