By now I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz around this animated Spider-Man film, and people saying things like “It’s the best Spider-Man film ever,” or “This is one of the best films of all of 2018,” or similar outrageous statements. I’d like to go on the record to let you know that these crazy rumors, and all of the hype around this film, are 100% valid!!! Sony has delivered an action-packed, laugh-filled, heartwarming tale that allows all of us to feel like we can be Spider-Man! I think Stan Lee would be proud!
I’ve been a big fan of Shameik Moore ever since I saw him in Dope (2015), but I didn’t expect him to be such an amazingly talented voice actor! He brought an energy to the main character, Miles Morales, which made him so much more relatable to the inner-youth of each audience member. Jake Johnson’s transition from reluctant “Spider-Man coach,” to proud mentor & father figure is palpable. Plus, Johnson consistently makes you laugh with his combination of near-overconfidence in his abilities mixed with him being somewhat cynical, and well past the excitement of being Spider-Man. Hailee Steinfeld brings so much personality to Gwen that it’s easy to see why Miles wants to be friends (and maybe more) with her, but she also has created a Spider-Woman so cool and bada** that I want to read her comics! Liev Schreiber brings a menacing tone to Kingpin that is less like past animated versions of the character, and (thankfully) much closer to the Emmy-worthy portrayal of the character by Vincent D’Onofrio in Netflix’s Daredevil series. And, of course, Mahershala Ali is awesome in his voicing of Mile’s cool but complicated uncle.
“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.” This quote from Stan Lee is placed just before the credits, as part of a dedication to the recently departed father of the Marvel Universe. While it is very similar to the well-known Spider-Man proverb, “With great power comes great responsibility,” (a line so often repeated they include a joke about that in this film), the quote they chose is so much more relevant to this film. It’s not about the powers, but just about making the choice to do what is right. They also take some opportunities to explore strong values around friendship, and especially family.
I have listened to at least one song from this soundtrack nearly every day for the last two months! But, more importantly than just being amazing music, every track is paired perfectly with each scene it accompanies, amplifying the tone of the scene without being distracting. As a moviegoer who hates to find himself wondering why they played a certain song for a certain scene that it doesn’t match with well, I was very appreciative to see someone do it flawlessly! The inclusion of some classic east coast hip-hop artists, including a very well-placed track from the Notorious B.I.G., helped center the urban vibe of the film to its Brooklyn setting. There is one iconic moment where they remix the popular single from the soundtrack, “What’s Up Danger,” with Daniel Pemberton’s incredible score in such a way that I get excited chills just thinking about it! Additionally, the sound teams made many brilliant choices, but one that I loved was the whispered warning tone they used to help the audience get their own sense of what Spider-Man experiences whenever his “Spider-Sense” power was activated.
Into the Spider-Verse takes you on a journey to see Miles grow up, not into a man (he’s still a kid by the end of the film), but into a hero! We also get a variety of entertaining characters, almost all of whom have their own, very specific, and well-told character arcs. Considering a heavy portion of the plot involves multiverse theory and alternate realities, it’s worth noting how incredibly easy to follow they make that element of the story. Also, as a fellow African-American/Latin mixed person, it was great to have both sides of his culture present in the film without it seeming forced.
From the first trailer I saw of this film, I did not expect to enjoy the animation style. Despite being someone who actually does enjoy well-done 3D films, and appreciates creative animation techniques, I felt this CGI-comic-book style would get old and hurt my eyes long before the end of its 2-hour runtime. I was pleasantly surprised to find it not only bearable but truly enjoyable! The occasional comic book style dialogue/thought bubbles added excitement or humor every time they’re used and were placed sporadically enough to never get annoying.
I can’t think of the last time my expectations for a film were so far off! I was worried the film that included comic book text bubbles, mixed with looney tune style animation, mixed with anime, mixed with typically-confusing alternate dimension mumbo-jumbo, would result in a messy film that would just be fun enough for viewers wanting to see Miles Morales on the big screen to be satisfied… I did not expect Sony to create a movie that would have all of that, yet still turn out to be an animated adventure that hits us on nearly every emotional level!