As per usual, and considering the movie has not yet released, this will be a relatively spoiler free review, and will only reveal details of the story that are already primarily available in trailers.
This past weekend, I was so fortunate as to receive free passes for an early screening for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, thanks simply to owning a PS4 and being signed up for a PSN account. Having been thrilled to my core about this film since the first trailer surfaced, it would be safe to say that I had unusually high expectations going into this movie. I was looking forward to the animation style, the story, and what the movie would be able to achieve, operating outside of the current MCU umbrella. Without a doubt, the movie shattered all of my expectations.
The story, for those who don’t know, centers primarily around Miles Morales. The lead in for the movie briefly covers his personal life, introducing his family, personal struggles, and focuses on his origin and how he gained his powers. However, following a catastrophic event that thrusts multiple Spider-“people” from alternate universes into Miles’ world, and he is tasked with simultaneously gaining his footing as the new Spider-Man, whilst also being tasked with helping return the others to their rightful universes. It’s a premise that allows for a dynamic collision of the different versions of Spider-Man, both well and less known.
Just as important as the story is the writing itself. Into the Spider-Verse is incredibly well scripted. As we all know, Spider-Man and his corresponding versions are known for their banter, and this movie does not disappoint. Bringing six versions of Spider-Man together on screen seems almost like an impossible task, but while the dialogue is a lot to follow at times, it also kept me laughing almost throughout the entire film. There is a meta-humor that is intertwined throughout the movie that easily contends with Deadpool, just without the constant stream of obscenities. There are even some greatly appreciated cheap shots at some of the previous Spider-Man films, akin to Deadpool taking shots at Green Lantern. That being said, the movie is not strictly fun and games, and there is plenty of drama and depth, as well as some villain interactions that can be downright terrifying at times.
Easily, my favorite part of Into the Spider-Verse is the artwork. While the trailers do a good job of introducing the aesthetic, at the end of the day, the do the movie no real justice. This isn’t just your typical computer animated film. Every scene is steeped in a sub-layer off pop art style, which truly helps to bring the comic book feel to life. There were times where I felt like I was watching the old MTV Spider-Man series, and other times where I had to double check that the movie wasn’t stop motion. It was a constantly changing work of art that drew inspiration from so many different styles of animation. The movie manages to pull off a fresh, original style, while at the same time, paying tribute to the many forms of art that has brought animation as far as it has come today.
Similarly impressive, the animators managed to incorporate panels, text boxes, and other forms of stationary dynamics that are brought directly off the page, and into Miles’ world. I never expected to see the old Batman “POW!” gags used in a way that didn’t immediately read as a joke, but Spider-Verse somehow pulls it off in a way that makes the film experience even MORE immersive. Into the Spider-Verse takes what other comic book films have tried, most notably what Raimi nearly pulled off in Spider-Man 2, and goes all in to really make it work.
All in all, Into the Spider-Verse is a blend of narrative, artistic, and technical achievement that makes for what should be an impossibly positive outcome. I was expecting a movie that I would love. I was in no way prepared to love it this much. While I never shy away from comparing films and saying “This one did [A] better, but that one was better because in the way that it did [B]”, but I’m usually not one to say “This is the best one”. However, I’m already hearing from others who have seen it that they think it’s the best Spider-Man film yet, and I can’t say I’m inclined to argue them on it.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse releases in theaters on December 14th (though let’s face it, there’s going to be a full day of “screenings” on the 13th), and I cannot recommend it enough to those who are Christmas moviegoers. Oh, and yes, you can stick around until after the credits, because not only are the credits a work of art in themselves, but there is a post-credits scene, and it is as hilarious as they come.