Review: The New Frontier of Animation

Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse has won many plaudits. Photo from the movie.

By Raqchel Walker, Howard University News Service

Yes, the hype is real. From the booming hip-hop influences to the action-packed sequences and innovative animation, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the must-see film of 2018 (and I dare say all of 2018). Go for the action and stay for the story. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is so much more than what appears to be a regular cartoon on the surface. What sets the film apart is the main character.

Repeat after me: “Miles Morales.” You’re going to want to remember that name. Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore) is trying to navigate a new school, puberty, and family drama. Oh yeah…and he has to learn how to be Spiderman. Can a kid catch a break or at least get extra credit? Miles is dealing with real-life issues, which helps him to be a very relatable main character. He has the guidance of his police officer father, who never misses a chance to tease him, and his loving and nurturing nurse mother, whose hugs will make even the most shocking elements of the story feel like sunshine could be beyond the current rain cloud. Like most teenagers, Miles would prefer to spend his time hanging out with the one cool relative that everyone seems to have in their family. For Miles, that relative is his old school, Biggie Smalls-playing, ultra-cool graffiti artist Uncle, Aaron.

Everything in Miles’ universe is normal until he’s bitten by a spider and his whole world is turned upside down. Miles runs into the Spider-Man himself, who agrees to show him the ropes and help him understand his newfound supernatural abilities. This would seem like your standard formula for any superhero genre film until Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse decides to take raising the stakes to a whole new level. The film adds in a ballerina, a young girl, a noir character, and a pig. All of those characters should not work together in the same movie, but somehow, they do. Each character stands on their own, exhibiting fully fleshed out character arcs. Even the supervillain Wilson Fisk’s heavy-hearted backstory is revealed.

Beyond the muscle flex of amazing characterization, the film uses an array of advanced cinematography techniques that help it stand out. From the opening sequence of an extended tracking long shot that takes you into the heart of Miles’ day-to-day activities in Brooklyn to the heart-stopping, upside down, slow-mo jumps that will leave your jaw on the floor, Sony and Marvel have done it again. They deserve a round of applause.

There have been many groundbreaking animated pictures that shook up the playing field. Such films include Avatar, Toy Story, and WALL-E. You can now add Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to that esteemed list. The film looks like nothing that has ever been seen in cinema before. It is the merging of comic book strips with cartoon animation, and the use of techniques that give the picture an almost 3D quality that makes it stand apart from the rest. This could be why Sony animation is trying to put a patent on the new technology that was used to make the film. Filmgoers should be prepared to see more movies like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in the future. I cannot wait to see more animation of this quality in the cinema circuits.

Go see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Enjoy the ride and stay until the credits end. You don’t want to miss it.