Just to recap, in about 16 years, we’ve had a “Spider-Man” trilogy, a two-movie “Spider-Man” reboot, another “Spider-Man” reboot with a sequel on the way, and now an animated feature that is completely separate from everything we’ve seen before. Quite the history.
As previously stated, this latest adaptation of the comic book is completely animated and is set in a world where Spider-Man has been a longtime hero and even became a celebrity. The film’s focus, though, is on the character Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a teenager who is just starting a private school, but still enjoys getting into mischief.
On one of those occasions, Miles is bitten by a radio-active spider, just like the actual Spider-Man. Later, the two actually meet by chance when Miles comes across some villains who are trying out a device that can open portals to other dimensions. One thing leads to another and a whole group of Spider-Man superheroes from other worlds appear. As one might guess, they all have to work together to foil the villains’ plot.
So, there have been several “Spider-Man” movies over the years, and as a result, one really has to give credit to the filmmakers for creating something fresh with “Spider-Verse.” While the film has a lot of familiar beats, such as the hero learning his powers in the first act and all that, it still manages to set itself apart from both its predecessors and other superhero adaptations.
Helping this greatly is the film’s whole concept. There are a lot of things going on here, it’s a hero’s origin story, but it’s also a mentor-student story, with Miles learning from another Spider-Man, who himself has his own redemption arc. In fact most, if not all, of the movie’s best moments are the character interactions. Watching Miles form a friendship with the character Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) or start learning the ropes from an older Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) is fun and engaging.
Naturally, because the characters and their interactions are the real highlights, praise has to go toward the voice acting. Moore is really good as the young Miles who comes in as the team rookie. However, probably the best voice performance comes from Johnson who gives a good, layered performance and provides the Peter Parker of his world with some depth.
The great host of other characters, from Kimiko Glenn playing an anime-style mech genius version of Spider-Man to Nicolas Cage portraying the webslinger as a 40s noir detective, also add to the movie being an overall fun experience.
On the animation side, the film looks great. There is a nice style here, where the designs one sees generally in a comic book are translated to a 3D environment, so you certainly feel like you’re watching a comic book on screen.
“Spider-Verse” isn’t perfect. Some of the humor is a little too on the nose, it could used some trimming with a runtime of about two hours and the film does retread a little bit of ground from the spider-lore. Yet it remains a very strong entry for both the “Spider-Man” franchise and for comic-book adaptations as a whole. 4.25 out of 5.