Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ★★★

Wanted more than anyone to love this because I firmly believe animation is the ideal medium for superhero movies: the element of visual exaggeration required of the genre is something that live-action just can’t accomplish in quite the same way, and I find these stories easier to take seriously when they’re not being acted out by grown men in colorful spandex. But while I was continually impressed, if only infrequently awed, by the Into the Spider-Verse’s visual display and use of stylistic devices unique of comics (e.g. thought/speech bubbles, stippling for texture, POW! shapes, etc.) the story here is far too convoluted for my taste, and I’m a character > narrative guy when push comes to shove. Still has many rewarding pleasures throughout: an eminently likable protagonist in Miles Morales; the atypical (for this genre) acknowledgement that there’s always more than one iteration of these characters; the willingness to playfully mock previous versions of the Spider-Man story (including Tobey’s hilariously awkward “evil dance”); Jake Johnson tapping into Mr. Miyagi mode; and every scene with Nic Cage, whose noir Spider-Man is perhaps the funniest supporting character in any film this year.

But for all its virtues, it’s also a physically weightless, relentlessly hyper barrage of comic book energy, which may well be ideal for fans of the genre but which I found, frankly, exhausting. And there’s a whole other category of things that just plain went over my head and in which others around me took delight. I’m talking about the stuff hardcore fans are likely getting a kick out of but for which I lack the context necessary to properly enjoy—the anime Spidey, for example, I’m able to briefly appreciate on a superficial level, but quickly grow restless with as she lingers in the margins while adding little else to the picture from a uninformed viewer’s perspective. Oh, and I also feel like the high school coming-of-age stuff isn’t sufficiently fleshed out, at least in comparison to last year’s Homecoming. Unmemorable villain, too. Those are the few objective criticisms I can offer. Otherwise, file under Perfectly Fine And Reasonably Entertaining But Just Not My Thing.

Garrett liked this review