Expectations may have muted my enthusiasm for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Marvel’s latest feature release, which has generated so many superlative accolades that I was anticipating having my socks knocked off. Instead, I merely found myself quietly enjoying this stylish, quirky animated film, which does plenty to set itself apart from the usual MCU fare—but not so much as to create a paradigm shift in the genre or anything.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s concept is on the meta side, taking advantage of Marvel’s constantly mutating lore to weave a unique story about an “alternate” Spider-Man, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). Miles is an awkward teenager just starting to get used to his new boarding school when he, like Peter Parker before him, is bitten by a radioactive spider and given superpowers. Shortly thereafter, he encounters Spider-Man in the process of trying to stop the secret plans of the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), who is leveraging a massive supercollider to bend the laws of reality. Before long, he finds himself engaged in a team effort as multiple spider-folks across the multiverse take on Kingpin and his allies.
An upbeat and different-feeling Marvel film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse possesses the same structural problems as the MCU’s live-action fare, namely a ramshackle plot and an incoherent action finale. Ultimately, it makes a similar, not-terribly-deep impression. That said, it brings striking computer-animated visuals, a stylish look and sound, and a refreshing cast of characters to its young adult storyline. Miles definitely makes for an appealing, accessible protagonist. The voice cast is full of solid work from the likes of Mahershala Ali, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Brian Tyree Henry, Hailee Steinfeld, Lily Tomlin, and more. The messaging is optimistic and inclusive, also a nice change of pace. I may have been expecting too much out of this one, but I definitely enjoyed it.