16 Feb The New Face of Animation
If we’re lucky, once in our generation, a film comes along that completely changes the way we perceive cinema. Marvel’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, released in 2018, did just this. It’s a fresh new take on animation, with unique technical stylings that made me feel as though I had stepped directly into the pages of a comic. The story places viewers right in the heart of the ‘multiverse’ and challenges our concept of reality. It opens our eyes to new worlds, both literally and metaphorically, through its genre-bending approach to the classic superhero blockbuster.
The plot of this instalment in the Spider-Man franchise is centred in an alternate universe in which there are two Spider-Men – the classic caucasian character “Peter Parker” who we are all so familiar with, and an African-American teenager named “Miles Morales”. Upon the death of Peter, Miles must step up and fill the shoes of Spider-Man in the public eye, facing all the trials and tribulations that come with the name. He battles Doc Ock, The Prowler and Green Goblin on his way to shutting down Wilson Fisk’s interdimensional portal, which is ripping apart New York. This portal introduces a whole squad of alternate Spider-Man characters to help Miles on his mission. He meets Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, Peter B. Parker and Peni Parker, who were summoned from their respective universes by Wilson’s portal. Together, they manage to take the crime boss down and return to their multi-dimensional lives.
The animation alone is enough to cement this film’s place as a masterpiece of its genre. “Into the Spiderverse” is a moving comic book. Specific techniques from directors truly make it seem as if the characters have jumped from the page. When it comes to this film’s visuals, I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was dragged in by the eye-catching aesthetics and swept along by the comic-book-inspired theme, which I found refreshingly unique. It effortlessly captured my attention for the duration. Vibrant colours and textures were implemented in a way that I had never seen before. Even frame rates were changed depending on which character was in shot, a masterful way of exhibiting their unique personalities. It is details like this that speak to how meticulously each second of animation was planned and executed. The excellence of this film’s animation isn’t just because of its movement, but its stillness too. Each frame in “Into the Spider-Verse” was designed to be a complete picture. The film can be stopped at any point, and you will see a crystal clear frame as if pulled directly from a comic. The detail of this animation is immense and unlike any other. It took a team of 117 animators to execute a look this tailored, twice as many as a traditionally animated film. I feel this team deserves all the acclaim they received. The manpower clearly paid off, creating what I would call the best animation of the century.
The genius of “Into the Spider-Verse” doesn’t stop at animation alone; the same care and effort was applied to every aspect of the film. The multi-dimensional plot device gave writers complete creative freedom when it came to crafting diverse and representative characters. No longer was the Spider-Man universe centred in a caucasian, cis-gendered world. We saw the first African-American Hispanic protagonist in both the Marvel cinematic universe and across superhero movies as a whole. I particularly appreciated how this was not a defining plot point, which went a long way towards normalising diversity on the big screen. Gender was also represented well. The typically male character Doc Ock was now portrayed as a female, not to mention Gwen Stacey and Peni Parker, who were female Spider-People in the film. Personally, seeing female villains and heroes within a generally male-dominated universe was refreshing. Representation of sexuality was a miss, but considering romantic interest was not a major plot point of the film, I feel we can give the writers a pass.
Despite having such a diverse and interesting cast, no character seemed thrown in for tokenistic brownie points. They were all developed in a rich and meaningful way, with layered stories that connected to viewers on an authentic level. There is space for anyone to feel included in this film and, to me, this is one of the most important aspects of cinema. Our protagonist alone gave us a story that was relatable to most teenagers. Miles Morales portrayed a passionate teen trying to figure out his place in the world. Pressure from his family pushed him into academics when really his passion was for art. As he tried to deal with superpowers, he also faced many of the same issues and decisions that most teenagers do. The relatable aspect of his character is something that many films these days tend to miss, and I was very glad to see it. Through incorporating characters from marginalized groups and sharing their genuine life experiences, “Into the Spider-Verse” exhibited some of the best representation seen in the Marvel cinematic universe.
Finally, the plot itself in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is expertly crafted. Dealing with multiple dimensions is a plot device that has been tried time and again, and I would consider the Spider-Verse to be the most successful application I’ve seen. Multiple dimensions, diverging timelines, rich characterisations – what could easily have become a clunky storyline was executed brilliantly. Despite having such a complex narrative, the film has a fantastic flow to it. At no point did I feel lost; I was constantly caught in this movie’s carefully woven web. The plot has a bit of everything without feeling overdone. We saw titillating battles, heartbreaking moments, and heartwarming friendships unfold. By the end of “Into the Spider-Verse”, I felt every box conceivable had been checked by this plot. It left me with a feeling of completeness, yet the possibility of a sequel was easily imaginable. All in all, the plot development of this film met every expectation I had and then some.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a brilliant film that deserves every one of its accolades. From the refreshing animation style to the exciting plot, every viewer can see something to laugh at, relate to and find awe in. For me, watching “Into the Spider-Verse” brought about the same kind of childlike wonder that reading comics did as a kid. Never before has the world of animation seen a film as expertly crafted as “Into the Spider-Verse”, and I eagerly await the next instalment in what I am sure will be a wildly successful franchise of films.
Holly Rowsell – Year 13