Since filmmaking has been around for over 100 years, it’s quite difficult for one to be considered “groundbreaking” anymore. Sure, technology and techniques are always evolving and improving, but unless it truly shows something we’ve never seen before, does it really earn the word? I would say not. When it comes to animation specifically, it’s limited by its medium, so it’s difficult to truly advance and show something truly new. That doesn’t mean it can’t be pulled off, though. 

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a teenager starting off his new year at a boarding school. When he gets bit by a genetically modified spider (of course), he gains spider like powers (of course), taking on the mantle of Spider-Man. At the same time, Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) performs a mad scientist experiment, opening wormholes to other dimensions. This causes other Spider-People like Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) to meet up with Miles and all work together to bring Kingpin down. 

When Sony announced an animated Spider-Man film, I don’t think there was one person on the planet who thought it was a good idea. With how poorly Sony has managed the franchise, it seemed like an animated film was just a desperate attempt to hold onto the brand. Well, it very well may have been, but you know who they brought on board? Filmmaking duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who made names for themselves for taking terrible sounding movie ideas and turning them into clever, subversive, heartfelt, and entertaining films, with projects like the Jump Street films and The LEGO Movie. They did the same here, by taking the new generation Spider-Man Miles Morales and putting him into a story where he interacts with other Spider-People, like Peter Parker. It’s incredibly clever way to tackle the idea of multiple superheroes, and it’s the best representation of a comic book multiverse yet. What’s even better is that the characters sarcastically comment on it, but it’s not used as some excuse for lazy writing. That’s what Lord and Miller do best: they comment on the silliness of what they’re doing, and then completely subvert it. 

While Lord and Miller didn’t direct, Lord did end up with a co-writing credit and their influence is still felt all throughout the film. The whole film is absolutely hilarious, having me constantly giggling, chuckling, and laughing out loud throughout. I was The humor never undercut the drama, though, as it still has a ton of heart, primarily with Miles’ relationship with his police officer father Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry). Jefferson isn’t a big fan of Spider-Man’s vigilante way of doing things, and the way they play with the dual identities of father/son and cop/masked vigilante was very interesting. It all culminates in two very heartfelt scenes between the two, one of those doing a bang up job at almost mining tears out of my ducts. The father/son dynamic does take a backseat to Miles’ relationship with Peter, who basically acts like a surrogate father. They have great chemistry together, and Jake Johnson is perfectly cast as a down on his luck Peter, but I wanted more of Miles and Jefferson’s relationship, especially since some later plot elements felt a little half-baked. The central story with Miles is still fantastic, though. It’s your typical Spider-Man “finding and proving yourself” story,  but he’s such a great character that has so much thrown at him, it’s impossible not to root for him at the end.

These characters may have been animated, but they felt like real people. Even characters like Spider-Ham and Spider-Noir feel like well-defined characters, but that could be because every voice actor was perfectly cast. The story and characters are excellent, and those of course are essential to a great film, but this is also an animated film, so the animation is obviously a massive component. Well, this is honestly, without any hyperbole at all, the most groundbreaking animated film since Toy Story. It’s a perfect mixture of computer animation and hand drawn animation, that perfectly emulates the look of a comic book. And I mean perfectly. The way the characters and environments are stylized, such as an obscenely massive Kingpin, resembling a Goomba from the Super Mario Bros. movie. It even had those little dots you would see on a comic page in some shots. The style and vision are so well-defined that there probably won’t be anything else like it ever again. It’s completely unique in how its animated, every single frame looking absolutely gorgeous, all of them just popping with color. If the film were only 2D animated, it wouldn’t have that ability to play around with action as creatively, and it were only 3D animated, that comic aesthetic would be completely lost. It’s a perfect marriage of two different animations, where they complement each other wonderfully. 
As far as being a literal “comic book on the big screen”, then look no further than Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In that respect, it’s absolutely the best comic book film ever made and without a doubt the best one to come out this year. What I really wasn’t expecting was this to be one of the funniest films of the year, and not just the best animated film, but one of the best films of 2018, period. Full stop. I had a smile on face pretty much the entire time, even during the creative end credits. I’m not a huge comic book guy, but this film really felt like a celebration of the whole Spider-Man character, and I was happy to join in on the celebration. 

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