Five out of Five Dangers
Into the Spider-Verse is a Meta Loaded New Animation
(DM) — Let’s get one thing straight. Best movie reviews are hard to get. Into the Spider-Verse is not your typical animated film. There is a ton in it to distinguish it from other Spider-Man stories, animation and superhero movies. Into the Spider-Verse is loaded with meta references. Blink and you’ll miss a meme or Easter Egg.
Highly intricate and deep scene development, adult and contemporary, Into the Spider-Verse is fresh, modern and fun. At first glance you could guess Sony has begun to take pages from MCU. They are making Spider-Man movies based on canon. Well, sort of. The truth is Sony has beat up the use of Peter Parker so much they needed a fresh angle, Into The Spider-Verse is that fresh new take.
Some History on Spider-Verse (You Can Skip This)
Spider-Verse existed in comic book form first hitting shelves in 2013-2014. Conceived a year prior. This is how comics work. Every year ahead is meticulously planned out. The Spider-Verse story is the brainchild of Dan Slot. He’s a comic book writer who sometime’s hits, sometimes misses. He’s also adopted the social justice warrior mentality in appeasement equality.
To Slott’s credit, he goes big. In the case of Spider-Verse the idea was let’s have an overwhelming number of Spider-Men! In fact let’s bring all the alternate versions of Spider-Man into one story. To do so, he utilized the old trope of the multiverse or dimensions. Multiverse Spider-Man alternates all worked together to fight a common cause and return their own dimensions to harmony.
Next is the backstory of Miles Morales. While he wasn’t a major player in the original Spider-Verse story, he’s the protagonist in the film version. Miles Morales is a multi-ethnic Spider-Man created by the amazing writer Brian Michael Bendis. Who is he? Think of Netflix Jessica Jones and the original Purple Man story. If you liked Netflix Purple Man, read the original comic storyline. It’s an adult print. It’s not for kids.
Bendis has a multicultural family. It makes sense he too became an agenda based writer in recent years. Michael Bendis has been open about wanting his Miles Morales to be Spider-Man, as in the only Spider-Man. For Bendis, he insists you Wash Peter Parker from your memory, he’s gone — there is only now Miles Morales. Spider-Man.
Jump ahead a few years and Sony is struggling with their licensed property, Spider-Man.
Miles Morales is Spider-Man
What makes Into the Spider-Verse is a great story? It’s loosely based on the original Spider-Verse. Super loose in fact. This approach usually causes film adaptations fail, not this time. The only ties the film has to the original comic book Spider-Verse story is bringing alternate dimension Spider-Man characters together in a common cause. If you’re a comic book purist, this should bother you.
Into the Spider-Verse breaks through any prejudice by being a really well told story.
The animation is detailed but not muddy. Care is given to replicate original stylization of each character’s comic book form. It’s important too or entire premise of unique dimensions is lost.
It’s Not Your Typical Team Up Movie
For the most part there are two Spider-Man characters working together, and yet there are others. If there is any one criticism it could be that we only get to know two characters and some of a third. The others are sidelined for comic relief. Those characters we do get to know are relatable by great direction, acting and writing.
This Spider-Verse story is for the most part, Spider-Verse in name only. Here, our protagonist is Miles Morales. He’s a willing Spider-Man but struggling to find his way. His origin is unlike the comic book either. So much about this story is not canon and still it’s a great film.
What makes Into the Spider-Verse so damn good is the smart writing. While the side characters are not fleshed out beyond establishing their primary motivations, all the primary characters are extremely well modeled.
The dialog between Miles and his father is the best written in any animation storyline in years. The interaction between Miles and other characters is also written with great care. For instance you will find out quickly he will work with another Spider-Man. The Spider-Man. Well, sort of.
Miles partially teams up with Peter Parker. It’s a Peter Parker from another dimension of course, but this Peter is… older. The conversations they have are between two people a generation apart. Understandably the conversations are written in a way that this concern is addressed. It doesn’t affect the story. Maybe I’m thinking too much but it is this attention to detail along with a fleet of excellent story telling attributes that make Into the Spider-Verse a fantastic film.
Editing in pacing throughout Into The Spider-Verse is perhaps the best in years.
Spider-Verse Raises the Bar On Animation
Background characters stay in motion without becoming distractions. Details are detailed. Here is just one detail you could miss — check out the gravestone scene of a previous Peter Parker. On the side of the monument is an action figure sized Spider-Man crawling up the side gravestone.
