Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Screenplay Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Luna Lauren Velez, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
Every once in a while, something comes along that opens your eyes to a new way of viewing cinema. Star Wars did this for me first back when I was 6 years old. Goodfellas did it in 1991. Now we have this…a comic book cartoon movie.
The gift of this film wipes the slate clean for Chris Miller and Phil Lord. More accurately, it tells the world they’re still the same people who made The Lego Movie such a miracle and they are totally exonerated of anything to do with Solo: A Star Wars Story.
The animation of the film is astounding. I cannot venture any opinions other than it is beautifully multi-layered. There is a necessary mixture of animation styles that add richness to the plot. And plot is what I want to concentrate on, because it’s the thing that helps keep it centered for this viewer.
Miles Morales (Moore) is smarter than he wants to be. After passing a test and winning the lottery of schools, he is now attending Visions Academy. He’s at odds with his father, the school and puberty. He admires Spider-Man, and his Uncle Aaron (Ali). Things take a change in his life and almost immediately he’s brought into the world with his hero in action (Pine). Spider-Man is fighting Kingpin and his men, including The Prowler. Kingpin is trying to open up a portal into other dimensions. Things end badly and Miles barely escapes with his life and his new powers.
This leads Miles to believe it is up to him to figure out how to make things right. At first he thinks he is all alone. He discovers that he’s got help, in the form of Spider-Men and Women from the other dimensions.
As these different webbed heroes appear, we see some variations in animation style. Some, like Gwen (Steinfeld), Peter B. (Johnson) are similar enough. Others are delightfully different.
Each of the Spideys are glitchy due to their being trapped in the wrong dimension. Mile’s universe has just lost its Spider-Man, and this means he’s going to have to step up and into his role. This will not be easy and it is not without sacrifice.
The best sequences in the film are between Miles and The Prowler. There is a real fear that permeates the air whenever they play their version of cat and mouse. The significance is somewhat obvious, but no less effective.
The relationship between Miles and his father (Henry) works as well. Shown at it’s best symbolically from the opposite sides of a door.
I don’t think it matters how entrenched you are in comic book lore. This is a film that has a depth and beauty that works on so many levels, it would be impossible to not see this as the cinematic masterpiece it is, was and ever shall be. It’s a Cinematic world without end.
(***** out of *****)