I’ve only just started it but this is already turning out to be an extremely odd post to write. For one thing, it’s that time between Christmas and New Year when nobody ever knows what day it is so I wasn’t expecting to have to post until tomorrow. For another, I’ve already posted my Top 10 Films of the Year list with this in the top spot. So, it feels like I’ve already reviewed this and should probably just move on. Finally, my family and I only really celebrated Christmas together today. We exchanged presents after a New Year’s Day lunch and it’s making it even harder to figure out what day it is. I just don’t know what to do. It’s going to take the rest of the month before I really know what day it is. But who cares. At the very least, I have a wonderful day with the people I love and I’m planning on finishing (or getting as close as possible to finishing) my current read before I go to bed tonight. If the first day is anything to go by, 2019 could turn out to be quite a lovely year. But then again, the world is still going to shit… if only superheroes were real and could sort this mess out for us.
A few years ago, I used to get a weekly comic book order sent to my house. I didn’t have very many titles on my pull list but one of them was the 2014 Spider-Verse storyline. I can’t claim to have been the biggest Spider-Man fan beforehand but I loved the idea of all of these different versions coming together. To be honest, I was mainly in it for Spider-Gwen who very quickly proved to be one of my favourite superheroes ever. I was obsessed. I bought the hoodie. I have definitely worn it alone in my room and pretended I was her. I’m 30. But anyway, when the film Into the Spider-Verse was announced I was excited to see my new favourite on the big screen. I was even more excited when the trailer turned out to be fucking awesome. And the reviews were pretty flawless. It sounded like everything had come together. Something which was vital considering this is the 4th portrayal of Peter Parker in a film in 16 years. There was a strong case for there never needing to be another Spider-Man again but Phil Lord and Christopher Miller didn’t pay any attention to the idea that audiences were getting bored with the webslinger. They didn’t want to hear that there were too many Spider-Men in Hollywood and decided to chuck a whole load more into the mix. And, boy, am I glad that they did. The Spider-Man origin story is worn out by this point but Into the Spider-Verse even manages to breathe new life into that and repeats the same story about 5 times. It’s fantastic.
We open on an alternate version of Peter Parker living the life of Riley. He’s a beloved superhero with thousands of fans, a loving wife, and a successful streak of stopping crime. Until he crosses paths with Mile Morales. Miles is just like any other Spider-Man until he is also bitten by a creepy arachnid. After trying to control his newfound superpowers, Miles runs into the other Spider-Man as he’s fighting big bad Kingpin. When Spidey ends up dead it is up to Miles to complete his mission to destroy the particle accelerator that Kingpin has built. Thankfully, that very same machine has accidentally brought a bunch of Spider-Men from alternate universes so he has all the help he could want. The first is a middle-aged Peter Parker whose life hasn’t turned out quite as rosy as his counterpart. MJ left him and he is a broken man. A broken man who has skipped more than a few of his training sessions. Still, Peter Parker number 2, takes Miles under his wing and they are quickly joined by the rest of the gang. There’s Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man noir (a black and white Spidey from the 1930s), Spider-Ham (a cartoon talking pig), and SP//dr (a Japanese schoolgirl who pilots a mech suit). Each character is given their own introduction and is pretty well fleshed out considering how many there are. You don’t really feel that any are left out at all though, obviously, certain characters take more of the focus.
Before I watched this film, I had always enjoyed Spider-Man films but I’d never loved them in the way I loved other Marvel films. I never got the childlike joy I always get from watching Thor on-screen for example. Into the Spider-Verse suddenly helped it make sense. I got it. I was excited by everything that was happening. Watching Miles swing his way through Manhattan gave me that feeling. This film is funny and embraces everything silly about the character. Because, let’s be honest, you can’t really take him completely seriously. It doesn’t try to elevate the idea of Spider-Man but works with the characters are they are. It’s refreshing. It feels like real people have found themselves with superpowers and are just making their way in life.
But this isn’t just a film to be dismissed as a children’s film. It takes being silly very seriously indeed. It has heart and drama a plenty. And it’s scary. Something I can definitely attest to as the young boy in front of my at the cinema got so scared about the final showdown that he cried his way through the rest of the film. His parents seemed much less concerned about this than I was but I couldn’t exactly do anything about it. Into the Spider-Verse has everything that we have come to expect from a Marvel superhero movie but, somehow, it all works better. The inevitable emotional tragedy is sad but it doesn’t feel over-the-top or out-of-place. The tonal change never ruins the pace or flow of the narrative and only adds to what’s already there.
And let’s just mention how fucking gorgeous this film is. We are seeing computer generated graphics that have the exact feel of hand-drawn comic book illustrations. It’s genuinely beautiful. This is animation as it’s meant to be and the world has been fully realised in spectacular detail. It’s highly stylised and sophisticated. I was mesmerised from the off. And, the animation is perfect to tell Miles’ story and allows the character to really perform as he’s meant to. His on-screen presence has obviously changed over the years but it’s only through animation that he can really take on those characteristic moves. It allows him the freedom to be Spider-Man in a way that he never has before.
As you can tell, I can’t say enough good things about this film. The characters, Miles in particular, feel incredibly well fleshed out compared to a lot of MCU characters. We’ve seen a lot of movies about Peter Parker in recent years but this is the standout of them all. It is a film that cares about the legacy of the character it is portraying whilst also wanting to show that these films should be fun and exciting. Watching this film is the closest that we’ll ever get to seeing one of Marvel’s comic books come to life. It made me feel excitement and joy on a level that nothing else I’ve seen this year did. It was the only choice for my number 1 film of 2018.