Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Laughed, cried, cheered. Beautiful.

Into the Spider-Verse is so much better than it could have been – and how good it is pretty miraculous.

Breathtaking imagery, innovative animation (and combinations of styles therein), perfectly balancing fan service with accessibility for the less-initiated (like me), warm and wonderful vocal performances, and a relentless but rewarding barrage of visual and audio ideas (it’s produced by the directors of The Lego Movie). But what elevates this movie from “fun” to “beautiful” is what ties all these elements together: the messaging.

I lost count of many times the words “I love you” are spoken. By men. To eachother. And it’s wonderful.

Even Nic Cage‘s supposedly grim Spider-Man Noir says it, genuinely and tenderly. Aside from the brutal event which forces Miles Morales (portrayed so gorgeously by Shameik Moore) to take up the mantle of Spider-Man, this movie is full of wonderful messages I’d want my kid, if I had one, to see and hear.

The staging and physical performances are so elegantly expressive: the conversation between Miles and his dad through the door; and the moment where Miles weeps, his body wracked by his sobbing, his shoulders contracting and collapsing with palpable ache.

The entire movie is a whirlwind compilation of character details so nuanced, and moments so delicate, one has to imagine that the writers, directors and animators fought hard for so many of them.

On a larger scale, Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) as a jaded-but-still-more-than-capable superhero and mentor is pitched just right and, like Spider-Man Noir, just this side of two-dimensional and predictable.

It’s great and fitting to hear that the charismatic and scene-stealing Gwen aka Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) is the breakout fan favourite and will get her own spin-off – almost as great as the fact that she wasn’t made merely the romantic interest in this story.

An amazing cast of face actors who prove here to be wonderful voice actors. And while the “appearances” of Kathryn Hahn and Lily Tomlin were delights, my personal, bawl-my-eyes-out-with-every-line-uttered award goes to Miles’ Dad, Atlanta‘s own Paper Boi, Brian Tyree Henry.

Further reading:

Further viewing:

First, a shorter one: the film’s directors talk through the meanings of the various visual aesthetics brought together in this Anatomy of a Scene:

A longer, more detailed deep-dive (and without spoilers outside of the theatrical trailer – neat!) into the look and techniques, courtesy of Howard Wimshurst: