Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018)

Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine, Natalie Morales, Lake Bell, Jorma Taccone, Oscar Isaac

Despite agreeing to share custody of the latest iteration of Spider-Man with Marvel Studios, Sony remains adamant to try and make their mark on cinemas superhero boom. The first attempt involved kickstarting their own cinematic universe sans the wallcrawler, starting with Venom. While that feature felt like two steps back for the genre, resembling a comic-book flick from the 90's, Into The Spider-Verse is a leap in the right direction, and is exactly the kind of imaginative and unique piece the studio should be making. But, more than that, it's a visually stunning piece of adoration to one of the most popular comic-book characters, throughout many incarnations.

A teenager from Brooklyn, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) gets bitten by a genetically altered spider, resulting in him becoming the Spider-Man of his reality. As he struggles with his abilities, and the weight that comes with being such a figure, he crosses paths with a Spider-Man from another reality, named Peter Parker (Jake Johnson). Finding a mentor in the older Peter, the pair team up to stop a threat to all of reality, fighting alongside a number of other wall-crawling heroes from across the Spider-Verse.

From the opening credits, it's clear the filmmakers have intended on making this the best translation of comic book to screen. As the Comics Code Authority sign flashes on-screen early on, this leads in nicely to the most remarkable aspect, the animation style. Animated features can often be guilty of opting for a substandard house style, rather than attempting something unique which sets itself apart from the crowd. What's been accomplished for this feature is absolutely gorgeous, making for one of the best styles to have ever graced a cinema screen. It allows for a perfect adaptation of comic book conventions, including text boxes, and large words which would be seen gracing splash pages. But when these images are so gorgeous to look at, even during the most low-key of scenes, you could decorate a room with stills from this film.

The animated style lends itself to adapting an array of prominent webslingers, be it the monochrome seriousness of 30's set Spider-Man Noir, the anime vibrancy of Peni Parker and her robot pal, the punk stylings of Spider-Gwen, or the Chuck Jones inspired wackiness of Spider-Ham. Each are adapted in their own unique style, and are introduced with a succinct backstory detailing the necessary highlights to understand who they are, so there's no need to worry about getting lost if you're unfamiliar with these comic book favourites. Plus, with such fun performances gone into each of them, they'll also become your favourites before you know it.

But what of the best known webslinger, Peter Parker? Coming from an entirely different reality, this is an older Peter that has been through the wringer, resulting in him being divorced, overweight, and jaded with life. It's a stark change from what we're used to seeing of him, and it's a fascinatingly fresh take on a character audiences have gotten so used to seeing depicted on-screen, both big and small, and Jake Johnson settles into it extremely well. But despite all of these Spider-people, there's no confusion as to whose story this is. Make no mistake, the focus is on Miles Morales, and the film never gets lost among the characters to forget this.

When we meet Miles, he's a guy unsure of himself. While he did the entry work to get into a prestigious school, Miles' place was determined by a lottery machine, and thus, he doesn't believe he's earned his place there. He'd rather be among his friends at the local school, ordaining the streets with the art he's drawn on stickers, and hanging out with his Uncle Aaron (wonderfully voiced by Mahershala Ali). He finds himself at odds with his father, who just wants the best for Miles, as their relatable relationship is fraught with tension and an inability to properly communicate, believably played by Brian Tyree Henry and Shameik Moore. When Miles' new status as Spider-Man is thrown into the mix, it's a catalyst for Miles finding who he is. Yes, it's essentially an origin tale for Miles, but when it's done so well, you'll be clamouring for more adventures with him.

The guiding hands of Phil Lord and Chris Miller can be felt on the product, as their witty and knowing humour is wonderfully delivered, making for some of the funniest scenes you'll witness this year, but the secret weapon lies in the oodles of heart found throughout. A moment where the Spider-people talk about what they each lost, and how the hardest thing about the job is not being able to save everyone, is a stand-out which shows how tragedy is a uniting factor in this line of work. This even extends to Kingpin, who is a well realised antagonist with a grand plan that's large in scope, but his motivations are down to earth and deeply personal.

A love letter to one of the most popular characters in popular culture, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a beautifully realised triumph that's bursting with heart and humour, all brought alive with one of the most gorgeous looking animations in a long while. If you're wondering, yes, stay after the credits. It's worth the wait.