Take notes, Aquaman.
New York City is a town with attitude. There’s a certain fellowship amongst the millions of commuters; it is a city of hard-workers with determined, persevering mindsets.
That’s why Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero — he’s barely a superhero. He’s not some lofty, all-knowing god far above our mortal problems, nor is he an ultra-rich isolationist. Unlike most other comic book characters, Spider-Man is a man of the people and a reflection of the society he exists in. He eats pizza, rides the bus and has everyday relationship struggles. He’s the most relatable hero; as the film states, “it could be anyone behind the mask.”
With Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, relatability takes central stage. Equipped with a dazzling, free-flowing animation style, a solid multiverse story and a genuinely hilarious and risk-taking script, Spider-Verse stands as one of the best superhero movies of all time and easily the most honest and true depiction of Spider-Man ever.
On a technical level, the film is gorgeously rendered. The animators took extra care in detailing the CGI by hand, and that passion and creativity are prevalent in every second. I especially appreciate the imagination used amongst the many Spider-People; all seven heroes remain clearly distinguishable. Spider-Ham has a more cartoonish, kid-friendly shine, Spider-Man Noir is constantly rendered in black and white and Peni Parker, a robotic Japanese take on the hero, is given an anime-inspired look. Every animation choice feels deliberate and services that character’s traits and personality. The on-screen onomatopoeias (*bagel!* *thwip!* *dap!*) were so lively and exuberant I smiled all the way through the movie, and I felt as though I was rediscovering my love for comics.
Before the film came out, a Spider-Man story not starring Peter Parker made me nervous. Why fix it if it ain’t broke? Despite my early hesitations, Miles Morales proves himself to be an engaging, funny and above all relatable protagonist. His transformation from nervous, reluctant teenager to courageous, powerful hero is an absolute joy to witness. This is the first superhero movie since Guardians of the Galaxy where I’m dying for a sequel.
Miles’ origin story is so original and captivating that it barely feels like an origin story. All the typical Spider-Man tropes (Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility) are given exciting and occasionally surprising twists. The villains are also unique and often given an extra layer of backstory that deepens their characters.
Finally, after endless generic ones, we have a well-written superhero movie. The humor is a refreshing deviation from the usual, quippy one-liners that plague most Marvel and DCEU films. The jokes aren’t silly lines any character could say, but rather stem from likable characters; it’s personality-driven comedy done to perfection. While John Mulaney as Peter Porker was an excellent casting choice for absurdity, I thought the funniest character was Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir. Some of his lines made me wish I could re-do my senior quote.
My complaints for Spider-Verse are few and far between. I suppose I didn’t think the soundtrack was Post Malone’s best material, but I adore Vince Staples’ contribution (I’m listening to it as I write). I also didn’t love that the film repeats previously spoken lines as thoughts in Miles’ head, but I understand how it might be helpful for younger viewers.
It is significant that there is no stereotypical or comic-accurate Peter Parker in the film; the only versions we see in the film are a blond in his 20s and an overweight, moderately-despondent man in his 40s. There’s no standard for what the hero has to be. It could be anyone behind the mask. The only requirement? “Spider-Man always gets up.”