Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has been a greatly anticipated film for many due to the unique visual style that’s instantly striking. Spider-Man is already hugely famous, though mostly just Peter Parker — lapsed and casual fans will learn of Miles Morales in this film. Anticipation aside, I wasn’t sure if this film could pull off the superhero origin story, multiple heroes coming along for the ride, and the animation on top of all that. I was greatly satisfied it accomplished all of these things and more. Here are my three takeaways after seeing, and loving, the film.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, bring their unique talents to a fresh vision of a different Spider-Man Universe, with a groundbreaking visual style that’s the first of its kind. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask.
Why does this matter?
Sony is having a really good restart to their Spidey universe. First with the Marvel assisted Spider-Man: Homecoming, then Venom earlier this year, and now this. After years of making good, to so-so, to terrible Spider-Man movies they seem to have finally cracked the code. This film is the beginning of a potentially fruitful animated universe on top of their main one and it should be interesting to see how they evolve the Spider-Man brand going forward.
It’s the best animated movie of the year, hands down.
Some might say this is the best superhero movie of the year too, but I’m sticking with the animated film on this one. That’s because it suits all ages, thanks to the hilarious jokes from Peter Parker for the older crowd, or the message about the love of the family for the younger ones. This is a story about not giving up, believing in yourself, and taking a leap of faith because you know you have family supporting you. Family comes in two different flavors in this film too, the first being Miles’ father, mother, and uncle, but also his Spider-friends who he teams up with. There’s a togetherness in this film that will resonate with all ages.
It’s also the best animated film due to the visuals.
This is the kind of movie that will make other studios realize they can do more. How many glossy Pixar style animated movies have we seen look just about the same? This film is just as good at character acting, but with a hell of a lot more punk-rock gusto. There’s an edge to the visuals that are so striking you’ll want to go back and watch it again. And maybe again after that. The film has a realistic look to its characters, but still blends interesting blur and color effects in ways to remind us this is a comic book universe, after all. Early on, for instance, Miles is getting ready for school and little dashes and visual sound effects are used on screen to amp up the visuals. Sound effects are used, though sparingly, as if they are the secret weapon of the film (an amazing callback to an early sound effect will make you cheer). Miles is a character who works with graffiti and the visuals of this film capture that even when he’s not painting on walls.
Tells a difficult story and layers in new wrinkles too
The “Spider-Verse” storyline is not a simple one. Alternate dimensions, heroes of similar ilk banding together, and the dynamics of multiple heroes riffing off each other are all so well done here it looks effortless. That’s when you know there’s real genius at work on a film. As the story pushes forward you’re not lost as to what is going on and all the while you’re invested in Miles’ personal story too. The character acting is superb and as good as any acted film could be. The film takes chances too, with big surprises early on and later that help keep your interest since you don’t know what comes next. It even wraps up in a satisfying way while potentially opening up the movie to many more sequels. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, with a script by Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman, have a lot more movies in them if they continue on with superhero animated movies. God knows the convoluted stories we know and love need maestros like them to spin such golden webs.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
It’s not a perfect film with two nagging elements keeping me from giving it a 10. The first is everything that comes prior to Jake Johnson’s Spider-Man swinging in to help Miles out. These opening minutes do a lot of the legwork to build Miles’ family relationships as well as his personal journey. The fact is though, Johnson’s Spider-Man gives the narrative the comedic jolt it needs to keep your interest up even when exposition is a bore. The movie works best when Johnson, or Spider-Ham for that matter, are dealing out the laughs.
The second is relatively minor seeing as it’s a trope in so many superhero movies. It’s the final boss battle. I won’t spoil a single element, but let’s just say it doesn’t make much sense how the final fight works. Logistically it has every punch, jab, and uppercut needed to bring the audience at full attention, but if you stop to think about how this villain is even standing it’s hard to believe. Sure there are talking pig Spider-Man characters in the narrative so your suspension of disbelief is running on high, but for the most part, it lingers in a reality with rules. Here it seems to break them for the narrative climax.
Is it good?
I loved this film and while it may not be the greatest superhero movie ever told it’s honestly very close. This movie offers audiences a promise for more, and I don’t mean sequels. It’s a promise for the superhero genre to stretch and grow and do things we only thought possible in comic books. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a promise for greater superhero films, but also great animated ones.