Sony, oft maligned for its mishandling of the Spider-Man property, namely Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, seems to have flipped the script on their most marketable property. It began with a partnership with Disney back in 2016, to bring audiences a new live action Spider-Man, fully immersed in Kevin Feige’s brainchild, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This, once again, got fans really excited about Spider-Man, and brought forth something as little as three years ago, many fans thought was an impossibility; my self included; Spider-Man spinning his webs alongside many of our favorite Marvel legends!
Then, Sony followed up that almost universally hailed decision by announcing a stand-alone Venom movie, set apart from the MCU. To be blunt, it left fans scratching our heads, and in doubt of Sony’s ability to steer their own ship, away from the genius of Feige and their star character to tie everything together. The casting of Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock squelched a lot of fear, but then an embargo was imposed, and the toxic critical reviews began to percolate; almost assuredly a death nail for any movie in today’s day and age. Despite this, fans flocked to theaters to see Sony’s Venom, and the film has undeniably been a huge box office success, having made more than eight times its budget. And now, as the year comes to an end, Sony seems set to score themselves another hit, both critically and commercially this time, with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows fan favorite character, Miles Morales, through his journey of becoming our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The movie acts as an origin story for Miles, and gives general audiences who may not be as familiar with the character, a great introduction to the Ultimate Universe’s Spider-Man. Fans have clamored for Miles Morales on the big screen for several years now, and Sony’s decision to use him to lead their first, in what I imagine will be many animated films, was an immensely smart decision. He’s a very layered character, with a diverse background, and interesting origin story. Sony manages to highlight all of these qualities in the character, all while juggling other Spider-Verse characters such as a slightly washed up Peter Parker, a young Spider-Gwen, and others.
Miles’ relationships; whether it be with his mom and dad, his uncle, Peter, or Gwen, take the character on a roller coaster of emotion; love, embarrassment, friendship, idolization, fear, abandonment, humility, sympathy; you name it, this character has it, and writer Phil Lord really captures the essence of a character worthy of the Marvel creed. To quote Augusten Burroughs, “I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” This slightly more poetic version of Stan Lee’s original creed for his comic book characters, is superbly highlighted in this movie, as we journey alongside Miles as becomes the hero we desperately want him to be. Speaking of Stan Lee, his cameo was perfect. I’m not gonna lie; it almost brought a tear to my eye, before I couldn’t help but smile as the scene shifted to a perfect humorous moment, fitting of Lee’s legendary cameo appearances.
The voice acting, particularly that of Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson, was perfectly delivered. Other talents surrounding these two include Hailee Steinfeld, Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney, and Liev Schreiber; all of whom deliver Lord’s dialogue with perfect precision. Nicolas Cage was definitely a stand-out among minor characters, as his delivery perfectly fit the nature of his character, and the necessary comedic nuances Spider-Man Noir needed.
Finally, the biggest standout in all of this movie has to be the seemingly flawless animation, and creative decisions of its presentation. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, as well as the entire team of animators, should be lauded for their creation. The creators perfectly employ comicbook-esque panels throughout the movie, as well as captioned inner-monologue to give an added element for comic lovers to the movie. Couple that with the movie’s various, rich landscapes, colors, and scenery, the movie is a visual masterpiece. It all culminates in the movie’s climax, implementing a mind-bending, psychedelic landscape that one would have to believe, would make Jack Kirby proud.
The verdict is still out as to whether Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will be a huge commercial hit for Sony, but its critical response, well crafted story, excellent writing, talented cast, and magnificent visual story telling have seemingly set it up for wild success. Couple that with its release date, and the fact that it is such a kid friendly movie that is enjoyable for adults alike, its web of appeal is sure to stretch far and wide.
Nick Smith is one of the founding members of GVN, host of the NBA podcast, Full Court Press, regular panelist on the flagship podcast, Geek Vibes Live, and a writer for the website.