By Jackson Cropper
It’s been almost two decades since superhero blockbusters began to dominate the box office. Their epic scope and mythic characters have won audiences over for years and it’s hard to see that coming to an end anytime soon. Today, every superhero film that gets released comes complete with humongous amounts of hype surrounding it and millions of fans eager for the next installment, but with around nine superhero films releasing a year, it’s understandable that many have grown weary towards the supersaturation.
Besides films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (movies made independently trough Marvel from 2008 till now; also called MCU), very few recent superhero films have achieved great commercial and critical success. Some outliers include films like Logan, which surprised audiences with a gritty and personal neo-noir approach, Wonder Woman, the first major superhero film to feature a woman as the lead actress and director, and The Lego Batman Movie which benefited from a seemingly endless supply of expertly crafted comic-book jokes that poked holes in some of the vigilantes most narcissistic stereotypes. Every once and a while we get a superhero film that stands out from the rest of them and sometimes a film stands out so well that it eradicates any thoughts of ‘superhero fatigue’ your brain once possessed.
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse is very much so one of those films, and it’s not like any other Spider-Man movie we’ve ever seen. Since 2002, Spider-Man has been through six feature-length movies, three new actors, and two different production studios, and while they all were popular in their own regard, you can’t help but wonder if the public will be interested in yet another web-slinging adventure.
However, even with the recent influx of spidey films, Into the Spider-Verse proves to be the most original and innovative edition yet. The film follows the inter-dimensional adventures of an entirely new Spider-Man, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales, as he adapts to his newfound arachnid-themed superpowers while juggling his schoolwork and relationships. Miles soon finds himself posed against possibly the greatest threat the world has ever seen, a team of baddies building a dimension-bending super collider, but what makes his character interesting isn’t just how he deals with the situations he’s up against, but how the situations he’s up against help build him.
Perhaps the most human superhero we’ve seen on screen, Miles is constantly shown as a normal kid complete with emotions, struggles, and doubts. Once Miles becomes Spider-Man, he is soon shoved into a new world of responsibility and from this you see him make mistakes, experience hardships, and battle self-doubt in a way that feels completely genuine.
Outside of the main character, there are many things to praise about the film. Practically every frame is oozing with incredible eye-popping animation, blending in so many uniquely crafted styles that you won’t believe that it’s brought to you by the same animation studio that brought you The Emoji Movie just last year. The voice acting is notable as well. Shameik Moore (who you might recognize as the lead of the 2015 film Dope) does a great job of communicating Miles’s insecurities, and supporting cast members like Mahershala Ali, Jake Johnson, and Hailee Steinfeld have their times to shine as well. The most surprising members of the cast provide excellent comedic support too. The eccentric Nicolas Cage plays “Spider-Man Noir”, a Spider-Man dedicated to dwelling in the shadows and kicking Nazi butt, and comedian John Mulaney plays fan-favorite “Spider-Ham”, which means exactly what the name implies- a Spider-Man… as a pig. These two may be great additions to the cast, but they don’t obnoxiously steal the show.
Somehow, the film has an innate skill of understanding how it can appeal to the most people as possible, all while not berating you over the head with easter-eggs or generic hero tropes. The film seems to have found the balance between providing ample amounts of fan-service and communicating a fresh and personal story. Where in an average Marvel movie the various spider-heroes would be there to appeal to fans and nothing else, Into the Spider-Verse uses the heroes to build Miles into the hero he doesn’t feel like he can be. Every character is here to directly challenge Miles or to pull him up from his insecurities and push him towards accepting the next chapter of his life.
Overall Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the most refreshing hero-based films in years. With incredible animation and a deeply personal story, it’s bound to please longtime fans and will most likely win over people who are sick of the repetitive nature of the genre because it appeals to our most vulnerable feelings. The most fundamental excitement of the hero movie is that anyone can put on the mask and be the best person they were meant to be, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse reassures us that that thrill is perfectly human.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman and is currently playing at all big movie theaters in Tulsa.