Image courtesy of Sony Pictures
When adapting a highly stylised medium such as comic books into the (generally) more tonally subdued medium of film, it is tempting to mute the vibrant colours and flashy art of the comics into something more ‘realistic’.
This can be seen in the way superheroes in cinema these days are redesigned from their bright, cheesy and impractical comic book counterparts into something that won’t make the audience laugh at them. This can have the unfortunate effect of making the designs less iconic and more boring to look at.
However, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ has ingeniously found a workaround by being both animated and highly stylistic.
This film tells the story of Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a teenage boy who is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains superpowers similar to the famous Spider-Man (Chris Pine). Spider-Man gives Miles a USB key to turn off a machine that could destroy the fabric of space and time.
After Miles accidentally breaks the key, he and multiple Spider-heroes from different universes have to find the blueprints to make a new key, all while staying out of the clutches of the machine’s owner Kingpin (Liev Schreiber).
Now, the idea of a story involving alternate universes certainly isn’t a new one, nor is a story involving the destruction of a world-destroying machine. That being said, it honestly took me a long time to notice the less-than-creative plotline. Why? Because I was too busy being blown away by the eye-catching visuals and clever dialogue.
If you are an animation fan, you must see this, preferably in theatres. You’ll thank me later, as this is one of the most gorgeous animated films I have ever seen. It’s full of bright colours in interesting patterns, expressive character designs and comic book-inspired flourishes that give the film a welcome meta quality.
The fact that the characters are animated in CGI but are designed with lines reminiscent of 2-D animation is a brilliant way of not only bridging the gap between comic books and modern animated films but also allowing the different Spider-heroes to exist in the same film. This is quite the achievement considering how the different heroes are modelled after a range of art styles from noir to anime to Warner Brothers-inspired cartoons.
The creative use of different angles gives the audience the illusion of climbing up walls along with the Spider-heroes, and the striking animation style makes for both exciting and tense fight scenes and hilarious slapstick.
I do have one small complaint about the animation, however. The moments when characters’ movements skip frames are clearly more of an intentional creative choice than a sign of poor quality. That being said, they are sometimes jarring and give some of the scenes a blurry effect that is hard to watch.
Moving on from the animation and art, the dialogue is full of funny quips and strong characterisation. The voice actors have great chemistry that makes the banter believable. I was surprised to find out that Miles Morales was played by an adult as I genuinely thought he was voiced by someone around as young as the character, which is a testament to Shameik Moore’s skill as a voice actor.
The music, mostly rap songs, is fairly stereotypical given the race of the protagonist but fits the mood of each scene as well as the protagonist’s interests.
The characters themselves are relatable and have satisfying arcs that still leave room for further development. As the film was drawing to its close I knew I already wanted to see a sequel, as I would love to see these characters again.
The themes of gaining confidence and appreciating family have been done to death in other films but they are handled competently here. The family theme is strengthened by the fact that both parents and their children can enjoy this film and relate to the characters.
‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is a feast for the eyes, warmth for the heart and fuel for the funny bone. It proves that superhero films don’t need to shy away from their comic books roots to be engaging for a modern filmgoing audience. Whether you’re a long-time Marvel fan, an animation geek or simply a regular moviegoer, I can’t recommend this film enough.