Are you ready to meet your fourth Spider-Man (and then some) since 2002?
The number of Spider-Men we’ve seen on screen this century is a jumble. There was the sweet-faced Tobey Maguire, followed by Andrew Garfield a mere five years later before Tom Holland made his debut two years after Garfield slipped out of the skin-tight suit.
But you better get used to finding room in your life for another Spider-Man because here comes Miles Morales, your new friendly neighbourhood superhero (plus some other Spidey friends).
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie produced to date. Its trippy animated visuals is truly a comic book come to life, capturing the spirit and aesthetics of its source material better than any film before it.
It has a dynamic energy balanced by an emotional core that makes this an appealing movie for kids and adults — anyone who likes a good story told well.
Before we get any further, it should be noted that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (ie. the Avengers movies), it’s a separate Spider-Man animated universe. So don’t expect Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Hemsworth to turn up at any point.
Miles (voiced here by The Getdown’s Shameik Moore) made his comics debut as the new Spider-Man in 2011, after the death of Peter Parker, with Miles’ creators apparently drawing inspiration from Barack Obama and Donald Glover.
A Brooklyn high-schooler with an African-American father and Latino-American mother, Miles represents the next generation of superheroes, who were always supposed to represent the disenfranchised outcasts.
In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles has a similar origin story to Peter Parker — he’s bitten by a radioactive spider, gains powers he can’t control and has to try and balance his school and home lives with his new-found superhero antics.
He also witnesses the death of Peter Parker at the hands of Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) during a madcap, dimension-altering experiment that rips through the fabric of time and space.
That’s when Miles meets Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), an older Peter/Spider-Man from an alternate universe who’s put on a few pounds, sports a five-o’clock shadow and is a bit of an all-round sad sack.
Peter B. Parker becomes an unlikely mentor to Miles but then they discover that other Spider-peeps made the trip through to this reality, including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a kick-arse teen girl who in her universe was bitten instead of Peter Parker, Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage), a Bogart-esque black-and-white Spider-Man from the 1930s, Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (John Mulaney), a wry pig, and Peni Parker, an anime girl who has a psychic link with a robot and a spider.
So if you already thought there were two many Spider-Men, this film has just introduced seven more (stick around for the end credits and you’ll meet an eighth), but that’s OK, because you won’t mind once you’ve been acquainted.
Miles is a really charming protagonist, a teenage kid undoubtedly from his context — he immediately pops as someone from a diverse, lower-middle class family, who’s loved and has grown up in a neighbourhood with colour and personality.
He’s vulnerable and insecure like any other teenager, especially one who finds himself going through changes that’s like puberty times nine. If Miles is the future of Spider-Man on film, then fans will be well-served.
The movie itself is entertaining and stunning to look at. The animation draws from and celebrates its comic book origins, cleverly incorporating a subtle dot matrix pattern into the background of its frames while also creating scenes that mimic comic book panels.
Then there are those onscreen “Bangs!” and “Thwacks!”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t afraid to embrace its heritage, it’s not pretending to be a serious, grim film grounded in reality, so it can really lean into it — and it’s a kaleidoscopic experience.
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, from a script by Phil Lord and Rothman, the movie features a wonderful Stan Lee cameo that is now all the more bittersweet after the Marvel legend’s recent death.
Where it falters, slightly, is that its final act feels a little overblown (as is often the case with superhero epics), though its outlandishness is at least more justified because of its animated nature, and it is, at two hours, too long for younger kids, who might also struggle to pick up some of the movie’s multi-layered messaging.
When a character is as iconic as Spider-Man has been adapted for the screen as much as he has, it becomes hard to make the case for why audiences should embrace yet another one.
But Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Miles Morales do, to the point that they will have you clamouring for more. For once, you can say, “sequels please!” and mean it.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in cinemas from Thursday, December 13.