Spider-Man receives the welcome rejuvenation hes desperately needed since Sam Raimis trilogy with Into The Spider-Verse; an animated flick which shines far brighter than anything in Marvels traditional movie universe.
Marvel may have translated an impressive web of character crossovers and Infinity stone assembling in their blockbuster MCU, but its still relatively tame when compared to the comic books – where stories inter-weave through timelines and alternate universes offer a whole wealth of possibilities and unlikely team-ups.
This crazier side of superhero lore is pulled apart in Into The Spider-Verse; a Marvel and Sony animation collaboration concocted from a heady mix of talent, including Peter Ramsey (Rise Of The Guardians), Rodney Rothman (22 Jump Street) and Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie).
Into The Spider-Verse toys with these comic book tropes, and audience knowledge of past Spider-Man films, to deconstruct expectations of the classic origin story. Here, Peter Parker takes a backseat to Miles Morales – the Afro-Latino teenager and second alter-ego of the web-slinger, who receives Spider-Mans powers after being bitten by a genetically-modified arachnid created by Norman Osborne.
Miles recently shared the spotlight in the recent excellent PlayStation 4 game, but here his personality is given far greater attention. Were introduced to Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) in the bedroom of his Brooklyn home, bopping with headphones while avoiding packing to go off to high-school. A slapped-off spider-bite later, hes navigating school life with increasingly embarrassing results – from trying to impress girls on uncle advice and attempting to crawl across walls with Peter Parker-like confidence.
Whereas Parker possesses a level of nerdy arrogance, Morales is far more uncertain of his position in the world. Hes a quieter more sympathetic type largely unknowing of his skillset, who hasnt been struck with the great tragedy of losing his parents. His origin story will be unknown to many, and its part of what makes Into The Spider-Verse so refreshing from the outset.
The story, however, doesnt rest on a typical origin story, it dives into a pool of bonkers. After nemesis Kingpin launches a device which cracks open multiple dimensions, Morales encounters a disillusioned and aged Parker from a universe where hes become lazy – emphasized with frequent pops at his rotund belly.
Its a fascinating dynamic which gives a fresh spin on the what it means to be a hero story, while more importantly, delivering a remarkable hit rate of smart, slapstick gags. An early sequence sees the pair attempt to steal a hard drive, with Parker on charming distraction duty while Morales wrestles with his newfound ability to turn invisible. Its a superbly constructed back and forth of escalating silliness and thrilling action, which only hints at the highlights to come.
As you may have seen in the trailer, aged Parker isnt the only dimension crossover. We have the incredible dark Spider-Man Noir (voiced by an on-form Nicolas Cage), Spider-Gwen Stacey, Japanese-American Peni Parker, and real parody Spider-Ham – all of which possess their clashing visual styles and own brand of humour, simultaneously turning the film into a celebration of Spider-Mans history and a zany Avengers-style team-up pulled from the weirdest shelves of comic shops.
Despite the introduction of other heroes, Into The Spider-Verse never stops being Morales story. Theres a genuine pathos here Marvel has struggled to tap into since Raimis Spider-Man 2, with emotional scenes between Morales and his family managing to break through the comedy, ludicrous crossovers and arresting visual effects.
And boy, those visual effects. The films animation is a sublime distraction throughout, creating a CG aesthetic which somehow convinces you its hand-drawn. Its the closest weve come yet to seeing a comic recreated in motion, with breathless action sequences fizzing with dimensional glitches, comic book panel splits and frenetic bursts of colour.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a remarkable achievement and one of the greatest superhero movies ever made. It manages to execute a moving, refreshed take on Spider-Man while rewarding those deeply invested in the characters past – all while wrapped in a sharply-written, joyous action flick which thrills until its very last quip.
The biggest revelation? They made a post-credits scene genuinely worth waiting for. A true miracle.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse releases in UK cinemas on 12 December.