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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Thrilling and reference-filled, this film is equal parts substance and fun

5/5 stars
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
© Sony Pictures Animation

Into the Spider-Verse is another in a long line of animation films that proves more attention needs to be paid to this medium. Don’t let the fact that this movie is animated or superhero-centric deceive you.

I found the animation style to be bold, different, and a bit weird. At one point, I wasn’t sure whether my sugar was high, or the screen was actually blurry. Thankfully, Kelly confirmed it was not my diabetes. Eventually you get used to it, but the first few scenes are a bit distracting.

The movie makes the bold decision to feel very much like a comic book in certain sequences, and it pays off to create a visual style nothing like I’ve seen before. The representation of “Spidey Sense” with bright colors replacing the background are straight out of the panels of a comic. Also, captions are used onscreen to reinforce Miles’ inner monologue, which is yet another tribute to the character’s beginnings.

Spider-Man needs to be funny, but the careful balance between heart and silliness hasn’t been successfully toed by many a writer. Thankfully, that’s not the case here. This film is riddled with wonderful references, funny jokes, yet important moments with a powerful message.

The voice cast did a lot to make those lines land. In particular, Jake Johnson’s voice performance was nothing less than spectacular. While he’s most known for his character Nick on New Girl, most of the characters I’ve seen him play are one-dimensional. Refreshingly, I felt he did a great job of playing Peter Parker, a character that calls for complex portrayal. Peter is funny, silly, doesn’t know when to shut up, but deeply loves his Aunt May and MJ, and at his core cares about the lives of the people that surround him.

Stan Lee’s cameo stole the show for me, and brought tears to my eyes. His appearances have been a delight for decades now, and I even loved his part in DC’s Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. But he’s normally used for a funny one-liner. Into the Spider-Verse instead decided to make his cameo of vital importance to Miles’ journey, which was especially a gut punch after his recent passing.

At the end of the day, it’s simple: I loved this film. It’s a great story, with interesting characters and a strong theme. I hope more movies follow its lead.