If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t go into SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE with any expectations. I was hoping for a fun Spidey movie with tons of goofy shenanigans featuring all the spider characters and not much else. What I got was so much more. It was everything I didn’t know to hope for. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is a symphonic visual masterpiece. It is a masterclass in storytelling and character development. It’s everything you could want in a Spider-Man movie, even if you know next to nothing about Spider-Man.

This is a film not just for the fans, but for anyone who wants to be thrilled and uplifted by the heroics of Spider-Man. This is a textbook comic book movie. From the get-go, and I mean from the opening-freaking-credits, I had a stupid grin on my face. Walking out of that theater, I was, simply put, happy. I left the theater way happier than I entered it. I was thrilled to finally see a Spider-Man movie that fully grasped what Spider-Man means and what he stands for. So, how about I quit pontificating, and I break down everything that makes this quite possibly the best Spider-Man movie of all time? Yeah, I said it. We have a legitimate contender, everyone, to take the high seat away from SPIDER-MAN 2.

The Story of SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

One of the biggest reasons SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE succeeds is because it’s not a movie about Peter Parker. This movie is, first and foremost, about Miles Morales. We’ve seen plenty of Peter Parker movies and shows. It’s about time someone else, like Miles, got the spotlight. In this way, the movie can still tell an origin story without rehashing familiar story beats. We quickly learn that Miles’ life is… hectic. He’s thrust into a new school where things move very quickly, and it doesn’t help that his father is always pressuring him to do his best. And, to make things even tougher, shortly after starting school, Miles has that fateful meeting with a radioactive spider.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Entertainment.

From there, we’re introduced to a slew of new characters, in a very organic manner. We briefly meet the Spider-Man of Miles’ dimension; his death at the hands of Kingpin is what sets Miles down his path to becoming the new Spider-Man. Eventually, we also meet Gwen, who’s been going to Miles’ school while she’s trapped in his dimension, and the Peter Parker of another dimension. These three are essentially the “trinity” of the film. Down the line, we also meet Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker (aka SP//dr), and Spider-Ham. Together, the Spiders have to destroy the supercollider device that Kingpin has built, which is capable of opening portals to other dimensions (and possibly destroying them).

A Pointedly Crazy Yet Cohesive Story

At times, the story can seem a little ridiculous, and potentially overwhelming for viewers. But, surprisingly, for as crazy as all of this gets, it holds together extraordinarily well, and never loses its footing. You could have minimal prior knowledge of Spider-Man and still follow this movie just fine. Every time a new Spider is introduced, we get a brief cut that gives us that hero’s backstory. The movie makes a bit of a gag out of it, and even though you might see it coming, it never loses its charm. It’s especially funny when Noir, Peni, and Ham introduce themselves all at once.

Of course, the most important story in SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is Miles’. This is the kind of underdog, coming of age story that fits perfectly in a Spider-Man movie, and Miles’ character perfectly translates that on screen. Seeing him go from this confident kid to an uncertain newbie, to an honest-to-god hero all feels natural if at times a bit rushed. One worry I had going into this film was that they’d be shoving too much on Miles all at once. That still kind of stands, but it never feels like a detriment to the overall story. And, again, when Miles finally realizes his potential to be Spider-Man, it feels like a natural, triumphant moment, and I’m not going to dock points from SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE for getting there the way it did.

Thematically Powerful

This message of this incredible story is just as potent as the story itself. It is, in part, that with great power there must also come great responsibility. But, really, the film translates this ages-old phrase for a modern audience to something like this: anyone can put on the mask and be Spider-Man. Meaning, anyone can be a hero. Anyone can do good or make a difference.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Entertainment.

This has always been the message of Spider-Man’s motto. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE brings those words to life in an inventive and fun way.

All the Characters Are Amazing!

Oh my god, I love all the characters in SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE! Miles, Peter, and Gwen are all fan-freaking-tastic! We spend the most time with them and get to enjoy their individual personalities. Of course, Miles is the focus character, so we get the most on him. But this version of Peter Parker, too, is given a whole lot of unique depth. This version is tragic and somewhat depressing, but not overly so. And Gwen is so spunky and flashy!

