“In this telling of the story, it truly could be anyone behind that mask — a little girl, a grizzled detective, a middle-aged sad sack, maybe even another unassuming New York kid — and all the people wearing it are better together than they are apart.”
Critics, like Mashable’s own Angie Han, come bearing excellent spidey-news: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is as amazing as fans had hoped—if not a little bit better.
Sony’s animated take on a multi-dimensional Spider-Man filled universe has been met with across-the-board praise by early reviews, just weeks after a group of lucky New York Comic Con goers saw a 35-minute preview and reacted similarly.
An all-in return to the power of comic books, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t your average Peter Parker tale. This time around, Miles Morales (played by Shameik Moore) takes center stage, backed by five other Spider-people fighting to take down their mutual foe, The Kingpin.
Before you enter the Spider-Verse on December 14, check out critics’ takes on the web-slinging adventure below.
Miles Morales’ screen debut was worth waiting for
Spider-Man is a comic book character with an especially long legacy both in print and film/television; Into the Spider-Verse sees Miles wrestling with how he fits into this multiverse full of Spider-People in much the same way as the movie must wrestle with how it fits into the Spider-Man legacy. Thankfully, both Miles and Into the Spider-Verse demonstrate a unique style and a great deal of heart, qualities that undoubtedly set this superhero and his origin movie apart from other Spider-People/Spider-Man stories.
Morales must learn to accept his own greatness and overcome his personal insecurities in a world that can cruelly remind any of us at any time that we aren’t that special. It’s a tall order, and one that’s complicated by Morales’s young age. But Into the Spider-Verse impressively never loses sight of the fact that Morales is just a kid, just like Parker was when Lee and Ditko first created Spider-Man.
But all of the spider-people and villains are equally amazing
There are enough action-packed scenes and surprises to keep the “Avengers” movie crowd wowed, yet what makes “Spider-Verse” an essential entry in the superhero canon is the richness of its good guys. Little girls can see themselves in Gwen and Peni, out-of-shape dudes will get behind 40-something Peter’s hearty appetite and snarkiness, and Miles stands as the most universal of them all, a multicultural kid navigating self-confidence and identity issues with entertaining moxie.
Superhero movies tend to feel over-crowded when stuffed with too many villains, although “Spider-Verse” essentially requires it, seeing as how the movie serves up enough Spider-Whosits to field an amateur soccer team. It’s perfectly amusing to observe these eccentric alterna-heroes banter amongst themselves about how they got there (the effect is not unlike watching Homer Simpson adapt to being computer-animated in the “Treehouse of Horror” episode where he steps into the third dimension), but it’s not quite as fun watching a squad of mismatched Spideys take on a supercollider full of goons.
The storyline is completely bonkers
On the superhero side of things, after Miles is bitten by a genetically-modified spider, the story gets crazy… in a good way. In typical comic book bad-guy fashion, Kingpin creates tears in the space-time continuum and gains access to an infinite supply of alternate Earths – and their Spider-Men. As over-the-top as that is, writers Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman create a deeply personal story for the infamous villain that feels more authentic than the easy “I want to take over the city for no reason” approach.
This is an origin story for viewers who didn’t think they could stomach another origin story; it’s an origin story about how empowering origin stories can be. However much fun it might be to watch Captain America save the world for the umpteenth time, the most basic thrill of these movies is the idea that anyone can become a superhero (an ethos that Spider-Man has always personified) and “Into the Spider-Verse” stretches that idea to hilarious new dimensions.
The visual style is uniquely stunning
Spider-Verse is aiming for the opposite of realism. The visuals take their cue from Miles’ graffiti — and also tremendous inspiration from four-color comic book illustrations. This is a fascinating 2.5D universe, with cheek outlines that look pencil-drawn on digital faces. The characters’ movements have an endearing skipped-frame quality, halfway claymated. When the opening credits roll, the various studio logos transform into eye-popping psychedelic glitches — the first time a kid’s movie has ever reminded me of Enter the Void.
And while there is plenty to mock here — Lord and Rothman’s script gets in some choice digs at Peter Parker’s relationship issues — what distinguishes “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” in the end is that it takes its mission seriously, even when it’s being transparently silly. There is nothing cheap or snarky about the way the movie festoons its action sequences with “POW!” and “BLAMMO!” word bubbles, or shows us squiggly little lines whenever someone’s Spidey sense tingles. It’s a sign of a movie not just embracing its hand-drawn comic-book roots, but also striving to be the fullest, truest version of itself it can be.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a fresh, complicated take on a tried-and-true superhero staple
Miraculously, instead of feeling like too much of a good thing, “Into the Spider-Verse” is simply a very good thing. The film, directed by Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, captures the sprawling interconnectivity of comic-book universes in a way that no other feature film has. Anything can happen, and it usually does. It’s incredibly thrilling to watch, impressively emotional throughout, and easily the best Spider-Man movie since “Spider-Man 2.”