31 Days of Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
2018 in cinema has seen a lot of hype, I would say more than even in years past. Hereditary was the greatest horror movie ever made. Black Panther the greatest superhero movie ever made, or on occasion the greatest thing to happen to black culture—depending on who you asked. A Star is Born was the best thing to happen to America, or the worst thing to happen to music—opinions differed. Few of the films this year were able to live up to the hype, as is often the case with the hype machine. It’s like a snowball gaining more and more mass as it rolls down hill until it has inevitably passed the point of praise to hyperbole. Soon just out of sheer excitement you’re telling people that The Greatest Showman is the best movie of 2017, which we all knew wasn’t true—you’ve gotta relax Lauren. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the latest in the films of 2018 to get eaten up by the hype machine. Before I saw the movie this past Sunday, even with my pointed attempts to avoid anything about the film it was impossible to miss the talk of, “best Spider-Man movie ever,” or, “best superhero movie ever,” or probably most blasphemous, “best animated movie ever.” I knew those claims were unlikely at best, especially the last which I think one Miyazaki may have something to say about. But Into the Spider-Verse did not disappoint even after all the smoke being blown up its ass. While it is definitely not the best animated movie ever and probably not the best superhero movie ever. It is a pretty incredible film.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse pulls from a lot of source material from the Marvel comic book backlog, for those of you that are familiar you will know that Spider-Man has done the rounds as a character at Marvel. With a few dozen writers writing a fair number of iterations of the character. There reached a point of peak Spider-Man around 2014 where it felt like there were about a dozen different Spider-Men running around. The two main ones being Peter Parker of course and Miles Morales who has been introduced three years earlier in 2011 by Brian Bendis. In 2014, in an effort to address some of the parallel world madness that had happened with Spider-Man while also selling some comic books at the same time. Marvel introduced the Spider-Verse storyline written by David Slott where every iteration of Spider-Man and Woman from Peter Parker and Miles Morales to Jessica Drew and Mayday Parker combined to fight Morlun. I wasn’t a big fan of Spider-Verse at the time. Slott seemed to juggle the dozen characters with too much frequency so it was near impossible to get invested in all the stories even after delving into the multiple spin-off comics in Edge of Spider-Verse and solo book tie-ins that followed some of the characters individually. Which was why going into Into the Spider-Verse I was optimistic, but cautiously so. And while the trailers for Spider-Verse were fantastic its not like we haven’t been burned before by superhero film’s trailers.
But the trepidation aside, the hype snowball ignored, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ended up being as good as it possibly could be. It’s so rare for a blockbuster film that usually goes through board room after board room and endless producer notes to end up working so seamlessly. My only real complaint about the movie is how bland the score is. Which isn’t nothing, there were some some really great moments in the film that got undercut by less than ideal music cues. I’m sure a lot of the film’s success is because as far as Sony was concerned this movie was pretty low risk, if it worked beautiful, but there was no need to launch the wider Spider-Verse cinematic universe or anything like that. So behind a great creative team and a stellar voice acting cast they managed to produce one of the most fun movies of the year—I’m still not quite ready to call it the best superhero movie.
The art style alone would have made this film worth going to the theater for. The animation team behind Spider-Verse so beautifully captured the essence of comic books in a way that I don’t think any movie ever has. The action sequences were everything I always wished we could get from the stories pulled from my favorite comic books. And unlike some of the more recent superhero stumbles it injected a healthy amount of good comedy into a story with enough heart to not feel like it was undermining itself at ever turn. In a year of surprises from Bumblebee being pretty good to The Cloverfield Paradox being pretty awful the biggest surprise might just be how great Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse turned out. Go see the movie. You owe it to yourself to see probably the greatest Stan Lee cameo in theaters–you didn’t hear it from me but I almost cried.