Film | Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse - there's a new webslinger in town
Meanwhile, in another dimension, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is bitten by a radioactive spider while exploring the subway with his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). When he witnesses the opening of an trans-dimensional portal orchestrated by Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), Miles becomes a magnet for pan-dimensional Spider-people pulled into his reality. These include Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson), an alternate Spider-man who prefers sweatpants to spandex; Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), her reality’s Spider-woman; Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a black-and-white crime-fighter plucked from the 1930s; Peni Parker, a child psychically bonded with a spider-bot (Kimiko Glenn); and Peter Porker (John Mulaney): Spider-pig. Together, they must close down the portal, but not before using it to return each of them to their respective New Yorks.
The last fifteen years have already seen three different Peter Parkers assume the Spider-man mantle across a trilogy of wildly different franchises, most recently in the case of Tom Holland’s introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For years Sony has ignored warnings against saturating and audience fatigue, even now establishing a confused MCU-adjacent series starring Spider-man villains, so the news that they were planning to release another Spider-man movie hardly came as a surprise.
What was a surprise, and what with the film’s release has become a revelation, is that Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse has elicited excitement rather than cynicism. Until now Sony’s machinations have seemed desperate, a reactive corporate strategy designed to retain the movie rights and out-compete their rivals, their partnership with Marvel Studios a necessity rather than a creative endeavor. And yet for really the first time they seem to be making another movie not because they have to but because they want to. Either that or they’ve just got markedly better at spinning webs of their own.
By involving Phil Lord, co-director of The Lego Movie, as screenwriter and choosing to focus not on the now ubiquitous Peter Parker but his lesser known Ultimates successor, Miles Morales, the studio has dispensed with their tried and tested and tried again formula and attempted something new — more than that, they’ve genuinely broken new ground. Not only does Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse feature a black, Hispanic superhero, another win in an unprecedented couple of years for representation within the genre, but it pioneers a novel means of animation, taking traditional comic book techniques and incorporating them into a 3D render to create something new and completely unlike any other animated film on the market.
Of course, this is all well and good — but ultimately intent and technique are secondary to story. Without compelling characters and an engaging narrative a movie simply doesn’t work. Thankfully, and what even despite the commercial success of Venom must be something of a relief to Sony, Lord, alongside directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman has produced one of the best movies of the year — and not just in terms of a specific genre. Simultaneously irreverent to and entirely respectful of canon, the film uses its distance from any previous incarnation of the character to subvert the now well known themes and iconography while working to knit each disparate strand together and create a wider multiverse.
Amazingly, Sony reacts to its critics not by backing off but by doubling down on the number of Spider-people vying for audience attention — whether they’re associated with the Marvel Cinematic Universe or not. You won’t merely leave Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse eager to see more of Miles Morales, but of Spider-Gwen, Spider-man Noir and even Spider-pig. And if you think you’ve finally reached your limit with Peter B Parker, just wait for the end of the credits.