Review: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' is animated perfection

Posted March 19,2019 - 05:31 PM

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won the Oscar for Best Animated Picture at last month's Academy Awards, but for me, it was the best film of 2018. Period. Full Stop.

This movie is a perfect example as to why having additional "Best Picture" categories such as "Animation" or "Popular" takes away a bit from the panache of the Oscars. When you give other films a category of their own, they suddenly get left out of the main category and it cheapens the overall impact of the awards. No matter how you feel about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, you can't tell me that it didn't deserve to be one of the ten films honored as the best of the year.

The same goes for Black Panther. Had the Academy followed through with their ill-conceived notion of creating a Best Popular Film category, you can bet that Black Panther would have won the Oscar by a large margin. You could also argue that it wouldn't have become the first comic book film to be nominated for Best Picture.

It's human nature to fit things into their proper place. Think back to when you were a child and you had the toy where you had to place the proper shape in the correct hole. Try as you might, you never could get that square peg in the round hole. So too, the Academy would have been content to give Black Panther its own category and snub it for the award it truly deserved to be considered for.

But I'm getting a sense (a Spidey sense?) that my soapbox tour has taken a wrong turn and I need to get back on topic.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tells the story of Miles Morales who discovers that he too has developed superpowers after being bitten by a radioactive spider. As he comes to terms with his new power, Kingpin and Doc Ock are literally ripping the very fabric of space and time allowing other Spider-Men from other dimensions to crash into Miles' reality.



As someone who has seen all of the Spider-Man films, yes even that one where Spider-Man dances, I came into Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with the highest of expectations. The buzz was overwhelmingly positive and the trailers were intriguing, to say the least. I wasn't sure what to expect since my comic book knowledge is primarily made up of what I've seen in movies and on TV.

I took both of my kids to see it on opening weekend and we are all completely blown away. For as often as Sony has been ridiculed for messing up Spider-Man, they knocked this one out of the park. I loved that they owned their missteps within Into the Spider-Verse and were able to poke fun at themselves. It was immediately accessible for someone who walks in off the street with literally no knowledge of Spider-Man and it satisfied even the most die-hard fan.

Beyond simply creating another story in a neverending list of comic book movies, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse actually broke the fourth wall to scream to its audience that anyone can be Spider-Man. In a world in which we get sad daily reminders that we are very much a people that inherently draws arbitrary lines to divide us, we need to be reminded that it's not the color of our skin or what genitalia we are born with that define us. No, we choose who we are and sometimes our destiny includes bearing the mantle of a comics legend much like Miles.

I could go on and on gushing about the film or pointing out the various little Easter eggs, but I don't want to spoil the fun for you. I will simply say that if you haven't seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse yet, then you need to see it ASAP. You will thank me later.

There are so many wonderful things about the movie, but allow me to show some love a few of them. First and foremost, the animation style is fresh and yet still serves as an homage to the original art from the comic books. The various thought bubbles that pop up throughout are a nice touch as well. The overall animation style varies throughout the film and really complements the action in the film at the time. For instance, the opening sequence that introduces Miles is very fuzzy and impressionistic just as we don't quite have a clear picture of who Miles is and are still forming our impressions of him.

Another strong aspect is the casting. From top to bottom, the voices chose to play the various Spider-Men were inspired. In particular, the main Peter Parker is voiced by Jake Johnson and he absolutely nails it as a washed up, middle-age Spider-Man. Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir is great and while he doesn't have a lot of lines, he delivers them with the appropriate amount of restraint that one wouldn't normally equate to him.



My son's favorite character is Peter Porker and it's hard to argue with him. John Mulaney brings the oddball to life and he is another example of perfect casting as the character simply jumps off the screen. In fact, there's an entire Peter Porker short that is included on the Blu-ray that serves as a deleted scene of sorts that explains what Peter Porker was doing before he got sucked into another dimension.



I was also very impressed with the voluminous amount of special features included on the Blu-ray. It seems that studios are less willing to release a bonus feature-laden version right away, instead opting for the double dip. Of course, it's a real chicken and the egg type of scenario because often if the bare-bones edition doesn't sell well, then the studio will scrap plans for a beefed-up version and we are stuck with just the movie.

I particularly enjoyed the "Alternate Universe Mode" where the filmmakers guide you through deleted scenes and new storylines that were jettisoned from the film. This new version of the film feels very organic given the overall nature of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. There are also a bunch of featurettes and the aforementioned Peter Porker short among many others that really helps to make this one a no-brainer to own.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a film that the whole family will enjoy and it presents a very interesting story that hasn't been given the big screen treatment before. It's a great value and might simply be the best film released all of last year.Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD.