If someone had told me a week ago that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse would be among the very best Spider-Man films, I honestly wouldn’t have believed it. So I understand if you’re skeptical. I’m right there with you. Spider-Verse fires on almost all cylinders as it delivers a knockout story with astounding visual style.
While what really pops out is the visual style, I want to start by talking about the story. It’s the story that made me laugh. it’s the story that moved me enough to shed a few tears. So, there are those of you looking at that trailer and thinking to yourselves, “That’s not my Spider-Man… who is that?” If you’re in that boat, the young man that Spider-Verse focuses on is Miles Morales who exists in an alternate continuity.
Unfortunately, if you aren’t already familiar with Miles Morales, getting you filled in on exactly who he is and how he fits into this alternate continuity would spoil this film. Suffice it to say, you’ll get caught up. In addition to Miles Morales, Spider-Verse uses interdimensional travel to bring together a wide variety of gimmicky Spider-Men that work together in an entertaining ensemble. While this will likely serve as world-building for a variety of franchises that will allow Sony to just pump out a billion movies that superficially check all the boxes that define Spider-Verse, it is done in conjunction with the development of Miles Morales himself and the central conflict that takes place within this story.
Given that we’ve basically seen everyone but Marvel fail at this consistently, including any of the Sony Spider-Man films since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, it’s refreshing to see Sony finally deliver something worth watching. It’s basically the antithesis of The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s wildly sporadic inclusion of supervillains purely for the purposes of setting up a franchise in place of solid storytelling. No matter how much insanity Spider-Verse crams into its story, it never loses sight of the emotional connection between Miles and his world. It is this attention to the heart of his journey that allows the emotional punches to work.
On a secondary layer, Spider-Verse parallels the challenges of making a character who is different from the one that the world loves and accepts. It’s interesting to see how well they tap into this question of whether someone who is not The Spider-Man can be good enough to meet the expectations of a world that needs what Spider-Man has always been able to give them. This layer of meta-storytelling helps the emotional moments land meaningfully.
The best parts of Spider-Verse are reinforced with a beautiful visual style that I enjoyed throughout. Though, it has to be said that while the scene composition and cell shaded 3d design looks absolutely beautiful, the actual animation uses a very stilted low framerate to give the impression of a comic flipping pages. If you pay careful attention to the trailer you will be able to see exactly what it’s like, and you should know that is representative of the entire film.
I get that they were trying to capture the sensation of comic books coming to life. There are moments where Spider-Verse delivers on that feeling of having the art walk right off of the pages and into the real world, but mostly it ends up just making all of that incredible cell shaded design feel like stop-motion. Or worse, just choppy. Sadly, it’s very distracting, and I was never able to stop thinking about it and become fully immersed in the experience.
I hear a lot of people saying that Spider-Verse isn’t just one of the best Spider-Man movies ever, but maybe the best comic-book movie of the year. So, is it? No. Spider-Verse is VERY good, but I think you’d have to be especially craving a good Spider-Man movie for Spider-Verse to feel like it’s better than the likes of Infinity War. If you go into the theater with your hopes that high, I think you’ll be disappointed. It’s an origin story within an origin story, with origin stories on the side. Even the best origin story is still going to feel like territory that you’ve been to before, even if this is one of the better executions.
At the end of the day, this is a very good film that has heart and style. Be sure to check it out, you’ll be happy you did.
|An excellent movie with stunning visual style.