2018 witnessed many (some might argue too many) superhero films. It produced our homegrown Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, the release of DC’s (criminally underwhelming) Aquaman, Pixar’s Incredibles 2, the passable Ant-Man & The Wasp and two gigantic MCU releases – Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. And even though it was these last two films that were dominating the conversation around ‘game-changers’, it was an unassuming animated superhero film that came from behind and walked away with the title of the best superhero movie of the year. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse did something Sony Pictures had failed to do since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, it injected freshness into the story of a high school student coming to terms with his superpowers.
It did so with a series of radical decisions. Peter Parker was replaced by Miles Morales, the protagonist of the new-age Spidey comics by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli. Fielding an Afro-Latino protagonist could probably be one of the biggest reasons why the studio chose to make it as an animation instead of a live-action film. And it worked well, because that allowed Sony to employ an estimated 140 animation artists, who practically drew every frame of this 117-minute film. Also, what a sensational statement to make in the same year when Marvel released its first superhero movie with a primary African-American cast.
Spider-Verse even fused the mythology of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original Spidey characters like Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham/Peter Porker (a pig-version of the character voiced by James Mulaney), Spider-Gwen (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), Peni Parker (a Japanese anime version of the character voiced by Kimiko Glenn) and of course, Peter B Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson). Introducing the audience to the Spider-Man multiverse is when it finally begins to dawn on us as to why so many directors fixate on this story of a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider. It’s such a masterstroke to ensure representation in an A-list production like this, something its live-action counterparts seemed to be struggling with. Both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s films were primarily Caucasian affairs. It’s an issue that has been addressed only recently in Tom Holland-starrer, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Even without the aforementioned names, Spider-Verse has some of the finest voice talent like actor/rapper Shameik Moore lending his voice for Miles Morales. Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali plays the wisdom-spouting uncle, Aaron Davis. Liev Schrieber’s gruff vocals are meant to be the voice of Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, the film’s main antagonist. Spider-Verse recycles tropes of time travel, the ‘leap of faith’ and a pitch-perfect soundtrack to deliver the emotional stakes of this spectacle. All that bling is firmly rooted in a teenage vigilante finding his purpose, and an egomaniac supervillain trying to reverse his grief.
The screenplay for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse resembles a gourmet khichdi. On paper it might seem like a mess, but each bite is a burst of flavour in your mouth. Some people might find Spider-Verse exhausting at the end of its running-time of nearly two hours, but that’s probably because it brings together such a mayhem of elements and an audacious vision, with an inclusive cast like this.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime.