Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
Released 12 December

Something’s not quite right in the Spider-Verse, although it’s not easy to pin down. For Spider-Man, the answer is clear from the off – after the villainous Kingpin, a hunched caricature resembling the Mafia men in Belleville Rendez-vous, uses a collider to find alternate versions of his dead family, he accidentally unites multiple arachnoid supers. A premise worthy of the rampant frolics and darker core we have come to expect from Marvel over the last ten years. But while the live-action adventures are at the top of their game following the exuberant Avengers: Infinity War, this animated oddity lacks the necessary development to be the cinematic revolution it wants to be.

On a visual level, it exists within its own genre – a comic book movie that looks like a comic book. However, it is flicked through at such a tremendous pace that you barely manage to thumb the edges before it’s over. Battle sequence after battle sequence tears apart the screen in a spectacular explosion of colour, often bordering between hallucination and frenzied attack. In their length and rapidity, the experience grows more nauseating with every ‘BLAM!’ AND ‘KAPOW!’ that blasts in your face. Sometimes things are best left in print.

Thankfully writers Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman are equally capable of calming down, bringing heart without the typical sugary dross to which these movies usually entreat us – our hero, Miles (Shameik Moore), only manages ‘with great power comes great…’ before Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) cuts him off. While jokes are made about us knowing Spider-Man’s origin story too well by now, facilitating the self-parody that made Thor: Ragnarok the studio’s best offering, Into the Spider-Verse pulls off its coming-of-age thread in an original guise. Miles is a refreshing youngster from previous portrayals, although he lacks the quick-witted charm demonstrated by Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Still, the difference of interest expressed in the most moving scenes of dialogue with his father, voiced by Brian Tyree Henry, pack a greater punch than any of the psychedelic fighting.


Mountain View

A cover is not Mary Poppins Returns

While Miles’s story is the film’s strength, it is unfortunate that his introduction is side-tracked by the torrent of secondary characters. Much as Holland’s Spider-Man first swung into the plane crash that was Captain America: Civil War, here we witness hero piled upon hero to the point that their ultimate fates are no longer important to us. The menagerie of Infinity War was enabled by the decade-long character development that lay behind it, feeling more like the climax of an HBO blockbuster series. At the end of that movie, the tears were real, whereas here my eyes remained decidedly dry.

Perhaps this becomes a greater issue when the new characters are so compelling – Nicolas Cage, channelling the gravelly tones of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, brings a noir detective to life in a monochrome whistle stop. Less intriguing are the cartoonish offerings of Peni Parker, an anime superkid, and Peter Porker, a spider bitten by a radioactive pig who at least gets to deliver some of the film’s best lines. A chocolate box for the diehard comic fan that leaves the rest of us feeling a little starved. That being said, Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy was a magnificent addition to the gang and would certainly warrant her own film – girls, come on: leave the saving of the world to the men? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.

It must be admitted that, for all its exciting novelty, Into the Spider-Verse is an ugly film. I spent the first fifteen-minutes panicking that I had accidentally entered a 3D showing, only to realise that the characters were supposed to be blurry. The jarring effect this created gave the impression of boys with too many toys (amongst three directors, two screenwriters, and five producers, there are only two women, both in the last group), too often lost at play without giving anyone else a turn. Accompanied by a barrage of blaring electro-rap tunes from chaps with such delightful names as Ty Dolla Sign and Ski Mask the Slump God, the film is a frustrating drain on the senses. Let’s hope it isn’t a signal that this brief golden period of superheroes hasn’t got tangled in a web of mediocrity

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