‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is striking and supportive.
Kernel Rating: 4 (4 out of 5)
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 117 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 10+. The latest ‘Spider-Man’ film is animated, not live action, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that the film is appropriate for very young viewers. There is a fair amount of violence in the film, which explores the possibility of different dimensions; there are explosions, destruction in New York City, chases, fights, and a weapon that is essentially a gigantic laser. Some monstrous characters may be scary for young viewers and we see the deaths of two other characters, one who is heroic and one who is very close to the protagonist; these may be emotionally overwhelming. There is a pervasive theme of loss (many characters have people in their lives who have died), some romantic tension between two teen characters, some insults, and a fair amount of product placement.
By Roxana Hadadi
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is immediately immersive, a colorful and adventurous cinematic experience that shifts into gear with the first scene and invites viewers along for the ride. Although you may fear superhero burnout, “Into the Spider-Verse” embraces how different it is from other live-action versions of this story and delivers gorgeous animation that is visually compelling with every second and every frame.
“Into the Spider-Verse” is set in New York City, where the eighth-grader Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) is struggling to fit in at his new prep school in Brooklyn. His parents know he’ll get a great education there, but he’s worried about making friends and leaving his old neighborhood behind—and things get complicated when he’s bitten by a radioactive spider. Sounds familiar, right?
But the thing is that Miles’s version of New York City already has a Spider-Man (voiced by Chris Pine, of “A Wrinkle in Time”), who is engaged in a rivalry with the villain Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber, of “My Little Pony: The Movie”). When tragedy occurs, Miles realizes that his new powers—a growth spurt, super-sticky skin, increased flexibility—are leading him down the path toward being a new version of Spider-Man. And when the Kingpin’s gigantic laser device the Collider opens up a series of other dimensions, a variety of other versions of Spider-Man from other worlds start showing up in Miles’s New York City.
The most familiar Spider-Man is another Peter Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson, of “Jurassic World”), also from New York City, who is about 20 years older than the Peter Parker in Miles’s world and whose life hasn’t turned out as he expected—for one, he’s a little out of shape. As he reluctantly takes Miles under his wing, and as the other Spider-Man versions—a noir version, a Looney Tunes-style version, an anime version, and a Spider-Woman—come together to try and figure out how to defeat Kingpin and go home, Miles realizes that he needs to grow himself to help save the world.
“Into the Spider-Verse” makes great use of those other characters by using their different animation styles (like the gritty black and white color palette of noir Spider-Man) and characterizations (the large wooden mallet and anvil of Spider-Ham) to inform the story and visual language. There are elements straight out of comic books here, like dialogue bubbles, sound effects presented as text, and pixelated blobs of outrageous color, but the story is strong enough to stand on its own, too.
Watching Miles realize that he has the power to protect his family, and that he can do it through teamwork and a desire to help his friends return to their own homes, is a strong message for young viewers wrapped in striking visuals. And the different spin on this character—younger than we’re used to seeing Peter Parker, half-African American and half-Puerto Rican, working to figure out who he will be in his young teen years—makes it a refreshing change of pace from the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes to which we’ve become accustomed.
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