The world doesn’t need another Spider-Man film. I know it, you know it, and I’m sure the folks behind this latest entry sure as hell know it.
It’s with this attitude, then, that I approached Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (now there’s a title and a half), a shiny, new animated entry, co-produced by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, aka, the brains behind The Lego Movie. So, you can imagine my surprise when the damn thing turned out to be nothing short of a triumph.
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a smart yet nervy New Yorker, who lives in a world where Peter Parker is already Spider-Man, has just started boarding school. He’s not having the best time of it and is struggling to connect with his police officer father. Young Miles finds comfort, then, in his cool uncle, Aaron (Mahershala Ali).
One night, the lads are out graffitiing walls, when Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider. You can guess what happens next. One thing leads to another and, when the ‘first’ Spider-Man becomes, er, indisposed, Miles takes it upon himself to carry the gauntlet. But there’s more.
The dastardly Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) has only gone and opened up a portal to alternate universes, and before we know it, the New York that Miles inhabits is soon over-run by various shades of cross-dimensional Spider-People. There’s alternate Peter Parker (Jake Johnson).
Say hello to Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld). Oh, look, here comes Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage). Is that Spider-Ham I see? It keeps going.
I know, it sounds bananas – but Spider-Verse is one of those rare superhero films that, though tricky on paper, plays out rather neatly on the screen, executing its complex story with a miraculous sense of ease, wonder and charm. Better still, the entire project – which, with its vibrant combination of 3D computer techniques, and old-school, hand-drawn craft, is stunning to look at - is in on the joke.
The whole thing is a zippy, frenetic and surprisingly meta commentary on the comic-book industry – but it also has a heart, a fabulous voice cast, and comes equipped with some of the sharpest punchlines of the year.
Yes, I know what I said: the world doesn’t need another Spider-Man film. But when they’re as smart and as delightful as this one, then I’m sure we can make exceptions. The best superhero movie of the year.
(Cert: PG, 117 mins)
I always thought Robert Redford has been a totally underrated actor, whose minimalist, unfussy approach has tended to obscure the quality of his work. Since breaking through alongside his friend Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the late 1960s, Redford has remained one of the best leading men in Hollywood, displaying the kind of unshowy naturalism that wins no Oscars but serves the greater purpose of the finished film.
We’re in Oakland, California, and Cassius ‘Cash’ Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is living out of his uncle’s garage, with his performance artist girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson). Things are looking bad on the financial front for poor Cassius, but everything starts to change after he lands a job working as a telemarketer with a company called RegalView.