3 ½ (out of 4)
No solitary superhero, not even Batman, has such a glut in film media. I wasn't anticipating Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse for this reason alone until I found out Phil Lord, half of the duo behind Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and the Jump Street films, was a screenwriter.
It was enough to get me to pay for a Sony animated movie – after Spider-Man: Homecoming, I was over the idea of Spider-Men that weren’t Tobey Maguire and wasn’t too keen on animated capeshit not directed by Brad Bird. Needless to say Into the Spider-Verse obliterated my mild expectations and is unexpectedly exemplary of the genre’s potentialities. It's a triumph of stellar visual conception, acutely funny scripting, inspired voice work, emotionally staked plotting and perhaps the weirdest superhero ensemble the silver screen has seen.
Using sci-fi gobbledygook to bridge realities and juxtapose great characters and voices, the Spider-Verse's cup runneth over in novelty and fun. John Mulaney as Peter Porker, Nicolas Cage as Noir Spider-Man, Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy, Jake Johnson as an aged Peter, Kimiko Penn as Peni Parker and of course Shameik Moore as protagonist Miles Morales all fit and bring their bizarre characters to a strangely smooth place of relatability.
This Spider-Man is perpetually entertaining and appropriately invested in both pathos and danger. But a clever script and memorable characters are complimented with pristine visual motion, the actual look and feel of a comic book. The animation grain is constructed with a near-kaleidoscopic design – the speckled film surface perfectly blends the kinetics of stop-motion movement with the texture of polished 3D animation. Even the end credits are wondrous to behold – the entire visual design translates the wonder of a drawing coming to life, coalescing with seamless fluidity.
This is a stuffed Spider-Verse with many in-jokes for geeks and enough unregulated imagination to span an entire phase of the MCU. The bar has been raised for July's Spider-Man: Far from Home when it debuts with both Endgame and Captain Marvel still in multiplexes. That movie will be three times as expensive as Into the Spider-Verse but Sony's smartest play in years will have been easily the best thing to originate from Stan Lee’s most popular single creation since Spider-Man 2 changed the game 15 years ago.
To keep it brief...
Soon to Come:
so many briefings