This comic-book movie — featuring a new Spider-Man — actually looks and feels like a comic book, with its bright colors, striking character designs, in-picture thought-balloons, snappy dialogue and rocket-paced action. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
At last, after all these years of the seemingly unstoppable deluge of comic-book movies flooding the world’s megaplexes, comes “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” — a comic-book movie that actually looks and feels like a comic book.
Animated, of course. Full of bright, poppy colors, striking character designs, in-picture thought-balloons and other graphic elements lifted straight from comic-book pages (Spidey fires off his web-shooters as the word “thwip, thwip, thwip,” a familiar feature of Spider lore, flashes on the screen).
Unlike comic-derived live-action movies, those CG-augmented behemoths that currently rule the box office, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” embraces and enhances the pulpiness of its source material and brings those pulpy pages to hyperactive life. The pace, in the words of one character, is “zip-zap-zop,” with images — shards, fragments, swirls of color — flashing kaleidoscopically past, in some cases faster than the eye can consciously track. Repeated viewing is advised.
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Also, no angsty Wolverine-style moping is allowed by directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman (co-screenwriter with Phil Lord).
This is an origin story … nah, not of Peter Parker. Although that’s incorporated here, too, as Peter (voiced by Jake Johnson) relates the highlights, taken from past-live-action “Spider-Man” movies — the upside-down kiss, the city-saving heroics, etc. — that fly by in zip-zap-zop fashion.
The main focus here is the origin of an African-American (on his dad’s side)/Latino (on his mom’s side) teen Spider-Man from Brooklyn named Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). He worships Spidey and then becomes him after Peter suffers an unfortunate fate. Not to worry, though. There are alternate universes operating here in which unkilled 26-year-old Peter is around to teach the kid the ropes (er, spider silk) of superheroing.
A multiracial Spider-Man for the modern age, Miles is a bright, personable kid from a loving home who shares with Peter a pure love of Spidering, whooping with joy as he gets the hang of web-slinging through the Big Apple’s skyscrapers.
Their back-and-forth is choice — with Peter informing Miles, as they flee gun-blazing bad guys, that “the best way to learn is under intense life-threatening pressure”; while Miles gazes at Peter’s stubbly face and pooching paunch (hey, the guy fell into depression after MJ divorced him) and glumly opines, “I think you’re going to be a bad teacher.”
But wait! There’s more! More Spider people, that is. Spider-Gwen, as in Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld provides her voice). Spider-Man Noir, a black-and-white Sam Spade-ish gumshoe from the 1930s (Nicolas Cage). Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), anime girl with robot companion. And Spider-Ham (groan), aka Peter Porker (double groan), the most cartoonish figure of all (John Mulaney). And yes, within the comic-book elements are pure cartoon segments. Meaning what? Meaning an anvil drops — Klonk! — on somebody’s unsuspecting noggin.
A rupture in the space-time continuum brings all these characters from their various parallel dimensions together to fight the massive and massively evil Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) and multi-tentacled Doc-Ock (Kathryn Hahn).
With it snappy, clever dialogue, rocket-paced action and fidelity to its comic-book sources (the late Stan Lee, animated, appears, and he and fellow Marvel artist and Spidey creator Steve Ditko are referenced at the end), “Into the Spider-Verse” is pure fun, nonstop from start to finish.
★★★½ “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” with the voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Kimiko Glenn, John Mulaney, Liev Schreiber, Kathryn Hahn. Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, from a screenplay by Rothman and Phil Lord. 117 minutes. Rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements and mild language. Opens Dec. 14 at multiple theaters.