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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a friendly neighbourhood masterpiece

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is Sony’s third solo attempt at Spider-Man. And this time they’ve got it just right.

By Alicia Wakeling, Third Year, Film & TV

YouTube / Sony Pictures Entertainment

Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse is Sony’s third solo attempt at Spider-Man, after Sam Raimi’s trilogy in the early 2000s and the Amazing Spider-Man films of 2012 and 2014, and the first since Sony-funded but Marvel Studios-created Spider-man: Homecoming of 2017. And this time they’ve got it just right. Perhaps animating the famous friendly neighbourhood web-slinger was the key all along.

It tells the origin story of Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, who first appeared in the Ultimate Marvel comics in 2011. He gets bitten by a radioactive spider from another dimension and learns how to become Spider-Man among Spider-men, women and animals from five other dimensions, all while trying to stop crime lord The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) and villainous scientist Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn) and make sure his new mentors get home safely.


Photo by Sony Pictures Animation

There is a lot to unpack in this film, which is innovative in terms of animation, incredibly funny thanks to the involvement of 21 Jump Street (2012) directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, and at times truly moving. There is a large cast of characters, with the pitch-perfect writing playing to their strengths in this bizarre world that the filmmakers have concocted.

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is endearing and relatable, from his introduction as a teen passionately singing a song he doesn’t know all the words to, to his attempts to master his spider-skills in high pressure situations. His sense of humour fits what is well known and loved about the character of Spider-Man, while making it his own distinguishing him from the more well-known Peter Parker version.

The animation style - or, really, combination of styles - is integral to each character, with all six heroes having their own specific style based on their distinct dimensions, which are maintained as they enter that of Morales. For instance, Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) is rendered in 2D cartoon style, whereas Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) is only depicted in greyscale and conforms to the conventions of film noir.


Photo by Sony Pictures Animation

This visual quirk adds unexpected depth to the film; each character is distinct enough in their physical appearance and character not to require such extra detail, but it makes for even more interesting visuals and beautiful continuity.

Into the Spider-Verse’s animation style has never been seen before. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman insisted on new processes being created for the physics of the universe, such as wind blowing and hair moving, to give the final film a completely new look - and it is breathtaking. The backgrounds might resemble drawings taken from a comic book, while the characters are like 2D drawings made 3D. It gives this idea of familiarity but rendered in such a way as to make the world feel entirely new.

The style of the comic book source material is also well-integrated, from the use of classic comic book panels and round dots emblematic of the four colour printing technique used to create them originally, to thought bubbles and a visible depiction of the ‘spidey-sense’.


Photo by Sony Pictures Animation

It could be argued that this visual style is employed too sporadically in Into the Spider-Verse; it’s too fleshed out to be a mere homage but not used enough to truly be the style of the film. And yet, looking back, it becomes clear that certain elements of this style are used to emphasise elements of the story or provide subtle foreshadowing. It is another testament to the sheer depth of creativity that has gone into this film.

Almost every part of this film - the pacing, the humour, the villains, the character arcs, the soundtrack and music, the delightfully disorienting fight scenes - is perfectly balanced. It has been lauded as one of the best films of the year, and rightly so. It should certainly be nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, but maybe it deserves to be in contention for Best Picture as well.

Twitter / @jimmybero

The fact that it is both a superhero and animated feature should not automatically relegate it from that highest of accolades. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a truly original origin story which is a feast for both the eyes and the soul.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Sony Pictures Animation

Does Into the Spider-Verse deserve to be in contention for the Best Picture Oscar?

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