Imagine not only becoming a superhero, but finding that there are other superheroes just like you — same powers, same gimmick — from other dimensions.
Such is the situation of Miles Morales, a boy who unexpectedly finds himself not only with the same powers as Spiderman, but the responsibility to be a world-saving hero. “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” is an energetic, colorful tale that effortlessly juggles an ever-expanding cast of Spider-individuals and suitably sinister villains, without getting tangled up in its own plot or mythology.
Miles Morales was an ordinary kid from Brooklyn — albeit one going to a ritzy private school — until a subterranean excursion with his uncle caused him to be bitten by a glowing spider. The next morning, he finds that not only has he become more muscular and agile, but his hands are sticking to anything he touches. Since, in story, there are comic-books about real-life superheroes, he recognizes his powers as being those of Spiderman.
And when he retraces his steps, Miles encounters none other than Spiderman himself, battling the Green Goblin and the Kingpin to stop a collider from accessing parallel universes. Spiderman, recognizing Miles’ abilities as being similar to his own, entrusts him with the key to stopping the collider… before he is unexpectedly killed.
And as the world mourns the loss of Spiderman (now known to be Peter Parker), Miles encounters another Peter Parker from another universe — an older Parker, more jaded and emotionally stunted, with a small gut. The fate of the entire world may lie on Miles’ shoulders as he tries to convince Parker to help him destroy the collider — but their dangerous quest will reveal that Parker wasn’t the only Spider-individual to be pulled into Miles’ world.
“Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” is a love letter to all things Spiderman — and especially to the different incarnations of the character, not all of whom are Peter Parker. Or male. Or human. In fact, the film unfolds by introducing more and more Spider-individuals to help Miles on his quest, reminding us that in every universe, Spiderman (or Spiderwoman) is an everyman hero who never gives up.
The movie certainly isn’t hurt by the presence of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the former of whom also cowrote the script. It swings swiftly from plot point to plot point, switching to flashbacks and explanatory interludes that keep the story from being bogged down with too much dialogue (such as the backstory of the Kingpin, or the fast-moving backstory of Other-Universe-Peter-Parker). It whips by swiftly and smoothly like a rhythmic gymnast’s ribbon, curling and twisting in all the right places with additional villains and unexpected revelations.
The animation takes a little getting used to, though. It’s good with expressions and big, expansive action scenes (including a wild webslinging chase through a forest), but some of the movements are a little herky-jerky, like some of the less fluid stop-motion animation. Still, the exaggeration and quirky visual cues harken back to the comic book roots of the characters, and everything is colorful, dynamic and fast-moving.
It doesn’t hurt that Miles Morales is a pretty likable kid — a boy who stumbled into a familiar set of powers, and has no idea how to go about being Spiderman, even as he struggles with the woes of school and “real life.” His relationship with the extradimensional Peter Parker is also quite nice — Peter is reluctant to mentor a brand-new Spiderman (Spiderboy?), but the two gradually warm up and learn from each other as they struggle to save the world.
In the shadow of the more blockbustery tales of Spiderman, “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” stands apart as a dynamically-animated celebration of everything Spidery. A delight.