Monday, 10 December 2018

Review: Spider-Man - Into The Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2D)
Cert: PG / 117 mins / Dir. Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti & Rodney Rothman / Trailer

Now, as some readers may recall, I wasn't exactly going a bunch on the trailers and previews for Sony Animation's new franchise-milker Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. I like ol' web-head, although he's far from my favourite Marvel hero, but this looked like it was going to be a two-hour migraine. In fact, it's probably not unfair to say that the more I saw, the more cautious I became at the prospect of watching the entire movie. But I digress; to the pitch...


Teenager Miles Morales is struggling to fit it, both at school and at home. Bitten by a radioactive spider as he sprays graffiti in a subway, he meets Peter Parker and begins to realise he now has the potential to be New York's next superhero. But with Kingpin's subordinates attempting to build a machine which bridges alternate universes, a rift in the spacetime continuum causes other iterations of Spider-Man to appear in Morales' city. Together, the heroes attempt to destroy Kingpin's creation and return to their own realities before everything is ripped apart. But Morales has a learning-curve to climb first...

So, good things first. The film is ambitious both in scope and execution, an increasing rarity in the superhero genre as it becomes more crowded. As potentially confusing as the narrative is, everything is laid out clearly yet not over-explained, and the well-directed voice performances sell everything in between, so that even if the audience misses some of the minutiae, the emotion of each scene comes over neatly.


But. Into The Spider-Verse is, as suspected, a headache-inducing two hour funfair ride which feels like trying to burn out a fever by washing down bags of Haribo with Sunny Delight. Sony's handling of Spider-Man as a property has been 'scattershot' for a long time now, and this broad sweep feels like someone in an office calling down to the writing-room for brighter colours and more Easter Eggs, irrespective of what the movie might need.

The art-style and character designs are gorgeous, but let down by an ADHD approach to pacing and soundtracking, with distractingly framey animation. The film often looks like it's been rendered in 12fps in a bid to save time and money. And on top of the 100%-saturation palette, there's so much stylised ghosting and blurring, alternating between background and foreground objects that I genuinely kept wondering if I'd accidentally booked the 3D screening and walked in without glasses (alas I would have seen this in 3D, but the timings didn't work out now that cinemas aren't prioritising stereoscopic screenings any more).

Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman's screenplay is very self-aware, but in all honesty I think that DC's Teen Titans Go! To The Movies played the existential comedy card with more charm. And that's a sentence that me from twelve months ago didn't think I'd ever be typing (although Aquaman lands later this week so let's not get too excited, eh?).


I like that this is Sony playing with the multiple threads of Spider-Man continuity, but Spider-Verse doesn't so much tie those together as just point out that they all exist. It feels a lot like a feature-length pilot for a dimension-hopping anthology series, in which case it would serve its purpose very well. But I'm not sure how much a casual audience is going to get on with the intricate in-jokes and frenetic presentation.

All in all, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse reminded me that I am a middle-aged man and that not all cartoons are made for me nowadays. Which is fair enough. The film's engaging enough while it's on*1, but I'm forgetting it already…

The business-end:

Is there a Wilhelm Scream? Not sure, really.
Is there a Stan Lee cameo? There is.
Is there a mid-credits scene? Nothing animated, but a great message.
Is there a post-credits scene? There is.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Thematically, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies.
Visually, a migraine

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you're going to watch it at all, go big or go home.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is, but you won't get the full effect.
Which may not be the worst thing in the world

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
I have no idea

Although while we're on the subject, it's nice that Nic Cage has now voiced a Superman and a Spider-Man, this year. This is a trend I hope and expect to continue

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's entirely possible.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one, but heard more than one like it.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The voices of Poe Dameron, Quinlan Vos and Major Vonreg are in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 However you end up reacting to Into The Spider-Verse, boredom will be the last thing you feel. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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