‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ review: A web worth getting lost in

While the world of animation is quite possibly killing themselves to push their limits, along comes a movie that embraces vintage styles. With every new cinematic venture, we’re pretty much expecting to stare in wide-eyed wonder at textural richness and tactile aesthetics that haven’t been experienced before. So when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse irreverently and proudly presents its two-dimensional mish-mash of styles, Sony’s taking a huge risk that could go either way.

The latest in Sony’s association with Marvel – after rebooting everyone’s favourite neighbourhood superhero with Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – is an extension of the Spider-Man chronicles. After Black Panther swept away audiences and the box office, it’s particularly heartening to see another person of colour dominate the Marvel universe. Like the Spider-Man tale that’s as old as time, young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is struggling to find himself in present-day New York. He’s into hip-hop, art and girls while trying to navigate a relationship with his parents. As his teenage troubles continue, a radioactive spider plunges its chompers into Morales. Lo and behold we have another Spider-Man. With his newfound powers, Morales must save the world from the clutches of Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). The villain is intent on powering the Super Collider to open portals to different dimensions to bring his departed wife and child back and of course kill Spider-Man.

The nuances of Spider-Man’s relationship with his nemesis and the intricacies of vengeance should matter. But it really doesn’t. Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman craft a tight screenplay that leaves nothing unexplained without patronising the audience. On-the-nose clarifications too are tongue-in-cheek and incredibly self-aware. Punchy dialogues, rife with pop cultural references, make the ride smoother. Lord and Rothman achieve the task in spite of putting several Spider-People in the same frame. They’re as disparate as chalk and cheese but their collective chemistry is top-notch. Morales’ impressionable teenager syndrome is perfectly complemented by Jake Johnson’s cynical and acerbic has-been Spider-Man. Spider-Man Noir’s (Nicholas Cage) old-world vocabulary hilariously ricochets off Spider-Ham’s (John Mulaney), well hammed-up humour. And the two women, Peni Parker (Kimiko Glen) and Gwen Stacy aka Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) are badass and vulnerable simultaneously.

But the film’s universal story, one that clearly transcends all ages, isn’t its strongest suit. It’s the brilliant animation and direction, courtesy Rothman, Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey. The film is akin to watching a comic book unfurl on the big screen in video and Technicolor. The directors have incorporated several graphic novel elements from squiggles (for spidey senses) to Ben-Day dot textures along with each Spider-Person’s own animation from their universe. For instance, Peni Parker gets anime, Spider-Noir is in black and white and and Spider-Ham has his juvenile aesthetics.

So you won’t get to see each strand of hair on characters or saucer-wide eyes tremble with emotion, a la Disney. What you will get is an animated film like never before with a refreshing visual approach and an endearing message that swells your heart into twice its size long after it’s over.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 8:28:22 PM |

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