Spiderman Into the Spider-Verse Spoiler Free Review
This film is perfect. Go watch it. Stop reading this now. I'm dead serious. Why are you still here? Buy your tickets online, reserve your seating and then tab back to this page if you want something more in depth.
It's really weird for me to open this way considering THIS was the last thing I wrote about but I'm serious. I'm writing this review days after seeing the press screening, going over my notes from the film and my initial impressions of it and my memories. I've been doing that consistently for roughly 48 hours to try and find fault in the film and I just can't.
Let's back up for a moment. A feature-length animated film, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse draws heavily on the Ultimate universe from Marvel comics and details an interpretation of the origin of Miles Morales. It also pulls from the recent(ish) Spider-Verse event which saw the main universe Spiderman hopping between parallel dimensions recruiting others like him to fight a threat to all realities. In this film that translates into Miles Morales taking stumbling steps to take on the mantle of Spiderman and then running into spider-people from other dimensions that show him the ropes. This movie really is its own beast as it takes a lot of liberties from the comics it draws from and will openly surprise you time and time again.
That's literally all I want to say about the plot but let me assure you that the trailers and promotional synopsis material are misleading. This film is not as by-the-numbers as they'd lead you to believe. There are a plethora of things to love about Into the Spider-Verse and I can already see the internet arguments about which best thing is the bestest thing. I just want to touch on a few of them.
The Art: The first thing I noticed in the trailer was that the animation wasn't smooth. Characters and world elements move in a slightly staggered/jagged fashion and I'll admit that when I first saw that I was a little worried. I WAS SO WRONG. The art style of the film mirrors and evokes comic pages like almost nothing else I've seen. What's more is that it constantly takes advantage of being an animated feature. Changes in lighting and color contrast are all over the place to evoke exactly the emotional tone needed and even serve to visually tell the story and passively remind the audience what the stakes are. Little elements like the fact that Peni-Parker, Spiderman-Noir, and Spider-Ham are actively animated and move differently than the world they occupy are wonderful additions and I honestly can't remember the last time I paid attention to ending credits because of the sheer art-style on display.
The Music: It was about half-way through the first act that I realized my foot was tapping. By film's end, I had a cramp in my leg. Music is sometimes a difficult thing to get right in a film in a way that works independently of the movie. We have examples certainly but more often you find that one or two repeated tracks are what stay with you. Not so here. Buckle up Spotify because I'm going to be listening to this OST on repeat for a month.
Plot: This film will surprise you repeatedly. Not in the "oh what a twist" way since those are fairly obvious. It'll surprise you with how engaging it makes a very simple plot. In that manner, it's a perfect translation of some of the best comic stories out there. I can't really go into much detail or even broad strokes here so let's just quickly say the pacing isn't an issue and the plot gives the characters a great space to occupy without overshadowing them.
Character: I could gush about this for weeks and it's, in my opinion, the strongest point in the film. No one feels wasted or tacked on and the way they chose to interpret versions of most of these characters is just off-kilter enough to provide surprises while also paying respect and homage to where they come from. The humor of the movie is organic and is utterly, perfectly in line with the referential quickfire and snappy nature of the Spiderman comics this film draws from. What's more is that the joking nature of the film flows from its characters and their experiences or their metaphysical reality in the case of Spiderman-Noir.
Respecting the Audience: Spiderman isn't just an IP, he's a cultural touchstone. Even people that have never picked up a comic or watched a film based on one can tell you a few things about him and the plethora of media surrounding his name has often served to drag down aspects of him as consumers are reminded YET AGAIN about Uncle Ben. That isn't the case here. Into the Spider-Verse is told through the lens of "We understand that the Avengers era of movie making is what we're a part of" and so world elements aren't explained since most of them are assumed knowledge. Yes, you probably know quite a bit about Spiderman, what his stories are about and the common elements in super-hero narratives so rather than waste time propping them up, they are just part of the world so story and character don't have to get hung up on them.
The writing is on the wall. Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse is a masterpiece of a film. It's various elements come together perfectly and it is actively difficult to find fault with any part of it. It's one of those films that is so well done I don't want to risk a sequel being made because I'm honestly unsure where you could take it to make something just as compelling and enjoyable. This film is about what Spiderman has always been about; using the power you have to make the world a better place. If that really was the point of Stan Lee's career in creating our modern mythology then I can think of no better film to release after his death.
Now go and watch this movie.