If details such as that are not enough, there are colored lighting effects and hues transforming as characters move on set. Action scenes bristle with background reactions, snow falls across distant windows with people moving about inside them. This is a far cry from 1967’s first live action animation as Spider-Man passed the same building every few seconds.
Numerous effects in animation remind us this is a world that was spawned from comics. To the directors credit, it was done with enough care to not make the story feel hokey. There is an huge amount of comic book panel split screen styles used in action sequences requiring your mind to multitask at an almost overwhelming pace. We get Ben-Day Dots (halftone dots), hatching lines, thought panels, talk bubbles even character specific ‘spidey-senses’ graphics modeled directly from their comic book counterparts. Many animation effects are drawn from the 2D comic book graphic techniques associated with each individual character.
New York Faithfully Recreated
Sure this Spider-Verse is Earth 1610, but if you know New York from Brooklyn to the lower west side and the Financial district you’ll recognize a good deal of locations. One being Hamilton’s grave at Trinity Church. Others follow. For a story that borrows the Spider-Verse concept it accomplishes authenticity.
Homage to All Things Spider-Man
Another meta in Spider-Verse is acknowledging the previous six film Spider-Man history. For as intricate a story and for all the unpacking, Into The Spider-Verse even achieves giving previous Spider-Man movies a nod in an early short sequence.
Another meta is Miles being assigned Great Expectations to read. His character in Into the Spider-Verse parallels Pip from the book he’s assigned. When you watch the film, look at the word he spray paints and you’ll tie it together.
Going beyond a gracious nod to past films, there are Easter Eggs. From including writers names in signage to I can even forgive the multitude of Easter Eggs.
There is a glimpse of the very first Spider-Man live animation TV show from 1967. Loads of Spider-Man covers make into Into the Spider-Verse, but Amazing Fantasy #15 stands out.
Listed in Miles phone contacts are, Bendis and Pichelli. Michael Bendis (mentioned earlier) and Sarah Pichelli are both famous Spider-Man contributors. Again later his phone lists other past contributors such as Todd McFarlane and Steve Ditko.
Meta foreshadowing follows one of the villains around too. But to avoid spoilers, you can experience them for yourself. Pay attention as you encounter villains, they top out at six. Spider-Man fans will speculate a bit here.
Some Easter Eggs are misunderstood. The #42 stands out. It is a reference to the 42nd spider test which caused him to become Spider-Man. It may be unfair to bring up Easter Egg in Into the Spider-Verse as you will be well into the what is happening in the story. Most every egg is fun to recognize.
You will find some eggs that just make you wonder why. One such embarrassment to true Spider-Man fans is the Spider-Mobile… Thank you Dan Slott, you’re an idiot. Really. You even put his face in the wheel wells? Where is this stored again?
Many of the eggs are not even Spider-Man related. Again, why? From broadway musicals to loose associations like Steve Perry of Aerosmith (he’s written Spider-Man music), to products with twisted names, these are fun to pick out in second and third reviews but realistically they seem more important to the creative production team than to the audience. Yes, this film is not only well told, it’s really highly meta.
At risk of stating the obvious, yet another meta Easter Egg is rendering the Into the Spider-Verse Miles Morales to share Donald Glover’s likeness during the time he was on the show Community. Which leads to the final bit one.
Perhaps the biggest meta nod is the recreation of Donald Glover’s dress-up as Spider-Man in the TV show Community which is rumored to be the inspiration of the character Miles Morales. True Miles Morales/Donald Glover fans will glow in appreciation with this meta reference egg.
Into the Spider-Verse Movie Is Not Spider-Verse the Comic — And It Works
One character is gender flipped and again. No problem. In most cases, comic book idealist believe that heritage characters should not be changed. The truth is this modern day belongs to the next generation. What the past generations have enjoyed was theirs. Give the next generation the types of characters they want and need. These characters are not real. It just doesn’t matter.
This Spider-Verse crew is small ensemble. A two hour film could hold no more and the character selection was bold. Sony stepped up here.
Approved by the Comics Code Authority
Yes. That stamp you will see at the beginning of the film is more than Easter Egg. It is there because Sony and the directors did in fact adhere to those guidelines. Why? Great question. That code was the bane of comics for decades and breaking away from it took a great deal of time and effort. As for this creation, it means that parents can take their children and be rest assured it’s nothing like Deadpool.
Stick around for the end credits. A personal favorite alternate Spider-Man makes an appearance for what may and should be the next movie in this franchise. Hint, he’s been around since the 1990’s but he’s not an alternate universe Spider-Man.