There is something obviously timely about the release date of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Stan Lee’s demise is something that Marvel fans are yet to fully mourn over and here comes a film that is (almost) the perfect swansong for the gentleman. No, I am not trying to balance Spiderman’s perennial likability to Lee’s hard-earned goodwill but it needs to be commended on how spectacular a product the film is in its own merit. And yes, it is nearly unexpected!
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse does not let you groan “yet again” as it brings to us a mint-fresh gang of Spideys from other dimensions (well, universes) joining our next door superhero, Peter Parker. The spotlight this time is on the coming-of-age of New York City’s brand new Spider-Man, Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore). A teenager of African-American and Puerto Rican origins (talk about inclusiveness), Miles is lodged by his policeman father in a boarding school meant for gifted children. As expected from any one of his clan, the cop dad is no fan of Spider-Man’s shenanigans. Bearing obvious Marvel hero traits, Miles himself wants to live a childhood that is as normal as possible but only until destiny strikes him hard. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider while chilling with favourite Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) and the rest is everything that we had got our tickets for.
The baddie, this time around, is Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) – the man behind Super Collider, a gizmo that can destroy the world (of course!). We also get to see Spidey Sr, Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) who dies (yet again) but the death isn’t as teary as you might think it would be. Into The Spider-Verse trails off successfully on the insanely engaging communion that the aforementioned gang of Spideys develop. With Miles in the forefront, the character build-ups and the subsequent parts that they play in an otherwise well-acquainted scheme of things is fascinating to say the least. One must also applaud the story (Phil Lord) of Into The Spider-Verse, which is far from pedestrian and one can see how it singularly stands out despite all the technology blitzkrieg all over. You see a teenager dabbling with identity issues, an ageing Peter Parker with complexes and a paunch along with a clique of villains that is seldom high on decibels (read Thanos).
Whilst the format is that of animation (more to that later), the director trio do not rob the Spiderman brand off its characteristic quirks. In fact, Into The Spider-Verse feels slightly more adult-friendly as opposed to several of its predecessors including the incessantly tacky The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The story is sprinkled with the usual dash of family values whilst a couple of mature (not obscene) jokes in places didn’t hurt at all. Plus, the film characterizes Peter Parker to a T as it dexterously unveils his vulnerabilities. The guy-next-door charm in him is still intact whilst making him appear commanding enough for Miles to see a mentor in him. Equally pleasing is Uncle Aaron lending a small yet highly emotional contribution to the film with the episode refusing to set in any sort of soppiness that one would fear of. One must hand it to editors who indeed knew their ‘responsibility’ dealing with this premise that contains great ‘power’.
Innovation is also a key in making Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse an unexpected delight. Who expects a Spidey world-saving saga to have psychedelic influences in its animation design? The blend between computer graphics and hand-drawn comic book cartoon is topnotch and it is certain to fill with our hearts with heavy nostalgia, if not great awe for the writers and artists.
Purely in terms of what one expects from a template that is ever-so-familiar, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is dew-fresh and insanely exciting for the most part of its run-time. However, the pace slackens significantly in the third act which is more because the writers (Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman) meander until they find a way to empower the self-doubting Miles. Arguably the best-animated feature film to come out of Hollywood in 2018 (no, I am not that big a fan of Isle of Dogs), the latest Marvel hero chronicle is bound to be a rage this holiday season. And not to mention that oh-so-adorable cameo by Lee which made every audience member let out a silent ‘aww’. What more do you need from a sweeping superhero flick which touches several new chords despite umpteen default tropes in place?
P.S.: There is also a post-credit surprise which isn’t as crackling as the recent wins from Marvel but, hell, it’s bloody darn cute!