It’s a wonderful feeling when you watch a film and are so enraptured by it that when it finishes you must immediately get to your computer to write about it. I did just that. So why is this review a good week late then? I needed to dream about the film first. That’s the kind of state of wonder Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse puts you in.
You’ve never seen a film animated like this. You watch and it feel like you’re witnessing a truly original form of animation. I could be wrong about it being the first and all, but it earns that distinction. Three people share the directing credit here – Peter Ramsey (director of the underrated Rise of the Guardians), Rodney Rothman and Bob Persichetti. Having this many directors on a film could have made it a fractured mess, but instead it’s rapturous harmony. They accomplish so many impossible things that weigh down a lot of other comic book films. They balance all these characters so well, and manage to tell the story of a kid learning to become the hero he’s capable of being, while also telling the story of a hero who’s lost his way and forgotten how to be one. Every frame of this film is so goddamn vibrant and invigorating. They completely embrace the look of a classic comic book. The film is a literal comic book brought to life with offset printing overlaying each frame and text appearing on screen at will. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s one of the most gorgeous, eye-popping things I can recall at least this year, if not this decade.
The voice cast should get one of those SAG nominations for Best Cast. Everybody, no matter how big or small the part, is the perfect choice and is bringing their A-game. You just look down the cast list and go “Yeah, that person was perfect for it”. It’s one of the only animated films I’ve seen where you can really feel the actors performing rather than recording lines, almost like they are physically there on the screen – they truly inhabit their characters. I could picture perfectly Shameik Moore and Jake Johnson acting out Miles Morales and Peter Parker. Nic Cage is perfect as Spider-Man Noir, I was dying laughing at every single line he had. Then you add Brian Tyree Henry, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, John Mulaney and a few other surprises – I mean this film is stacked. This film makes the case for a best voice performance award at the Oscars. Daniel Pemberton is an underrated composer who delivers another winning work. I particularly enjoyed his horror-tinged work on all the Prowler scenes, heightening the threat he poses simply by existing.
I should also add, this film is HILARIOUS. When I reviewed The Favourite I said it had the title of making me laugh the hardest in the theater this year. No more. Into the Spider-Verse is the hardest I’ve laughed in the theater this year. I was dying in nearly every scene, the humor is just so honest, full of heart, whipsmart and rooted in the characters – it’s a true comic delight. I thought I had at least my top 10 of the year cemented. Not anymore. I gotta blow it all up and start over. This isn’t just the best animated film of the year, it’s one of the best films this year period. This might be a perfect comic book film. It reminds us why we love Spider-Man so much regardless of who’s behind the mask – we all have the ability to be a hero.