Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ★★★

Visually speaking, this is probably the most creative animated film that's come along in quite a while.

But that said: Your effects artists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

What I mean is that there are a lot of moments, and indeed entire movie-wide aesthetic effects, when this film decides to emulate a comic book without really considering why it's doing so. Comics are a restrictive art form that use many devices borne out of desperation, as Will Eisner put it. Word balloons and written sound effects are used because the medium has no sound. "Ben-Day dots" were used because the printing processes were in their infancy. This film does some really new and original things with its visuals, but when it writes "AAAAHH" on the screen while a character is audibly screaming, it regresses to the realm of cheap gimmicks.

In some cases these typographical homages work pretty well, such as when used as captions on establishing shots, which are done pretty much the same way in comics and film already, just with slightly different styles usually. I think it also could have used the thought bubbles effectively, if not for the fact that their words are still audible.

"Making it look like a comic book" is not a worthwhile goal in itself, just as Battlefield Earth was not saved by its liberal use of Dutch angles. There is a fine line between "cool visual effect" and "silly, pointless gimmick," and while this film mostly stays on the right side of the line, it does overstep it often enough to disappoint me.

I close by reiterating that I enjoyed the film very much and I mostly thought the visuals were superb, because I want to remind people that I'm not a cranky contrarian who was looking for things to hate. It's a good film, and anyone who's interested in animation should definitely check it out.