Comic books and animated movies are clearly a match made in heaven, and yet we can’t remember ever seeing anything like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse before. The scale of it, the visual inventiveness, the heart and the humour – this film is the closest we’ve yet managed to get to a comic book come alive. And it’s brilliant.
The film gracefully leaps the ‘oh no, not another Spider-Man movie’ hurdle by focusing on Miles Morales, a regular kid from Brooklyn who gets bitten by that famous radioactive spider. When Peter Parker as we know him does show up, it’s a shambolic Peter who’s pushing 40 from another dimension. And he’s not the only rogue Spider-Person/Pig invading Miles world as he tries to come to terms with his new powers – thanks to Kingpin’s nefarious plans, a whole bunch of them are dragged in from across the multiverse, from Spider-Gwen to Spider-Ham, each animated in their own distinctive style, from moody black and white to shining anime eyes. And they’re all an absolute hoot, especially Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir, spouting gumshoe nonsense at every opportunity.
But the various Spider-People, as entertaining as they are, are a side-show. This is Miles’ story – or, to be more precise, a student-mentor story, with both Shameik Moore’s Miles and Jake Johnson’s Peter learning from each other. Anyone concerned that newbie-Spidey Miles might get lost in all the pyrotechnics need not worry – he absolutely shines.
Everything about this film is ambitious, from the flawless voice cast (listen out for some surprise cast members along the way), to the visuals, adding layer upon layer of comic book references to the film. The screen splits into panels, captions appear, black pen-strokes of expression lines appear on and around characters’ faces. On top of that the directors and animators have crafted some excellent, thrilling, often funny, occasionally heart-in-mouth action scenes. And yes, we’re going to say it – it’s the best Spider-Man movie since Spider-Man 2.