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The 400-Word Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The animated wing of Spider-Man's movie world proves to be a groundbreaking step in animation.




Photo by Sony Pictures Animation. © 2018 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
 

If you greeted the announcement of yet another cinematic Spider-Man timeline — at least the fourth in the last 15 years, and maybe the fifth, depending on where “Venom” fits in — with skepticism, it would be perfectly understandable.

And yet “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” the animated exploits of several spider-beings, are as good as any previous big-screen adventure from the web-slinger. Not only that, there is real innovation in “Spider-Verse,” a film that fulfills decades of comic-book-movie promise.

Without getting too far into the weeds — because this one has a plot and a half — “Spider-Verse” follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a teen artist with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He’s a fan of Spider-Man; hey, who isn’t? But he’s more concerned with making things work at his elite Brooklyn prep school and finding time to hang out with his ridiculously cool uncle, Aaron (Mahershala Ali).

But, you know, radioactive spiders and all that.

Yes, there’s already a Spidey in Miles’ town, but Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) has been messing with the fabric of reality. As a result, Miles gains superpowers — and a bunch of parallel-universe web-slingers are incoming.

This trope is delightful, as a phalanx of distinct heroes are deposited into one film with charm and humor. And the animation on this squad is dazzling, as each new addition is drawn, and moves around the frame, in a different style — without compromising the overall film. Spider-Ham, a pig (John Mulaney), bounces like a “Looney Tunes” creation, while Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) operates in perfect anime style.

It’s a subtle touch that speaks to the big achievement in “Spider-Verse.” For decades, films have been flirting with ways to create a living comic book — methods by which the medium can not only ape the look of the page, but the feeling of reading panel-to-panel. “Sin City” got the colors right; “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” managed the tone.

“Into the Spider-Verse” perfects the whole thing.

In every second, “Spider-Verse” feels like a comic book that has had its DNA reconstituted as a film. It does not merely shoot and frame like a drawn page, it seems to develop as if the viewer is imagining its movements; this is the way a comic-book story exists in your head, rendered as a film.

I don’t know how it was done. But it is wonderful to experience.

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