Columnist Alex Nolan gives his take on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Go and see this film! It’s just what we all need – especially if you’re stressed out because of the holidays. This film is the perfect anodyne. It starts with Peter Parker giving us the Spidey origin rundown we’re all aware of by this point. He’s Spider-Man, the best and shiniest version of the character you can imagine. And then he dies, and a recently empowered Miles Morales must take over amidst a universe-collapsing crisis.
So much of what makes this film such a delight comes from its compelling lead. Miles is characterised from the smallest moments and gestures and it makes him one of the most realised heroes we’ve seen in a Marvel movie for a long time. The Spider-Man narrative has always questioned what it means to gain power and use it. Into the Spider-Verse looks at how that works when the narrative already exists – Miles feels obligated to take up the mantle, but he battles against expectation and questions if he’s good enough, a problem amplified by the presence of multiple other competent Spider-people. The familiar “With great power comes great responsibility” is seen through a new lens; the responsibilities of Spider-Man have been set, the hero must now abide by them. This is all handled deftly, and drives forward an origin story I thought I was sick of seeing by now.
But the narrative isn’t the only star here, the film is also supported by stellar animation. It’s truly a comic book come to life, and without a frowning Chris in sight (well, okay Chris Pine is in it, but only briefly as the aforementioned perfect-Spidey). From the pops of text on screen to the little wiggles that appear every time a Spider-Person uses spider-sense, the animators have created a love letter to joyful and frenetic comic book art. The psychedelic dreamscape sequences at the film’s climax are a stunning feast of colour – a Warhol-esque implosion of pop-art imagery.
The main cast all give a superb voice performance – but particularly of note are Shameik Moore as Miles and Hailee Steinfeld as Spider-Gwen. Moore is effervescent as Miles and his nuanced performance ensures we’re rooting for the lead character all the way through. Steinfeld was everything I wanted for Spider-Gwen’s big screen debut, her ease is matched with an intensity to her performance that is perfect for the character (I’m am 100% here for the rumoured Spider-Women spinoff). Steinfeld and Moore together have a wonderful dynamic and an effortless chemistry. There were also a couple of delightful surprises: Nic Cage delivers hilarious one-liners as Spider-Noir and Lily Tomlin appears as Aunt May which is perfect because who hasn’t wished Lily Tomlin was their auntie?
To reiterate: go and see this film! It’s fun, but it’s also heartfelt and down to earth. The people who created it love comics and love Spider-Man. Miles Morales has been an important part of the character’s mythos for years now, and it’s criminal that he hasn’t had an on-screen adaptation until now. That said, I’m glad it was this film. And I am glad it was so good.