Sunday 16 December 2018

Film Review: Spider-man - Into the Spider-Verse

Your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man is back, just not in a way that you have seen before.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a gifted teenager who struggles to balance a colourful creative streak with his parent's expectations of academic prowess. Shipped off to a special school, Miles' life is turned upside-down when a bite from a radioactive spider gifts him the same powers as Spider-man.

Meanwhile, a mishap involving Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) and a supercollider reveals that there's a whole lot more Spider-people out there just like Miles, with an older, jaded Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) and a youthful Spider-woman (Hailee Steinfeld) proving to be just the tip of the iceberg.

The most important thing about Spider-verse isn't that it juggles an ensemble of characters with ease (which it absolutely does), it's that through all the colour and chaos, it always comes back to its central character. Miles is the core of the film and that fact is never forgotten, even while the universe is folding in on itself and all reality is at stake. Not only does this focus the film and give it its own distinct flavour, but it also affords an emotional depth that we don't often see in superhero films.

Miles' home life – with his dad (Brian Tyree Henry), mum (Luna Lauren Velez) and cool Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) – is hugely important to his arc and has just as much at stake when things go wrong as Fisk's supercollider. In terms of telling a story we haven't seen before, Spider-verse succeeds and then some. This isn't another tale of Peter Parker struggling to juggle school and saving lives; we've seen that six times in the last two decades.

Spider-verse introduces a whole bunch of new stuff to mainstream audiences, from mixed-race protagonist and aspiring Spider-man Miles Morales to alternate dimension versions of Spider-man that take the form of a 1930s detective (Nicolas Cage), a far future anime girl and her robot friend (Kimiko Glenn) and a Looney Tunes pig (John Mulaney). What makes this so great is that it gets weird without turning around and ridiculing comics; rather, it's a playful tribute to how out there they can get at times.

A lot of ink has been spilled in praise of the animation in Into the Spider-verse, and with good reason. There really is nothing else like it in terms of energy, ingenuity and overall impact. Spider-verse is a comic-book come to life, complete with thought bubbles, splash pages and shading detail. Not only that, but different characters from different universes arrive with different animation styles. It's one of the most visually engaging films of the year, and without a doubt puts all other animated films from the last 12 months in the shade.

The Verdict: 9/10

Wildly inventive animation fuses with one of the best superhero stories committed to film to deliver what might just be the most entertaining Spider-man film to date. The voice acting and soundtrack are both great, and a heap of meta humour that pays homage to Spidey's history adds something extra for fans to pour over. All told, Spider-Verse is a triumph that will enthral families and fans alike this summer.

Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse is in cinemas across Australia now.

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