RogerBW's Blog

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 23 March 2019

2018 animation, dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman; IMDb / allmovie.

Kid bitten by radioactive spider, great responsibility, blah blah. But this isn't just another retread of the usual origin story: universes are colliding, and each of them has its own Spider-Man.

It's a shame therefore that Miles Morales, the centre of the narrative, has such a conventional progression: uncontrolled powers, new enemies, new friends, betrayal, depression, not good enough for the Big Fight, has a Moment of Realisation, goes along anyway and saves the day. That's an awful lot of superhero origin stories, and this film doesn't add much to that.

It's all the others who make it interesting. The five other Spider-Man-equivalents from alternate worlds may individually be under-used, not surprising since they have to be squeezed in next to some entirely pointless minor supervillains as well as the main opposition, but collectively they do an effective job of pointing up the differences between different worlds' superheroes as well as the similarities, the factors that make each one an effective hero for their own world. (As it is, some of them are introduced in parallel. Original plans had more of the alternates, who'd presumably have been even less developed each.)

The animation feels to me like the first time I've seen a comic-book film that is trying to imitate the feel of comics, more than the easy trappings of brightly-coloured costumes and so on. It's a blend of generic modern CGI and near-photorealistic backgrounds from Sony-Imageworks (the cars in particular look as if they've been modelled for an advertisement) with characters who while they've obviously started off as the usual uncanny-valley dolls have been augmented with 3d-rigged highlight lines. By being inaccurate in terms of modelling of a human being, those lines make the characters look more like people, or rather more like the cartoons that they're supposed to be. Then the backgrounds sometimes shift in style to a more four-colour form, and the camera moves at least as much as the characters do, while not being twirled round so as to disrupt the viewer's reference: as the frame follows characters through their acrobatics, one still has a sense of what's where and how things relate to each other. I wonder whether this sort of impression, of everything moving fast but still making sense, is what some comic readers may get from the static images, which to me have always seemed poor at delivering any sense of movement.

Pacing is a bit rough. The chases are good but samey, the superminions get shoehorned in to keep things moving when we might have had some character development, and the most interesting character in the piece, this world's version of Doctor Octopus, is casually wiped off the board so as not to overshadow the final fight against the real boss. (Way too late for that.)

I'm not much of a superhero fan, and this certainly isn't perfect, but I enjoyed it all the same. And I'd definitely like to see more animation done in this style and with this sense of enthusiasm.

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