By Troy Ribeiro
Film: "Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse"; Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman; Voice Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Live Schreiber; Rating: ***1/2
For a series and a character that has been rebooted so many times on screen that it is almost impossible to keep track, this film is a breath of fresh air. It brings to life the comic book as it manages to revitalise Spider-man and his universe in an even more effective, fun and original way than any of its previous renditions.
The film is a coming-of-age hero tale, from an awkward teenager to a self-confident superhero. Set in a New York that idolises and commodifies Peter Parker's crime-fighting superhero Spider-Man (Chris Pine), it tells us the story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a mixed-race child from Brooklyn who is struggling to fit into his elite school.
Miles is torn between the expectations set on him by his policeman father (Brian Tyree Henry) and his dubious, trouble-making uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), who encourages his love for street art.
How Miles turns into the new Spider-Man, forms a large chunk of the narrative. And, as if that wasn't enough, he accidentally stumbles upon a battle between Spider-Man Peter Parker and the Kingpin (Live Schreiber) over a dimensional collider that opens a portal to other universes, one which leaves Parker dead and Miles committed to stopping Kingpin from taking over.
Miles is not alone. There are a number of other "Spider-folks", from other universes to help him in his endeavour. They include the middle-aged loser version of Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) and Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn).
The film is an innovative, self-loving, intermittently hilarious, surprisingly emotional and mature animated film, as the story deals with some adult themes that are not often seen in American animated films.
From a visual standpoint, the animated style it is a pleasant surprise. It blends, comic book styling, stop-motion animation and street art. It comes closest to the sensation of reading a comic book. The frames are speckled with pencil-shading and dot art textures, as our hero leaps between comic book panels and walks past through bubbles with giddy abandon. The 3D illustrations are inadvertently jaw-dropping.
Bringing the illustrations to life are the voices of the ace star cast, and this is another reason why the film works so well. Shameik Moor gives Miles innocence and charisma. He is a cool guy without feeling forced and at the same time, he is also someone who has to grow a lot throughout the film.
Liev Schreiber is surprisingly intimidating as a hilariously huge version of the Kingpin. Mahershala Ali gives his sweet tones to Uncle Aaron. Jake Johnson is sarcastic and funny like Peter Parker. Hailee Steinfeld is sweet and tough as a more empowered version of Gwen Stacy and the unmatched Nicolas Cage is perfect as Spider-man Noir. Hearing him play that character with an old-fashioned New York accent, suffering and mingling with the colours of Mile's universe is simply priceless.
Daniel Pemberton's soundtrack is exemplary; it can be both emotional and inspiring during the most appropriate times.
Overall, the film will entice Marvel fans as well as general audiences who simply want to see a visually spectacular and astutely mounted animated film.