“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Since 2002, Sony has released seven different Spider-Man movies. Eight if you count Venom, who spawned out of the Spider-Man comics. They’ve made a lot of money and Spider-Man is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse circumvents all of that and, instead, gives us a one-of-a-kind story that spans across multiple dimensions (or realities, if you will) that’s totally unrelated to the other films (but does pay homage to them in not-so-subtle ways).
If you’re a fan of comic books, then there’s not been any shortage of seeing your favorite heroes and villains come to life on the big screen. And that’s a trend not likely to stop anytime soon. They make money. But if you’re like me, and admittedly not many are, who hasn’t read a comic book in the last few decades – you might be a bit lost. Never fear, true believers this movie got me back to reading Spider-Man and we’re going to have a crash course on the characters featured in the film.
The film takes place in Morales’ universe. Voiced by Jake Johnson, he’s the main character in the film. Bitten by a radioactive spider on a class field trip, he reluctantly embraces his newfound powers. The Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Miles’ universe has just been killed by the Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schrieber).
|Peter B. Parker
Peter B. Parker is more like an older, wiser and broken down of the Spider-Man we all know and love. He too was bitten by a radioactive spider, got his powers and has been fighting crime/bad guys in his universe for over twenty years. His Aunt May died, he got married and divorced and isn’t the picture of health that we know spidey to be.
|Spider-Gwen (aka “Spider Woman”)
Spider-Gwen comes from a universe where she got the powers. Though the film doesn’t go into this level of detail, in her universe Peter Parker remained the nerd in high school while Gwen got to save the world. In an effort to duplicate the powers bestowed to Gwen, Parker manages to turn himself into the lizard where he’s killed.
Spider-Man Noir comes from a reality set in 1933 where he fights Nazi’s and isn’t afraid to use a gun, despite having the powers of all the other Spider-Men. He’s a darker version than the rest, but thanks to Nicholas Cage’s vocal talent, he’s easily one of the most entertaining.
Peni is from New York in the year 3145. She was bitten by a radioactive spider, etc. She has a psychic link with the spider who lives inside a giant robot built by her father. She’s an anime if you can’t tell. And she’s adorable.
Perhaps the “oldest” of these characters, speaking in terms of comic books, is this guy, er…pig. His full name is Peter Porker: The Spectacular Spider-Ham and in the mid 80’s (our mid 80’s in real life) he has his own comic book series. For those that want to know, in his universe he’s actually a spider that was bitten by a radioactive pig. Yep, you read that right.
So there you have it. But this isn’t just a mashup of different universes, the film actually has a plot. And a good one! In Miles Morales’ (voiced by Shameik Moore), he’s bitten by a spider on a class field trip. His relationship with his father (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry) isn’t the best, but his Uncle Aaron (voiced by Mahershala Ali) allows him to express his creativity. Morales, discovering his new powers, runs into his universe’s Spider-Man (voiced by Chris Pine) and witnesses him killed bh the Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber). The Kingpin has obtained a device that will allow multiple universes to collide and thus provides the segue for the other spider-folks to join in on the fun. Secondly, Miles’ Spider-Man was able to slip him a flash drive that would allow the universal portal to be closed. It’s broken and the gang has to break into a corporate fortress to procure another one. Got all that?
Having watched and reviewed films for over twenty years, I’ve seen just about every type of animation, live action and everything in between. But the way in which Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is presented really blew me away. But first, let’s get into some rather interesting facts about the animation style:
- The film had, at one time, 177 animators. That’s more than double the amount of any “normal” animated film. To put it into perspective, Toy Story had 27.
- It took one week to animate one second of footage.
- It took one year to get 10 seconds that the animators were happy with. Obviously, this increased as the project progressed.
- The film has 2-3 times more shots than the standard animated film. Most Pixar films, for example, look more and more like a normal film with fluid motion and are “filmed” at 24 frames per second.
- Into the Spider-Verse was “filmed” at 12 frames per second and gives the movie a “jumpy” look, staying true to the comic books and allowing the viewer to “fill in the blanks” along the way.
- Motion blur was not used. This is typical in newer animated films to give the movies a smoother look. This was not used and instead a “smear” was used which added to the film’s unique look and feel.
