I never thought I’d be able to do any of this stuff. But I can. Anyone can wear the mask. You can wear the mask. If you didn’t know that before, I hope you do now.
I’ve now seen three different versions of Spider-Man in theaters, not in my life time, but in what I would consider my adult life, the time after high-school. Isn’t that enough? Do we really need another version of Spider-Man, this one in an animated version not even tied to the current canonical Spider-Man? In an animated film that itself contains numerous versions of Spider-Man? Come on, dude. Do we need that?
Yes. Yes, we do. We need Into the Spider-Verse. It’s my favorite Spider-Man movie now. By miles, pun intended. The animation alone catapults this movie into classic status. It’s a psychedelic freakout, influenced by . . . kind of by just about everything really. It’s a constant barrage of astounding images and truly one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen. I actually cut work early one day in order to catch the last showing in my area on IMAX and I’m damn glad I did; this deserves to be seen in the highest quality and on the biggest screen you can find. It’s a jaw-dropping feat of visual magic. The action sequences are really top notch as is a lot of the physical comedy. A couple of really intense chase scenes involving Miles & the Prowler are as great as any action scenes I saw in big budget MCU movies this year and they’re visceral and brilliant.
The script and the characters are equally amazing. The script is witty and charming, but it’s heartfelt too and when it deals with death and loss, it frankly brings the tragedy of Spidey’s origin story(ies) home in a more genuinely emotional way than any iteration of the character really has before. This is, I think, the only movie to genuinely make me laugh out loud and also cry this year. The emotions are real, even as the jokes land to perfection. And the investment in the characters is just really intense. All the vocal performances are great. I’d single out a couple of them as being really fantastic. Bryan Tyree Henry is particularly good as Miles’ troubled dad and Jake Johnson, an actor I’ve disliked in the past, maybe genuinely gives his best performance as a rumpled, affably cynical Spider-Man from a more realistic and jaded dimension. It’s down to all of these character based elements that the film is able to make the surprising leap into really sincere, inspiring emotion at the end. It’s a film that genuinely sends you out on a high of good will and hopefulness; even the resolutely jokey MCU films have kind of given up on feel-good triumph in comic book movies, but Into the Spider-Verse pulls it off with panache and I walked out of the theater with real hope for humanity in my heart. That none of this comes off as maudlin or sentimental is a real miracle. During that final montage and that final voice-over, I just suddenly realized that I was sitting up in my seat, literally on the edge of my seat, leaning forward; I had a huge smile on my face and tears running down my face. Just when you might have thought the super-hero genre had shown us everything it had to show us . . . and, you know, I wasn’t fatigued really, but I was starting to feel like there wasn’t much in the way of wonder left. This movie proved me wrong about that. We had some great MCU movies this year; but this was the only one that truly made me . . . well, marvel. 4 stars.
tl;dr – jaw-dropping animation, heartfelt script, complex characters; this is a super-hero comic book movie as it should be done, hilarious, tear-jerking, genuinely inspiring. 4 stars.