‘Into the Spider-Verse’ beats many Marvel movies at their own game

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It’s no secret that I’m a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fanboy. So I hope you understand how painful it is for me to say the following: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” a film made by Sony and produced by many of the same folks who have already run the “Spider-Man” franchise into the ground twice already and has no connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is actually better than the majority of movies in the M.C.U.

“Into the Spider-Verse” introduces us to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a Brooklyn teenager whose life gets turned upside-down when he’s bitten by a genetically-altered spider. He begins developing strange abilities and takes it upon himself to destroy a plot by The Kingpin (Liev Schrieber) that threatens to annihilate New York City.

But he won’t have to go it alone. Spider-people from several different alternate universes join in the fight. Among Miles’ new pals are a schlubby alternate Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), who reluctantly mentors Miles, and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), who’s taken on the mantle of Spider-Woman in her universe. Together with several other alternate Spider-heroes, Miles battles to stop Kingpin Wilson Fisk and get his friends home. Along the way, Miles learns that heroism requires toughness and perseverance.

“Into the Spider-Verse” works, big-time. It works because it’s a well-written story full of relatable emotional story beats and themes that will resonate with moviegoers. This story has real emotional weight, and it’s easy to understand how Miles feels even in the midst of the most insane situations. Peter Parker also gets a great, well-written story arc that explains why he’s let himself go and it warms the heart to see him take to Miles.

This flick also works because the voice actors do a fantastic job. Moore gives us the full range of emotions, from excitement over what he can do to fear that he can’t do the job to good old teenage discontent. Johnson knocks it out of the park as the ultimate slacker Spider-Man. Nicholas Cage steals scenes as Spider-Man Noir. Steinfeld, John Mulaney and Mahershala Ali all own their characters and supply the film with warmth, laughs and a few scary moments.

Courtesy photo

The look and animation style of “Into the Spider-Verse” also work fantastically well. This is probably the closest a movie has ever gotten to showing us a comic book brought to life. We get dialogue bubbles, onomatopoetic sound effects words and epic moments broken into panels. The action scenes crackle with classic Marvel comics visual elements that could have come directly off the table of legendary artists like Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby.

But there are also images of painterly beauty, like shot of the New York City skyline or a sunset streaming through a window behind Miles. The animation isn’t completely smooth, appearing like it’s dropping frames at times, and this really helps add some punch to the action scenes. Whether in quiet or action-packed scenes, “Into the Spider-Verse” always looks striking.

Though “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” wasn’t made by Marvel Studios, it’s better than many of the M.C.U.’s lesser offerings, like “The Incredible Hulk” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” Not only that, but it can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best of the Marvel movies, like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

It’s got the sci-fi fun of parallel universes, pulse-quickening action set pieces and a lot of laughs. Best of all, this movie has a ton of heart and is about relatable themes. If you’re a fan of Spider-Man or comic book movie in general, you owe it yourself to check this movie out. You won’t be sorry!

5 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.