Film review: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
A bite from a radioactive spider leads to the latest incarnation of the familiar arachnid superhero in Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, this time in computer-animated form. It's a funny, knowing and colourful take on the tale, writes Damon Smith
THE costumed alter ego of orphan Peter Parker has been spinning a web of intrigue across popular culture since 1962 in comic books, TV series, newspaper strips, films and a Broadway musical.
A live-action incarnation of Spider-Man portrayed by London-born actor Tom Holland is currently waging war against supervillain Thanos in the Avengers films.
One web-slinging saviour is evidently insufficient because the dazzling computer-animated adventure Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse introduces a menagerie of gifted spider-folks, who tick myriad racial, socio-economic and anthropomorphic boxes.
There is a half-black, half-Hispanic teenage hero, a sassy Asian female heroine, a grizzled old school crusader torn from the pages of a noir thriller, two markedly different reflections of Peter Parker... and a talking pig.
Laughs come thick and fast courtesy of a self-referential script that gleefully pokes fun at itself.
"How many more spider-people are there?" gasps the central character.
"Save it for Comic-Con," knowingly responds Peter, acknowledging the fan conventions that gleefully whip the Spider-faithful into a froth of excitement.
Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman's film employs a striking visual palette, which honours the comic books (the central character's internal monologue manifests as boxed captions) as it confidently lives up to its billing as "a pretty hardcore origin story".
Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) enrols in a boarding school at the behest of his parents (Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Velez).
He takes a break from studies to spend time with his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), who indulges Miles's passion for street art by venturing into the sewers beneath New York City to spray paint a mural.
A radioactive spider descends from the dark and bites Miles's hand, imbuing the high school student with incredible powers.
Miles discovers he has inherited the same abilities as Spider-Man (Chris Pine), who recently died at the hands of menacing crime lord Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber).
The kingpin is conducting experiments, which disrupt the space-time continuum.
Consequently, a washed-up Peter B Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), brooding Spider-Noir (Nicolas Cage) and inventor schoolgirl Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) materialise in Miles's bedroom.
They join forces with the teenager to defeat a rogue's gallery of villains including Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone) and Doctor Octopus (Kathryn Hahn).
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is an imaginative and frequently exhilarating expansion of familiar mythology with limitless possibilities for future spin-offs.
Vocal performances relish the script's irreverent humour like when Spider-Ham signs off in Looney Tunes stylee – "That's all folks!" – and Peter wonders aloud, "Is he allowed to say that? Legally?"
Jocularity is balanced with tender moments of anguished soul-searching, all calibrated to inspire audiences to swing to the same dizzy heights as Miles.
It just requires a leap of faith. Tight-fitting spandex optional.
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE (PG, 117 mins) Animation/Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Comedy. Featuring the voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Velez, Lily Tomlin, Jorma Taccone, Kathryn Hahn, Chris Pine. Directors: Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman
Released: December 12 (UK & Ireland)