REVIEW: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Chances are, you wouldn’t have seen me for the past couple of months. Why? Am I on the run from the police for committing heinous, violent criminal acts? Or have I just spent every breathing moment playing Spider-Man on PS4? (I would play Red Dead, but I’ve just got to a level where there’s a big crocodile, and I got scared, so I turned it off.)

Of course, it’s the latter. And you’d have thought I’d enjoy a breather away from the webslinger, and maybe would have shy’d away from a movie which features not one, but six various Spider-Mans. Spider-Men? Spider-People? Whatever.

Fortunately for me, I went to the screening of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and fucking fuck me; it’s fucking good. (I just sat through 120 minutes of family-friendly animation; I had a lot of pent-up mature themes I needed to get out of my system.)

Set in New York City, we see Miles Morales, a young lad struggling to cope with his school, as well as his relationships with his parents. You and me both, Miles – my father just made me a jacket potato with cheese and ham, when I asked for cheese and bacon. Urgh. Parents suck.

As if that’s not bad enough, he soon becomes the new Spider-Man, after he sees Peter Parker die. (I should probably have alerted you of any spoilers, but I’m a prick like that.) In an attempt to bring back his wife and child, Kingpin creates a blackhole, causing various other Spider-Men, including Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Ham to join Miles and teach him to become the newest member of the Spider-Verse and to stop Kingpin.

Written by Phil Lord – the genius behind The LEGO Movie and 21 Jump Street – Into The Spider-Verse was always set to be one of the funniest movies of 2018, but I wasn’t prepared for just how funny it would be. As someone who takes pride in making quick witticisms, I actually got pretty jealous… Of a cartoon spider. Upon reading that back, I realise how stupid that is. From the offset, Into The Spider-Verse is so meta and self-referential; something the likes of The LEGO Batman Movie got so well. Narrated by Peter Parker, he mentions an upside-down kiss with Mary-Jane, from Sam Raimi’s original trilogy; we see him stretching between two crumbling figures, as he tries to web them together, like Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming, and – of course – the first real crowd pleasure happened just a couple of minutes in when Peter Parker insisted we forget about the time he strutted down the street, pointing to pedestrians with gay abandon in Spider-Man 3. From there on out, the comedy comes thick andfast, which would please many cinema-goers.

What’s so refreshing about the humour in Into The Spider-Verse is that it’s tonally different with every character. The comedy between Miles and his father is pretty standard, with embarrassing father-son moments, whereas Gwen packs plenty of sarcastic gags. As for the other Spider-People, each coming from a different universe brings with them a different style of humour. Nicolas Cage’s Spider-Man Noir only talks in dramatic, brooding monologues (yet he can’t complete a Rubix Cube, because – naturally – he only sees in black and white) and Spider-Ham – who was a fan-favourite from the trailers – has a sense of humour that totally jars with the whole story. He’s whacky and tongue-in-cheek, yet it works. The only Spider-Person who went the whole film without a laugh was Peni Parker, a crime-fighter who has bonded with her own SP//dr suit. In fact, this character seemed like a waste, at times – she was just, y’know, there.

At times, however, the comedy seemed a little too obvious, which is a surprise from Phil Lord. There’s only so many times you can fake laugh at Aunt May, an old lady, wielding her handbag and knocking out a 12-foot-tall mutant criminal. Now if she’d have farted while doing so, then you’d have some sweet ass laughs. Fortunately, not all of Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse was a glaringly obvious as that; it was a pleasant relief not to see Mile Morales kiss the girl he’d been longingly crushing on since the start of the movie. Miles didn’t get to kiss the girl he had the hots for? Get me a red morph suit, and me and him are practically the same person.

It’s not just a laugh, though. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse also takes it’s stylistic approach, and attention to detail from The LEGO Movie. Much like how The LEGO Movie focused on minor visual details – such as the cracked helmet on Benny the Spaceman – Into The Spider-Verse pays homage to its comic book origins beautifully, by styling itself on the graphic novels. Every shot has tiny halftone dots throughout; colours seem to blend, and occasionally narration and inner-thoughts are visualised via caption panels. You wouldn’t believe how long I had to spend on Wikipedia researching the different terms for all of those. Not only do these features keep it fresh and different to – not just other movies – but to itself, from scene-to-scene, but it’s also a fantastic nod to Spider-Man’s origins.

Distributed by Sony Pictures, it seems logical that there would be some product placement. I just wasn’t expecting this much. The very opening scene sees Miles Morales listening to his Sony headphones. He doesn’t just listen to them, though. We see the headphones in 39 different angles. It’s a Spider-Man movie; not an advert for Sony headphones, and – dammit. I really want to buy some Sony headphones now. Admittedly, it is fair play – if I released a Spidey movie under my name, I’d insist we rename him as Spider-Dan. And I can’t be too mad at the product placement – for instance, Miles Morales constantly wore Nike trainers. And him having the Sony headphones and Nike trainers just made him that much more believable. After all, if you was a teenager without Nike trainers at my school, you’d get beaten up hourly. (Side note: I didn’t have Nike trainers. Sigh.) In fact, Sony were so intent on making Into The Spider-Verse seem real and part of our universe, there were also nods to real figures throughout, such as posters for The Weeknd’s album, Starboy and Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book.

I was so sure Spider-fatigue would’ve kicked in by now – this is the eleventh time we’ve seen Spider-Man in a full-length feature film since 2002. But this is such a fresh take – not one part of this movie takes itself seriously, and it’s just so damn beautiful.

I’m writing this as somewhat of a formal contract – as soon as Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is released, I want two copies of it on Blu-ray. One to watch, and one to be buried with, so when someone digs up my grave in years to come, they will see the ancient treasure we once had.

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