This may be (read: is) the best Spider-Man film ever made, and I’ll *thwip* you in the face as many times as I have to if you disagree.
Taking a decidedly new and fresh approach to the usual Spider-Man formula, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse takes place in an alternate universe where its original Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Chris Pine), has bit the big one in an epic battle with one of his most nefarious foes, leaving teenaged Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a brand new character with similar but unique spider-powers, to don the mask and save NYC from the onslaught of evil baddies threatening it. But with no mentor to guide him, Miles has a hard time adjusting to life as a superhero, so when another Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) from yet another parallel universe shows up, it’s only a matter of time before Miles and Peter B. Parker team up to try and defeat the mysterious Prowler (Mahershala Ali) and the one and only Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). With the help of even more spider-people who jump into the fray including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) with her trusty SP//der mech, and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), will Miles have enough firepower to take down the villains and save the multi-verse, or will his career as the new and improved Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man be short lived?
First things first, I gotta double up on my comment about this being the best Spider-Man film ever made. Yes, I know that Spider-Man 2 is usually at the top of the list, and Spider-Man: Homecoming is right next to it, but to me, Into the Spider-Verse takes the cake and it’s easy to explain why: this is the most literal representation of a Spider-Man comic that has ever been made, and I was over the moon the entire time I was watching it. Sure, Spider-Man 2 might have the emotion and character arcs, but the Sam Raimi movies never gave me a Spider-Man I recognized from the comics. Spider-Man: Homecoming might have the overall look and feel of Spider-Man, but there are just certain things a live action retelling of this character physically can’t do. Enter Into the Spider-Verse and all of those nitpicks are wiped clean for a near perfect representation of ol’ Web Head, while at the same time successfully and effectively introducing one of my personal favorite Spider-Men, Miles Morales.
Taking this new, animated, multiversal approach to a long-running character such as this, it’s easy to understand why people might think this is yet another cash grab attempt at milking Spidey for all he’s worth, but fret not, True Believers, this new “spinoff” franchise is in good hands. Much like how the Lego Batman Movie from last year was a giant love-letter to the Dark Knight himself, the filmmakers at the helm of this one clearly have a soft spot for what they’re putting up onscreen, a soft spot that permeates through every frame, Easter egg, visual gag, story beat and so on, making Into the Spider-Verse just as much of a celebration of Spider-Man as a character as it is a stand alone film.
From the awe inspiring shots high above a vast cityscape to the attention to detail present in each comic book panel come to life, everything about this film is meticulous in a way that a hardcore nerd like me can enjoy, while regular moviegoers and casual fans alike can appreciate all the same. It’s a feat that I’m sure is much harder to pull off than it seems, but Into the Spider-Verse succeeds because it’s so uniquely different from what has come before as well as due to the fact that everything here is handled with a sense of care and responsibility that not many filmmakers seem to have a handle on nowadays. With great power comes great responsibility indeed.
If there are any nitpicks here – which, to be fair I have to think pretty damn hard to find any – it’s that the film, while beautifully animated and heavily inspired by the comic books it’s based on what with panels jumping out at you, animated sound effects popping up here and there and a general “comic book style” overlaid on top of every scene, the style itself sometimes makes it hard to focus on what’s being shown onscreen at any given moment, meaning that due to all of the filter effects and true to comic book panel visuals, when things were out of focus or when depth of field was used in a shot, the animation tended to not only go out of focus, but do a double “3D” overlay look that muddied the image a bit so that it looked like I was seeing two slightly out of sync shots at once. It happened enough for it to annoy me a bit, but the style of the film in general lends itself to this trip-up, so I guess it is what it is. Other than that, the last fifteen minutes or so dragged a bit, but that’s the deepest of deep nitpicks I could find, so consider all of this inconsequential in the grand scheme of this film.
My favorite Spider-Man movie by a long shot, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse nails nearly everything in its transition from mostly live-action endeavors to completely animated form, not missing a beat in between. The comparison of a comic book come to life is understated in this beautifully animated, slickly shot, action packed and hilariously scripted film that pays homage to nearly every Spider-Man film and appearance over the years, while at the same time giving Miles Morales a great origin story to boot. I expected great things for this film and it more than delivered, so if you’re a diehard Spidey fan or are simply intrigued at the new way the character is being handled with this one, I urge you to go see it as soon as you can swing into your nearest theater, pun intended.