Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ★★★★★

I had my reservations. Whenever the hype on a film reaches the levels that it has on this one, it's hard for the film to live up to it.

But the second it started, I totally forgot about the hype. I forgot about everything outside the edges of the frame, in fact. I was instantly caught up in this film, hooked by it, completely owned by it. It sucked me into its unique, wild world and I didn't consider anything else for two solid hours.

A lot of comic book movies have been described as a "comic book come to life", but compared to this film none of them are. It has been designed that way, with text on the screen and thought bubbles within frame and frames juxtaposed together. Sometimes the film's transitions even look like a page being turned. So, yeah, this literally looks like a comic book that has been brought to life, perhaps by some manner of glorious wizard. There's much more to this movie than the visuals, but the visuals are ASTOUNDING. This film is a living, breathing, delightfully chaotic work of art. It's not quite chaos, but it skirts right up to the edge of that description for virtually every second of its running time without spilling over. This might sound overpowering, overwhelming, overbearing...but somehow it isn't. The filmmakers have such a light touch that this all feels ingenious and effervescent and effortless instead. Great effort has clearly gone into every frame of this film, sometimes there are like three separate and equally well crafted styles of animation happening within a single frame, but it still somehow feels effortless, spontaneous, utterly fluid and smooth. That is amazing.

The level of invention on display here is jaw-dropping, not just in the visual style and design and the sheer exuberant look of the thing, but in its story. Again, multiple Spider-Mans from multiple dimensions existing in one world and fighting together against a variety of villains to stop multiple universes from being destroyed sounds overly busy. It sounds too complex and convoluted, but the deft touch of the storytelling lays everything out concisely and coherently, while stuffing everything that the filmmakers could possibly think of into it. This thing should burst at the seams, but it doesn't, and it doesn't even feel overstuffed. Again, it feels perfectly balanced and fluid and spontaneous and insanely intelligent. Emotionally this movie resonates strongly as well. I was thoroughly involved in the characters, which are established well and, again, effortlessly. The movie balances a lot of characters but gives each of them their moment to shine, while never robbing a thing from Miles Morales, the burgeoning Spider-Man at the center of this story. The theme that anyone can be a hero sounds obvious, but feels so beautiful and subtle here. I love the way little moments pay off later and how little jokes gain weight and emotional heft by the end. Everything matters so much by the end of this movie, everything is so deeply felt. I was on the verge of tears at one point, for God's sake. I didn't anticipate that.

"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" really is as incredible as you've heard. It bursts off the screen, dazzling and thrilling and exuberant and hilarious and heartfelt. It moved me and brought me endless joy for two hours. It might be the best "Spider-Man" movie ever. It might just be the best comic book movie ever (animation feels like the perfect venue for this genre, allowing for a bending of physics and an exuberant play that live action probably can't match). But that's all a matter for another time. By the end I was just stunned and floored and had a smile on my face that couldn't be moved, while tears pooled at the corners of my eyes. It's not quite like anything else you've seen. So see it.

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