I rarely go see animated movies at this point. I have to really be interested to make the effort, mainly because the theater is usually filled with children – as it should be. However, some of them are not really old enough to sit through an entire movie. This is one I was looking forward to for some time and was very excited to check out.
Into the SpiderVerse begins with a version of Peter Parker - I say a version, because it’s not really ours, it’s one from a different universe. If that already confuses you, you may have trouble with this movie. Peter is fighting the Kingpin and his cronies as the Kingpin attempts to breach the multi-verse to bring back the wife and child he lost. He knows they exist at this same point in another universe and is determined to bring them to ours. Meanwhile, young Miles Morales gets bitten by a radioactive spider, and develops spider powers. He finds himself at the site while Peter loses to Kingpin and the universes are breached, even though Kingpin is unsuccessful in his quest and decides to try again. Miles joins the rest of his New York in mourning Spider-Man.
Surprising Miles, the breach actually brought several other Spider-People through to his universe from their own. An older Peter Parker, a Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, and Peni Parker all come through. With their guidance, Miles learns to control his own powers, and step into the role of a hero.
If that sounds fairly straightforward, it is, but it is the lovely animation and exceptional action that elevate this movie far beyond standard animated kids fare. Directed by Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey, it is an absolutely magical story with an incredible look and is well worth seeing in the theater multiple times. The movie looks like a comic book come to life and the cast makes every character more layered than you are expecting.
- Shameik Moore stars as Miles Morales, a kid who wants nothing more than to be normal. He had been excelling at his previous school, and is now just another genius at his gifted school. He spends time with his uncle who understands him and encourages him in his art.
- Jake Johnson plays the older Peter Parker whose own life is a bit of a shambles, but does his very best to help Miles become the hero he can be. He also spends some hilarious time in sweatpants.
- Hailee Steinfeld plays Gwen Stacy, an accomplished Spider-Woman in her own universe, and hopeful to help Miles and get home to her own place and time.
- Mahershala Ali plays Miles’s Uncle Aaron, a character played by Donald Glover in the last Spider-Man movie, who may or may not show up in the next one. Ali gives Aaron depth and substance when he could have been very one-note or cliché. He wants the best for his nephew, even though he has made his own poor choices.
- Brian Tyree Henry wraps up the year of Brian Tyree Henry by playing Jefferson Davis, Miles’s father and police officer. He is focused on helping his son excel, and saving the city without the help of vigilantes. Again, his layered performance is heartwarming, touching, and at times, funny.
- Lily Tomlin plays Aunt May Parker, feisty and Spider-Supporting as ever. She’s ready to help all the Spider-folk when they show up at her door.
- John Mulaney plays Spider-Ham, and interjects some really funny bits into some serious parts, who knew he was perfect as an animated crime-fighting pig?
- Kimiko Glenn plays Peni Parker, a spider version I was completely unfamiliar with, but one who adds some really interesting bits.
- In what is perhaps one of the most perfect casting choices ever, Nicolas Cage plays Spider-Man Noir, a hero from a black and white universe who is a bit mystified by the color in the other universes.
- Kathryn Hahn plays Dr. Olivia Octavious, easily one of the best incarnations of Doc Ock that I have ever seen. She’s intelligent and terrifying, and just about perfect.
- Live Schrieber plays Wilson Fisk – the Kingpin. In a year where Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk on Daredevil season three is exceptional, Schrieber’s version is still amazing – determined to get his wife and child back no matter the cost to everyone else in the city.
- Chris Pine plays the original blond Peter Parker who starts off the story. He's popular and capitalizing on it - yes, that's him singing the Spider-Bells holiday song. He’s doing his best, but at one moment in the fight with Kingpin and co., he pauses and says, “I’m so tired.” For whatever reason, that moment really hit me. It brings a level of humanity to this animated hero that I was unprepared for.
- Also, there is a Stan Lee cameo, which brought me to tears, because it’s the first one we have without him actually here. I would imagine there will be a couple more of those in both Captain Marvel, and Endgame, but that might be it, and I definitely had a hard time when it finally hit me that there won’t be more Stan Lee cameos.
Overall, this movie is exceptional. It’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s action-packed, and it’s inspiring. Miles is a fantastic Spider-Man.
9 out of 10 – near flawless.
Yes, stay tuned after the credits for a bit of hilarity with a popular meme.