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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse

Year: 2018
Studio: Sony
Director: Bob Persichetti/Peter Ramsey/Rodney Rothman
Producer: Avi Arad/Phil Lord/Christopher Miller/Amy Pascal
Writer: Phil Lord/Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Liev Schreiber, Chris Pine, Hailee Steinfeld, Mashershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoë Kravitz, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage, Kathryn Hahn, Oscar Isaac, Stan Lee, Post Malone

I waited a long time after this movie came out before I saw it, curious the whole time about what I'd think. I'm bored stiff of superhero movies, but after all the critical fawning over it – which included how much you'd love it even if you weren't a superhero movie fan – I knew I had to give it a go.

It's indeed a greatly executed movie, with a detailed storyline that presents clear emotion and themes and inventive visuals. A point has to come off because it's still a superhero movies, but it's very much a piece of cinema, where you can talk for just as long about the visual language and affect as you can about the plot.

Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) has an honest, principled dad as a cop and a slacker, cool, anti-authoritarian figure as an uncle (Mahershala Ali). One night, after listening to music and chilling out at his uncle's cool pad, the pair go out to graffiti a train when Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him the superpowers, and confusion about how to hone and use them, familiar now to several generations.

When he returns to the place he was bitten later on looking for answers, he instead stumbles across a huge particle accelerator hidden underground, operated by Kingpin (Liev Schrieber) in order to access parallel universes. Superhero and the city's favourite son Spider-man swings into action to help but after disabling the machine, spotting Miles and giving him a USB drive full of data that can destroy the device, Kingpin finds and kills him.

The world is in mourning at the death of their hero, but when Miles, in frustration at not being able to control his new powers, goes to Spider-man's grave looking for inspiration, he's surprised when an older, grizzled Peter Parker (Chris Pine) shows up, a Spider-man who's been stranded in Miles' dimension after Kingpin's machine has caused a crossover between universes.

When the USB drive is damaged, Peter reluctantly agrees to train Miles to use his new powers, taking him along to Kingpin's secret lab to find the data and make a new one. Once there they meet Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn), Kingpin's right hand woman who dons the iconic Dr Octopus suit to fight them off.

Another figure joins the fight, Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) – another Spider-person from yet another dimension – and as Peter, Miles and Gwen gear up to take Kingpin down, Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) reveals she's been harbouring even more of them, from the black and white Sider-man Noir (Nicolas Cage) from a wartime New York to Spider-ham (John Mulaney), a Porky Pig-like pig with spider powers and many a self-deprecating quip.

But Miles's third act low point comes when Peter declares Miles just isn't ready to join the fight, leaving him alone and riddled with doubt. The way up from there serves two purposes – it gives Miles the chance to fight back and prove himself, and nicely sets up the greater theme of the movie, that anybody can be Spider-man because it's the heart and courage inside that matters, not the suit or superpowers.

The visual creativity is cranked into high gear throughout. Sequences of the wave of energy emanating from the particle accelerator across the city show a crazy polygonal light show that sweeps across buildings, the Hudson River and everything else, as if the world's biggest party popper has been unleashed across the molecular structure of matter itself. The camera angles and cinematography also do their part in building some visually amazing scenes of people walking vertically up and down buildings or swinging around New York's streets and underbelly.

But the part that got the most attention is the plate shift printing errors and moire patterns across the screen that have come straight out of cheap comics in the pre-digital era. Every scene – in fact almost every frame – has a graphical effect that augments the story going on inside it, and the plot that delivers that story is as accomplished as anything professional screenwriters ever manage without being overly simplistic, derivative or the least confusing.

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