Drive around the block and find something else to crap on, neck-beard cynics and unappeasable uber-nerds. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse isn’t your newest victim. I mean, I’m sure it will be, anyway, but the civilized world knows it’s… amazing.
If you couldn’t put earplugs in and just see this movie for its mind-blowing visuals and motion-graphic glory — you’re dead inside. If you don’t think the soundtrack is a groovy celebration spanning generations, you should just live with those same earplugs in 24/7. If the clever writing is lost on you, perhaps a comedy appreciation course is offered at your local community college for cheap.
Oh, and if you can keep a dry eye when our man Stan Lee is memorialized, please put out an A.P.B. for your missing soul.
Those pitfalls aside, those of us with taste are in love with this film. Critics are exploding with praise, nabbing it a perfect slam-dunk Rotten Tomatoes score out of the gate. It is impossible to be any breed of Spidey fan and not love this flick from the first to the last frame. In fact, much of the buzz has been toward many feeling this is the best Spider-Man film they’ve seen. Now, I keep a lot of love for the original Rami romp in my heart, and there were merits to both reboots, including our current MCU web-slinger being a fantastic iteration. That said, this installment holds its own — all the way.
Let’s dive into the strengths of Spider-verse. Haters, go ask your mom for some more Cheesy Poofs and hang out over there in the corner.
It is a visual master class.
Describing the depth of style, and the mashup of elements perfectly conjured up by the eyeball-pleasing wizards of Into the Spider-verse is nearly impossible. On one hand, this film would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for someone on a psychedelic substance. On the other hand, it is a meticulous opus of color and form, abstract yet highly specific, blending sleek CGI with very graphical print elements, shaded and dimensional art with flat shapes, and is fully exploitative of these resources in every way. Action and story are not just married to these visual elements, but they are fused. Another miraculous fusion is the brilliant combination to distinctive genre styles: noir, anime, comic-action, slapstick cartoon and so on.
I didn’t see this movie in 3D — yet. That will have to change. Films like this are the reason technologies like 3D have been resurrected and modernized, and justify single-handedly the pain and suffering of those early years of 3D. (Looking at you, Michael Bay.)
This Spider-Man knows how to get down.
From classic fare like Hypnotize to the trendier musical landscape of What’s Up Danger, the soundtrack to the film is as good in the cinema as it will be on repeat in your playlist. The tunes are perfect for the moments they occupy on film, and the imagery and emotions will come right back to you on a full listen. This is an important bragging right for Marvel to sport, since DC’s television offerings are known so widely for their musical accompaniment.
It is wonderfully self-aware.
For those who were not already acquainted with the many perforations waiting to be pried open in the fourth wall, Deadpool drove the art form home for mainstream audiences, and that concept is alive and well in Into the Spider-verse. From self-deprecating cracks, to clever genre-spanning one-liners, the script is loaded with levity. Even the serious portions of the plot touch on overlaps to the existing lore and media that give the film a sense of place among the relatively high volume of Spider-Man iterations we’ve seen in this market of fleeting millennial attention spans over the past 16 years.
The story manages to be tight, in very risky plot-hole territory.
Face it. Multiverses are the ultimate breeding ground for tangents, inconsistencies, and overly-convenient fixes to the litany of oversights and blunders lying in wait for writers to implement in snatching failure from the jaws of success. This movie has none of those problems. The story is introduced, explored and buttoned up with very little — if any — moments of “wait, but what about?”
Laughter is the best medicine, and the dosage is just right.
Inside all that story and clever wall-breaking is a good helping of humor. Not just clumsy, force-fed gags, but well-timed cheeky moments. Some of these rely on the fandom of the audience and some are more transparent. All of them land with the skill expected by Phil Lord fans.
You want diverse, “woke” media? You got it.
In a time when failures to deliver on inclusive characters and casts can be a consistent deterrent to broad appeal, Into the Spider-verse is able to involve elements of race, body image, gender, teenaged mental strife and more in a very natural cast of characters. The film doesn’t patronize, sell out or talk down to the audience in the process of doing so, and the cast has shared relevance in a balanced ensemble.
One more thing: The voice talent nailed it.
You will hear voices you recognize in this movie. Nic Cage, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld and Liev Schreiber are some headliners who nail their characterizations expertly. Even the roles not performed by those big names have that “I know this voice!” quality to them. With a high likelihood that audiences who see this film are sporting sharp ears for such, the performances will deliver.
There may very well be elements of this film which become less excellent on more obsessive repeat viewings, but none of those possibilities easily figure up to toppling it from its teflon status among critics and, hopefully, audiences far and wide.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse opens everywhere on December 14th. I’m shamelessly slapping 5/5 stars on it.