Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey
Writers: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Lily Tomlin, Zoe Kravitz, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
So unless you’ve specifically made time to watch the likes of Red Turtle or My Life As a Zucchini at your local independent cinema, chances are you’ve basically seen the same two animated art styles on the big screen for years, possibly decades. The same character models, the same colour palette, the same CGI backdrops, that same Dreamworks smirk.
And of course that’s what makes Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse so damn interesting. It looks spectacular (pun intended). It is a visually arresting film that immediately grabs your attention and doesn’t let go for the full ninety minutes. The art style is stylish and distinctive. The pop-art cinematography and bombastic editing techniques catch the eye. And the wildly creative dimension-warping storyline means that the illustrators constantly have something strange and wonderful to toss at the screen – like a black and white noir Spider-man, an anime girl with her robot companion or a pig in a Spider-man costume.
What came as a pleasant surprise to me is that the art-style for Into the Spider-Verse is full of flair but it was also made with purpose and care. I didn’t get exhausted by the trippy visuals or fast multi-paneled edits and cuts because the film makers paced themselves and knew to occasionally let a scene breathe for a moment before dialing up the speed to 100 again.
Marvel’s Spider-man and Spider-man: Homecoming have nodded and winked at the wider Spider-man universe but Into the Spider-Verse is the first time Marvel has actually showcased Miles Morales front and centre as the lead character. It’s the perfect time. The radically creative visuals combined with a new kid in the Spidey suit (replacing over fifty years of Peter Parker) really make Into the Spider-Verse stand out as something fresh and unique.
Although the hyper-kinetic visuals will be the talking point for anyone who watches Into the Spider-Verse, I think credit should also go to the writers and directors for also putting together an entertaining tale that delivers plenty of gags and is full of heart (perhaps not surprising since its penned by The Lego Movie guys). The narrative arc that Miles takes as he fulfills his potential as Spider-man is obviously well worn territory so its up to the writers to make his interactions with his police officer dad and with a washed up, aging Peter Parker feel like they mean something. To their credit, I think Lorde and Miller accomplish precisely that.
Into the Spider-Verse makes the Spider-man universe feel full of untapped potential. I think plenty of people will come away from this film thinking there’s no good reason why Spider-Gwen or Spider-man Noir couldn’t have their own movie too. It has received incredibly positive word of mouth as well as a deserved Oscar nomination for Best Animated picture.
Into the Spider-Verse is a great film in its own right but hopefully its larger legacy is that encourages Hollywood to try their hand at producing more diverse-looking animated films. Films like The Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks The Internet are all well and good but if you knew films could look and move like Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse, why would you want to go back?