What better way to avoid the onslaught of Christmas and its associated parental responsibilities on a wet and windy December afternoon than spending it in the dark with your phone off, watching Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and generally shirking your festive duties?
That defo must’ve been what all the other cinema-goers had in mind when I took my son (who just turned 5 this week) to see it; we were the only ones in the pictures who weren’t grown up men on their own. Onto you, lads, onto you.
That’s when I realised that this wasn’t just a kids’ cartoon. I freely admit it wasn’t on my radar and I hadn’t read any blurb before it came out nor seen trailers, and truth be told I was a bit disappointed about that because I was banking on having a nap while Spaghetti Legs enjoyed an hour or so of animated fun.
Instead, I spent two hours absolutely enthralled and in love with the animation in what turned out to be a sublime and entertaining origin story which brings comic books to life in a way you’ve never seen before.
Who’s it for?
This is a film for Marvel Comics fans, for Spider-Man fans, but it works just as well for audiences who aren’t absolute nerds too. I’ve never been au fait with all the Spider-Verse stuff and I still understood and enjoyed it. Older kids will love the younger characters in it.
The film is rated PG and I’d say that 5 years old is too young for this film. Not because of violence or language it’s just that you’d need to be confident that your child knows enough about Spider-Man and/or can keep up with what’s a fairly complex plot for kids (lots of talk of alternative realities which in our case is a bit much for someone who doesn’t believe you when you say it’s bed time every night) and can sit for two hour without disturbing you and the people around you.
Not your usual neighbourhood Spider-Man
No big spoilers here but the film relocates from Peter Parker’s Queens to Brooklyn, featuring Miles Morales as Spider-Man so if that name doesn’t ring any bells with you (although you might remember a certain uncle played by Donald Glover in 2017’s Spider-Man Homecoming) then this will be a real departure from what you previously knew about Spider-Man. This isn’t just an animated version of the Tobey Maguire outings nor is it a cartoon equivalent of Homecoming (this film isn’t even part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) but there are some familiar villains and some less familiar – and very unusual – allies for everyone to enjoy.
You can expect some youthful humour similar to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and the self-awareness of the Deadpool films but without the swears (cause PG, remember). Heavy on the character development rather than good-over-evil but still the some decent fight scenes.
What’s the big deal?
Rather boringly, I’m not a personal fan of portals, dimensions, space time continuums and all that jazz – I obviously like my fantasy storylines to be much less complex and require less of a leap of faith (give me a spider bite or medical experiment gone wrong any day of the week) – so I didn’t enjoy that element (basically the entire plot of Spider-Verse) even though it gave rise to really wonderful animation. And I mean really wonderful.
I’m a die hard Disney Pixar fan and am usually unmoved by much else. They’re the only films that make me (a really lazy and ungrateful viewer) appreciate the effort that goes into animation. The last film I found this visually pleasing was Coco but Spider-Verse is on another level with its ambitious 3d animation style that is like a comic strip came to life before your very eyes. I don’t know how they do it, and I sat there in the cinema thinking I would break my unwritten rule of never watching a ‘making of’ for this.
For me, the cityscapes and the remarkable silver birch studded woodland in upstate New York were the finest artwork moments for me, and as good as any live action cinematography.
Look out for…
Easter eggs, a Stan Lee cameo (I cried), post credit scenes (I cried again), Post Malone on the soundtrack, and overall a visually delightful film able to captivate a new generation of Miles Morales fans.