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

What an incredible film: funny, heartwarming, emotional and an absolute visual masterpiece.

The animation is stunning; this is a truly unique style, one that bursts from the screen in neon hues and bold shapes. When the comic visuals come in - the speech bubbles, thought boxes, sound effects and panels - the film truly becomes a comic brought to life. Kingpin is a real standout - he’s huge, hulking and unsettling: everything needed to make a terrifying villain, even before his plan is revealed. And when his plan and its motivation is unveiled, it’s done masterfully: a few quick strokes of beautiful exposition that shade in everything we need to know about him in a matter of moments.

This is characteristic - the film doesn’t bog itself down with explanation, but instead trusts its audience to follow along and accept a large dose of comic book logic, which is a huge narrative strength. We're not bombarded with information that flies right over our heads - we get straight to the meat of the story, and whatever we do need to know is skilfully shown to us either visually or with intelligent dialogue.

It’s exciting to see comics’ greatest untapped storytelling resource - the multiverse - finally explored onscreen. This allows Into the Spider-Verse to give lesser known spider-heroes the spotlight: this is Miles Morales’ story, but Gwen Stacy gets a lot too, as well as a few other weird and wonderful spiderpeople. And, of course, Peter Parker is here - but not like we’ve ever seen him onscreen before. With the amount of live action Spider-Man films there have been recently, it’s started to feel a bit like Peter is stuck in time, eternally watching Uncle Ben’s death or learning how to fight his first super villain. It’s a refreshing change to see him grown up, even burnt out - he’s struggling, but he can still teach Miles what he knows.

This film isn't afraid to poke fun at its sometimes outlandish concepts (“how many more spider people are there?!”) and is often laugh out loud funny. It does a fair deal of fourth wall not-quite-breaking too, in all its self aware glory. But when it’s time to get serious, when it’s time to deliver the emotional gut punches to the audience, the tone shifts perfectly and the film doesn’t flinch from something genuine and sincere. Miles - like any superhero in the making - has to face his fair share of difficulties before he’s ready to go up against a supervillain, and these struggles are both personal and physical. Into the Spider-Verse holds the importance of family and friends at its core, and the result is touching and sometimes tear-jerking. 

But, overall, my favourite thing about this film is that it reminded me of why I love superhero comics - their visuals, their emotional range, how there’s no other medium quite like them. Superhero stories resonate with so many of us because they are (usually) stories of normal people who find themselves suddenly gifted with extraordinary powers, who then have to find it within themselves - from what was there all along - to be extraordinary. 

It’s an idea embodied perfectly by my favourite quote from this film: “anyone can wear the mask”.