And three why it’s not. But it’s in the conversation.
I’ll get the three reasons Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn’t the best superhero movie of all-time out of the way first.
- It’s animated, so the degree of difficulty is lower than live action. Even with CGI, live actors still have to convey so much more, and human productions still have the limitations that animation doesn’t. See also: The Simpsons have never aged.
- The Dark Knight
- Black Panther
But now! Oh, but now. The seven reasons IT MIGHT BE, which I started writing on the bus ride home immediately after leaving the theater. That’s how much I loved this movie. Go give it your money.
Spider-Verse has so much heart. So much poignancy. Think of all the types of relationships this movie hits: father-son. Mother-son. Husband-wife. Aunts and Uncles. Estranged brothers. Black sheep. Teacher-student. New friends. Old friends. Lost friends. Best friends. Divorcees. Awkward teens. Owner-pet. Unrequited lovers. The relationship you have with yourself.
I almost cried twice: when Miles says goodbye to his Uncle Aaron, and when Miles sends Peter Parker back to his dimension. I’ve only cried in theaters for Toy Story 3 and Coco. That a “cartoon Spider-Man movie” came thisclose to joining that group says so much. These characters and their bonds all MEANT something. Plus: goodbye Stan Lee.
But it was also hilarious! I chuckled more times than I can remember and did that thing where you say “Ha, that’s funny” under your breath. But I also legitimately laughed out loud three or four times too. See it this weekend while families with kids are in the theater — their laugh track makes it even better.
Like some of my other favorite superhero movies (e.g. Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy I or Thor: Ragnarok), this movie just felt different.
The way each Spider-person gave their own intro, the way the animation still found ways to rack focus and do halftone pattern faces; how the soundtrack sounded different and contemporary and how it played with visual cues and meta concepts like text on screen or actual comic books updating as the plot moved along. The movie lived in some universe we’d never experienced and literally felt like nothing I’d seen before.
It also looked like very few things I’ve ever seen before. The trailers and commercials did this movie no favors: it was gorgeous.
To me, the animation in the ads looked janky, especially character mouths and faces when they talked. What a disservice. The visuals of this movie absolutely stunned me. And — despite completely detesting 3D movies — I kinda regretted not seeing this one with glasses. Especially during the LSD fever dream color bomb explosion climax. An animated movie at the absolute apex of what the form can deliver.
What makes Deadpool so good is how it subverts the superhero movie genre it knows it lives in. What makes Deadpool old so fast is it knows it’s subverting the superhero movie genre it knows it lives in and never lets you forget it. You definitely feel the Merc-With-a-Mouth DNA in Jake Johnson’s Spider-Man, but it never overstays its welcome. The film moves on too quickly to sincerity, action, reflection, and relationships (see above).
But Spider-Verse subverts the genre so many other ways. Our Spider-Man is a biracial, bilingual kid. He graffitis. HE WEARS JORDANS. Aunt May is a violent badass. Nicolas Cage voices Spider-Man Noir. Read that again.
I mean, the whole movie’s conceit is a subversion of plot mechanics. Even the most complex Marvel movies haven’t dealt with multiverses. And never once did it not make sense. Masterful.
One of the reasons people loved Erik Killmonger so much is that he actually had a point. You could relate to his desire to use Wakanda’s wealth to improve black communities worldwide, even if you couldn’t get on board with his anarchic plotting. The problem with 95 percent of superhero movie villains is nobody cares about them and has no reason to. Another evil person who wants power to take over the world. Great.
Not the case here. All Kingpin wants in Spider-Verse? To do whatever it takes to get his dead wife and kid back. If you can’t at least feel for him on that level, maybe you’re the bad guy.
I ❤ Miles Morales. I know Miles has been in the comics for awhile but I don’t read comics. This was my first exposure to the 13-year-old, Afro-Latino kid from Brooklyn with the great taste in music and better taste in sneakers. I fell in love.
The tenderness and vulnerability and insecurity that everyone appreciates from Tom Holland in the MCU gets turned up to 11 with Miles. He’s in middle school! You pull for every underdog hero during their origin story, but you pull extra hard for this one. You can’t cast an actual 13-year-old to play a live-action Spider-Man. But you can do it in animation, and in Miles Morales we have the best on-screen Spider-Man yet. He spray paints his own logo!
So yeah, go see it at least a first time. Because I’m definitely seeing it a second.