“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” review by Nate Blake

Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman

Length: 117 Minutes

Rated: PG

Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero, but it’s been a depressing 11 years as far as Sony’s rights to the franchise have been concerned. Though the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man was respectable and Spider-Man 2 in my opinion is still one of the top three comic book films of all time, things got bleak quickly from that point on. Spider-Man 3 was a bloated and embarrassing mess, and attempts to relaunch the franchise with Andrew Garfield as The Amazing Spider-Man only provided a handful of inspired moments while also giving us skateboarding montages set to Codplay and room cleaning montages set to Philip Philips.

Over in Disney’s MCU, Spider-Man made an impressive appearance in Captain America: Civil War, and that was followed by the very solid Spider-Man: Homecoming. As with most MCU entries though, something felt very predictable and safe with those films. The MCU, for better or worse, follows a predictable if winning format that prevents them from ever being truly surprising. That’s why it was so refreshing to see what Sony has done this time around. It’s been a long wait but they finally made a film worthy of the iconic character. It has just the right mix of humor, action, trippy animation and WTF moments.

After an opening sequence that summarizes and pokes fun at all the Peter Parker Spider-Man films thus far, we are introduced to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who is trying to flunk out of the elite boarding school he was sent to by his parents. His father, Jefferson Davis (Brian Tree Henry) is not a fan of the web-slinger and is also wary of the influence Miles’ Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) has over the teen. One night, Uncle Aaron leads Miles to an abandoned subway station that the teen can use as a canvas for some impressive graffiti art. It’s here that Miles has a fateful meeting with a radioactive spider. Up to this point the film is pretty much just an enjoyable re-working of familiar elements, but where it goes after this scene makes it one of the best surprises of the year. The Spider-Verse introduces us to a vast assortment of web-slingers, some who are hilarious and pure comic creations and others who are bad-ass and deserve their own spin-off.

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I did not expect to love this movie but that’s exactly how I feel about it. The action sequences, particularly one involving Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn) and a high-flying pursuit through a forest, are beautifully done. There’s no shortage of action and I was surprised at the amount of it for a PG film.

The problems I have with this adventure are minor. I’ve mentioned how beautiful the animation is, but at times the style is also a bit jerky and distracting. I didn’t notice it often, but it was more apparent in the realistic locations such as city streets or classrooms. The fight scene at the end goes on too long, though there are some great jokes during it. There’s also an early scene with Gwen Stacey that was too reminiscent of the awkwardness that was overdone between Peter Parker and Mary Jane in the Sam Raimi films.

Minor complaints aside, this is a welcome change of pace for the Spider-Man franchise. I’m rarely excited about sequels or spin-offs but I can’t wait to see what’s next for these characters.

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