- Half-toning was used to give the sense of depth. Gone are the out of focus shots so common in other animated films and this too was true to the original comic book style used decades ago.
- Hatching, ben day dots and bold outlines were all taken from comics and applied here. These too gave the film its signature look.
- Words appear in some scenes like “BONK” and “POW” taken from comics.
Assuming that the above bullet points were read, there’s not a lot for me to say. I will note that Sony’s 2.40:1 AVC HD image is simply stunning. I would hope that viewers would embrace the way this looks, but it might meet some resistance if you’re into other animated films (Pixar). It’s a different world. Literally. Into the Spider-Verse’s look and feel are not only a tip of the hat to the way comics used to be drawn, but it creates a unique sense of reality or, in this sense, altered reality. All the usual caveats apply: bold, brash colors, detail that makes full use of the Blu-ray format and the film is so chock full of life that it’s hard to find anything wrong with the way this looks. I’m convinced that there’s nothing negative to find and/or say about this.
The audio, though stunning, is nowhere near as impressive as the video. Don’t read anything into that as the DTS HD Master Audio sound mix is second to none. Sadly, to get the full Dolby Atmos treatment, the 4K version must be purchased. But fear not, it’ll be OK! There’s a litany of vocal talent on display here and each and every character gets their moment to shine. Vocals range from deep and rich (Mahershala Ali) to the higher-pitched voice of Hailee Steinfield. And let’s not forget Nicholas Cage channeling his inner Sam Spade as Spider-Man Noir’s vocal talent. Webs sling, spidey senses are activated and the action never stops. Neither do your speakers. Directional effects keep the action as kinetic as what’s happening on screen and you’ll be hard-pressed to be disappointed with the way this one sounds. It’s spectacular!
- We Are Spider-Man – Exploring and celebrating one of the key themes of the film,We Are Spider-Man takes a deep dive into the diversity of the characters and aspirational core that any person from any gender or cultural background can wear the mask.
- Spider-Verse: A New Dimension – I’d covered this above in the video section, but the visual style and state of the art animation designed to take the viewer into the pages of a comic. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is not only a love letter to comic books but a groundbreaking take on the super hero genre. We hear from the artists and filmmakers who pushed the boundaries of the art form as they discuss their journey.
- The Ultimate Comics Cast – This showcases all of the fan favorite characters featured in the Spider-Verse and the spectacular cast who were chosen to bring them to life.
- A Tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko – The two creative forces behind not only Spider-Man, but Marvel comics in general. Oddly and sadly, both died in 2018 but left an impact on culture behind. This feature takes a look at these two iconic men.
- The Spider-Verse Super-Fan Easter Egg Challenge – The Spider-Verse is loaded with Easter Eggs, from cameos to comics references. Just like Pokemon you gotta find them all.
- Designing Cinematic Comics Characters – A breakdown of all aspects of the character design including costume, movement in animation, and distinct powers for each character.
- Heroes & Hams – Meet the amazing Spider-people of the Spider-Verse.
- Scorpions and Scoundrels – Explore the classic villains who wreak havoc on the Spider-Verse.
- Alternate Universe Mode -In this all-new viewing experience, discover alternate scenes, plot lines, characters, and more with the filmmakers as your guide.
- Lyric Videos
- “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Le
- “Familia” by Nicki Minaj & Anuel AA (feat. Bantu)
- All-New Original Short “Spider-Ham: Caught In a Ham” – It’s another normal day for Peter Porker, a.k.a. the Spectacular Spider-Ham, fighting bad guys and loving hot dogs, until a mysterious portal starts messing with the very fabric of his cartoon reality.
It took over four years to bring Into the Spider-Verse to the big screen. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Animated Film and grossing over $350 million worldwide, I’d say it was time well spent. It’s not your typical Spider-Man movie and it’s not part of the MCU. If you want that Spider-Man, check out Captain America: Civil War or Spider-Man: Homecoming. I love this movie. I could watch it once a week. Sony’s Blu-ray looks amazing (get it?), sounds spectacular (boom!) and there are enough supplements caught in the web to keep you occupied for a long time.