Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Spider-Man is marked as the only superhero character to have undergone so many reboots in such an enclosed period time. Switching between a total of three actors, with the most recent being Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Homecoming, many have pondered whether audiences would even have the stomach for yet another incarnation of the Web-Slinger. That seed of doubt remained in my head, even as I walked into the press screening for the film. And while Spider-Man: Homecoming finally brought the franchise back on course with “an action-packed, riveting experience that proves to easily be one of the best films that Marvel Studios has ever put out,” (Full Review here), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse accelerates the progress that Homecoming began with a refreshing and bold take on a character that seems to show no signs of tear, even after so many incarnations. Featuring dazzlingly faithful animation, Into the Spider-Verse is an impressive and enticing animated extravaganza, colliding its seemingly convoluted plot threads into a tight, concise package that ranks as the best Spider-Man film ever made.
When it comes to the central lore of Spider-Man as a character, it can often be described as convoluted and dysfunctional, especially the deeper a casual fan enters. However, Into the Spider-Verse handles these convoluted themes with both class and style. Characters who would seem far too niche are brought to the screen in such a charming fashion as to where they become easy favorites for the audience. The inclusion of such a diverse roster of characters was refreshing, especially given that the franchise has mostly been limited to Peter Parker as a key protagonist.
But while the roster of characters constantly leaves the audience breathless with laughter and enjoyment, the film never moves it central focus from Miles Morales. His coming-of-age story is nothing new to the superhero genre, but its depictions and messages are far more impactful. Rather than being immediately acclimated with his powers both physically and socially, the filmmakers smartly choose to highlight the struggle Miles faced to become what is an international icon. It’s a riveting plot thread that keeps Into the Spider-Verse grounded, even when bombastic action sequences are seen left to right.
But while these moments are impressive, they aren’t without structural issues. Unlike films such as Logan, Into the Spider-Verse is never a film that breaks the mold of the genre. It simply just refines it. And the consequences of that is clearly felt in the heart of the film. It often feels malleable and somewhat hollow. Outside of the dazzling action sequences, Into the Spider-Verse never offered a clear emotional resonance, instead opting for a perfected formula that is suitable but still a formula.
Only heightening the experience even further is the slew of notable voice actors who have pitched in their talents for this marvel of an experience. From Hailee Steinfeld’s roaring Gwen Stacy to Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir, the cast on display here is a true delight, with their performances outshining the persona of the performer themselves. But easily the highlight of this star-studded cast is Jake Johnson as Peter Parker who delivers finesse and raw heart in a role that easily could have been devoid of both.
Easily one of the most daunting aspects of the film is its stunning animated presentation. Portrayed in the form of a genuine comic book, it has a smartly woven blend of blurs and contours, a decision that makes the film look absolutely gorgeous. It’s easily the best-looking animated feature of the entire year. Colors pop in an overstated way as faithful callbacks to the source material such as thought bubbles litter the screen. However, the animation does momentarily falter in the depiction of character models. In relation to other elements of the animation, the models felt too traditional at times and it would have benefited the film if they had decided to place their gorgeously bold palette of animation onto those models. Nevertheless, the presentation for the film is still revolutionary. It ranks as one of the most innovative attributes of any film of this year, outclassing its fellow animated feature films through its faithfulness and dire respect for its source material.
Collectively, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man film ever made. Outclassing Holland’s and Garfield’s charm with a wicked sense of humor and self-awareness and matching Maguire’s delightfully resonant stories with a heartfelt, if formulaic coming-of-age plot, Into the Spider-Verse is a refreshing take on a character that has quickly devolved into a cluttered mess in recent years.
Score: 8.6 out of 10