Second Union

Second Union

‘SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE’: Spectacularly Superior

Marvel’s movie résumé has grown to enormous heights within the past two decades, a feat no other studio could even have dreamed of achieving. Since the dawn of the 21st century, the world’s leading comic book publisher has released countless big-screen adaptations of their famed characters, from the X-Men to the Avengers to the Guardians of the Galaxy. But no other Marvel superhero has had quite the journey as Spider-Man. Traversing from franchise to franchise, director to director, universe to universe, it never really seemed like he’d ever find a permanent home, or at least one worthy of his wide-reaching personality.

2018 has truly been his year, however. With an excellent video game adaptation turning out to be one of the best of the year, in addition to a significant (and dually devastating) role in Avengers: Infinity War, there’s been no shortage of great Spidey content to gush over. But with the latest adaptation of the fabled persona, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there’s new hope for the franchise. Into the Spider-Verse transcends many expectations and will certainly swing its way into the hearts of those who experience it.

Photo: Sony

Animated features have come a long way from 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it’s safe to say that they’ve improved tremendously since then, with Into the Spider-Verse only strengthening that statement. This is easily the most unique-looking film of the year, and possibly the decade. A massive adrenaline rush from start to finish, it rarely gives the audience a chance to take a break throughout its 2-hour runtime. From the second it starts, the blood in your body starts pumping and doesn’t stop until the end.

For a superhero movie, it’s surprisingly consistent. The narrative is cohesive and doesn’t feel like it could be picked apart, piece by piece. Structurally, it’s unsurprisingly a bit clichéd, with some story beats feeling a tad unoriginal, but the payoff is satisfying nonetheless. It’s an irresistible charm-fest that worms its way into every bit of joy you could ever hope to get out of a comic book flick.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore, Dope) is easily one of the year’s best protagonists. His character arc is one of the most fully realized ones that the superhero genre has really ever given to audiences, taking advantage of the new generation’s desire for diversity with surprising care. Right from the get-go, the viewer becomes immersed in Miles’ world, a blend of culture and family, and this is helped partially by Into the Spider-Verse‘s flamboyant confidence in showing, not telling. There’s little to no exposition, and that works strongly in the movie’s favor.

Each and every one of the other Spider-Verse residents are spectacular in their own ways — even if some are unfortunately squandered. Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) oozes charisma and is easily the standout, but Jake Johnson’s Spider-Man exhibits wonderfully natural chemistry with Moore’s Miles. The other characters — Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, and SP//dr — appear in the spotlight in brief bursts, coming into the story unexpectedly late. That being said, they’re still awesome (if relatively minor) players in the climax, contributing to a fun and entertaining sequence filled with epic superhero action.

Photo: Sony

Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) is the main villain of this story, but he unfortunately doesn’t get very much to do, primarily on behalf of the movie’s (succeeding) efforts to flesh out Miles. His motivations are clear, but equally vague at the same time, and lacking the depth a villain like him truly needs. 2018 has been a year for great superhero movie villains, with both Erik Killmonger and Thanos proving they measure up to the hype in more ways than one. But in this case, you’re probably better off watching Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal of Fisk in Netflix’s Daredevil instead. Schreiber isn’t terrible, he’s just underutilized.

But with one villain’s lackluster development comes another’s rise, and how beautifully large that rise is. Spider-Man has always hit close to home for many fans because of his familial ties, and the way they’re incorporated into the story. During the second act, Miles discovers a shocking truth (comic readers will have seen it coming from miles away, though [pun intended]) and later shares a heartbreaking moment with a certain individual. It’s scenes like these that make superhero movies really worth cherishing, and easily gives this one an emotionally resonant boost.

A trend that’s appeared alongside recent comic book movies is that of the curated soundtrack, which, for those who don’t know, is a compilation of music composed specifically for the movie itself. These have popped up in both older and newer superhero films, most notably this year’s Black Panther (even scoring a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year) but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse‘s soundtrack is far and wide one of the best ever. Just like its movie counterpart, the soundtrack is one giant adrenaline rush, injecting all of its energy into the listener with admirable clarity. But it also never feels out of place in the movie itself. It serves a purpose instead of just being thrown in as a distraction (looking right at you, Suicide Squad), giving the viewer a fully immersive experience to marvel at.

From a technical perspective, this is easily one of the greatest animated films of all time. Not only is it strikingly beautiful to look at, but it features some of the most innovative animation in over a decade. Coming from someone who grew up on Pixar’s now-iconic masterpieces, Into the Spider-Verse is surely going to catapult animated movies even further into the stratosphere than they already are. Try to recall how yo seeing a computer-animated film for the first time. Remember how it felt; to see such fluid and mesmerizing motion brought to life. To feel like you could reach through the screen and touch the magnificently detailed textures. To feel enveloped in the environments and world of the characters. That’s how Into the Spider-Verse feels to me. It’s certainly the new gold standard, paving a path for the next generation of animated movies; a revolutionary feat.

Photo: Sony

As far as Spider-Man stories go, this one is close to perfect. Into the Spider-Verse is wholly unique in every respect, a whirlwind of colorful, vibrant imagery that grabs you by the collar, takes you on an extraordinary journey, and never lets go. The world it imagines and the characters that live inside, all feel incredibly real. Comedically intelligent, packing a massive emotional core and fueled by its fresh, diverse outlook on the classic comic book formula, this clever tale of heroism is one you’ll be talking and thinking about this one long after leaving the theater.

Grade: A-

Have you seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse yet? If so, what did you think of it? Let us know on Twitter @WeAreSecondU.

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