I wanted more of her! Noir, Peni, and Ham are equally enjoyable, if for different reasons. These three are just as unique as the others; my friends and I cracked up hearing Noir’s markedly dark backstory. Peni Parker is hysterically stylized like an anime character. And Spider-Ham is surprisingly palatable; watching him smack the shit out of Scorpion with a cartoon mallet is enjoyable, to say the least.

Kingpin is humorously massive; at times, the screen will be completely blacked out by his body, and you’ll be left with these really cool shots of his grimacing face. He’s also humorously keyed into a mafia stereotype, which isn’t the norm for the character, but works to great effect in SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Entertainment.

And just about every other character in this film has some layer of depth or another. Jefferson Davis, Miles’ father, fits the good cop/dad role perfectly. Aaron Davis, aka the Prowler, is really fun to watch; he might be one of the most frightening villains I’ve ever seen in an animated film. And these are just two of the other spectacular inclusions in SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE Is So Freaking Beautiful!

When I called this movie a symphonic visual masterpiece, that wasn’t an exaggeration. Calling this film beautiful doesn’t begin to do it justice. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is an astonishingly stylized film; it’s the sweetest form of eye candy. The film throws a barrage of colors and flashy images at you, but it’s never too overwhelming or grandiose.

There are bits where text scrolls along the screen, mimicking the sounds the characters make. At certain moments, actual comic panels show up on screen, capturing specific moments of the ongoing scenes. When Miles first gets his powers, his mind goes on a climb, and multiple comic book text blocks pop up, reading out his thoughts to us. This is, literally, a comic book movie!

And can we talk about the soundtrack?! Rap and hip-hop are definitely not my preferred forms of music, but every song included in SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is utterly perfect! We’re introduced to Miles while he’s working on some art and singing one of his favorite pop songs (I couldn’t tell you what it was, but it was a damn good bop). And when he finally suits up in his black and red suit, the tune is fittingly triumphant and powerful.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Entertainment.

Going along with the soundtrack is the sound mixing in SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. One of the reasons Prowler is so damn terrifying is that every time he shows up, he’s accompanied by these unnerving, vibrating sound waves. And just about every other sound effect and clip fits perfectly for the scenes in which their featured.

Very (And I Mean Very) Minor Gripes

There were three, and only three minor things that bugged me (no pun intended) about SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. First, as much as I loved the inclusion of Noir, Peni, and Ham, these three are ultimately pointless to the film’s overall progression. They don’t really need to be there.

The film could’ve taken even more time to focus on Miles, Peter, and Gwen had they cut out the other three Spiders. I enjoy that they’re there, though, as they add a layer of humor and flair to the film. I would’ve preferred even more from the big three, but there’s a pleasant mix with all six as it is. Another problem and this is really just me doing some stupid nitpicking, is how batshit crazy the final fight is.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Entertainment.

Even if you know nothing about the physics of hypothetical black holes and wormholes, this stuff really pushes the envelope. As the Spiders and Kingpin’s forces battle in the supercollider chamber, what is essentially a black hole opens up in the center of the room. And we’re just supposed to be cool with everyone fighting around a dimensional portal like it’s nothing. I can suspend my disbelief, but c’mon. Also, there are several moments in the film (not action sequences) that feature more than a few fast-paced cuts.

These are scenes like Miles going through a hectic day at school and the like, day-to-day type things. However, many of these moments feel clunkily edited together. They’re really choppy and kind of jarring, though still not hard to follow. This seems to have been done intentionally, however, and since these scenes do accomplish what they’re meant to, this fault can be easily forgiven.

You Need to Watch SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

I love this film. I really do. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is the Spider-Man film I didn’t know I needed in my life. It’s gratifying on just about every level. It tells a beautiful story, stars believable characters who we can believe in, features some of the best visuals to ever be featured in an animated film, and absolutely nails the thematic side of things. This is an emotionally-driven film, with tons of heart, humor, and action to please any and all audiences.

Literally, every voice actor in SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE brings their A-game. These are the voices I hear in my head when I read the characters in the comics. Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, and Hailee Steinfeld as Miles, Peter, and Gwen, respectively, steal the show. And Liev Schreiber as Kingpin is utterly perfect! These performances help drive home what is already an immaculate story.

SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is everything you could hope for in a Spider-Man film and more. It’s something new and unexpected. It succeeds because it dares to be different, and it dares to tell a story all its own. I can’t recommend this film enough. Go out and see it if you haven’t already. And if you have, go see it again!

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