None of our pasts look darker than through the lens of childhood Halloween costumes. (unless you're a practiced serial killer, in which case, please turn yourself in after sharing this review with all of your friends, if you have any) I have masqueraded as a G.I. Joe, a hand-stitched T-Rex with lumps in all the wrong places, The Incredible Hulk, and, in terms of the most haunting: Winnie the Pooh. Never, despite what I'm certain was ungrateful insistence, did I get to go as my hero Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse felt like one of many cosmic events I've had the pleasure of enjoying at the theater. What feels so authentic and true to comic book crossovers of old is somehow also one of the freshest, most modern takes on superheroes to hit the silver screen. My tried and tested standards for the past 16 years of Sony's takes on the web-slinger have been surpassed on only a few occasions, but Spider-Verse finds its way above and beyond what I could even hope for.
Brought to life by the incredibly empathetic voice of Shameik Moore, Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales, a Black-Latino teenager growing up in his universe's New York. Through pure chance and the indirect acts of a nefarious science-y organization, Miles is bitten by a super special spider, delivering the entirety of his heroic transformation by the merciful 20-minute mark. The trope of an origin story is even delightfully skewered when several universes collide, bringing a colorful cast of Spider-people crashing together. Each of these additions bring humor and heart with similar backgrounds, all twisted by their unique worlds.
In a year of phenomenal live-action cast ensembles (here's looking at you, Widows), Spider-Verse web-slings for the fences with some of the most exciting vocal matches in recent memory. Jake Johnson brings an indelibly lax charm to the broken-down Peter B. Parker. Nicholas Cage decides to make 2018 his most fun year yet with the Dick Tracy-level brooding of Spider-Man Noir. Hailee Steinfield brings some much-needed leadership to the mix as Spider-Gwen. John Mulaney multiplies the hilarity by -
[Joe then proceeded to write 3000 words lauding the performances of every other cast member, animation artist, and ticket-buyer. We cut him off. It was excessive and, frankly, deserving of a Razzie, if Razzies were for self-employed "journalists".]
To stack upon the talent and potential of this cast, the animation is some of the most inventive and hypnotizing of the millennium. It's only been 18 years, but still. The ability to somehow capture the bombastic nature of comics while looking like no other comic ever published is an astounding, impossible achievement. And if that weren't enough, the script and direction convey the universal appeal of a peak Pixar feature. Humor for children that also lands with adults, and even hardcore fans, is a tricky balancing act. Yet, each joke and quip lands with incredible force, as do the emotional ticks. While the climax follows somewhat typical superhero storylines, the rest of this film feels wholly invigorating.
A near-perfect storm blew into theaters this December, and one can only hope Spider-Verse isn't lost in the mix. It is genuinely the most fun I had with a movie this year, and one of the greatest examples of, in this case, capeless crusader cinema.
I give this film a steady 9 out of 10.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.