10-word review: Take note: this is how a Spider-Man film should be.
The skinny: The ground rule: there are many dimensions as there are Spider-Men. When Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) takes up the mantle of Spider-Man in his reality, he teams up with other Spider-people from other dimensions to stop the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from destroying the world.
Here be spoilers…
What we like: This is a New York that I'm familiar with. The other Spider-Man films show a sanitised New York—bright-lit areas sans graffiti. In this animated fare, this New York is a more exciting beast. When night falls, this is where the animation shines its brightest: neon lights and street lamps make the city pulsate with life. The City that Never Sleeps is a character unto itself thanks to its graffitied walls and shadowed alleyways. The soundtrack is perfect, adding another layer to New York. The music complements certain characters like the opening alarums of Blackway and Black Caviar's "What's Up Danger" that announces the presence of Kingpin's enforcer, the Prowler and Post Malone and Swae Lee's "Sunflower" that is Miles Morales' personal theme song.
Tell me that this isn't something that will kickstart your day.
And, may I compliment the animation in this movie. It took elements from the sequential artform to make something that is visually-arresting, something that Ang Lee tried to do with the Hulk but failed. The use of caption boxes or thought bubbles for Morales' inner thoughts as though his newly-acquired spider powers heightened his perception. The colour palette is something to behold. Certain scenes looked like a 3D movie that you're not wearing a pair of stupid 3D glasses for) but the style could be a tip of the hat to how comics were printed in CMYK and Ben-Day dots.
Only an animated film is able to pull off the out-there action sequences—a punch is able to effortlessly roll into swinging on a webline that settles into a kick. All the while explosions are happening ALL AROUND THEM. I was especially floored by how Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn) move and even more impressed with how the bigger-than-life Kingpin is able to fight and parry like Ali in his prime.
One more pro for an animated Spider-Man: the eyes of the masks is able to emote as you can see below.
I'd prefer this version of Miles Morales as Spider-Man. I like Tom Holland but it's refreshing to see a Brooklyn-raised, mixed-race kid take on the webslinger's role. Given how diverse the world is now, kids of different ethnicities are glad to see Miles Morales on the big screen. Also, Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld) and Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) aren't your damsels in distress; the former kicks ass as Spider-Gwen and the latter kicks ass with a well-handled broom.
Combined with the animation, you can see the personalities reflected through the voice acting. Jake Johnson is fantastic as the cynical Peter B Parker, the paunchy divorced Spider-Man, who warms up to Mile Morales' character. And how great is it to have John Mulaney, who already sounds like an old-timey transatlantic accented character in real life, to voice Spider-Ham. And, I didn't know Nicolas Cage was in this, to be honest. When I heard Spider-Man Noir speak, I thought it was Josh Brolin but it's actually Cage.
Oh, Cage. We missed you when bees ate your face but we thumbs-up your performance of Spider-Man Noir.
What we didn't like: There's the saying, 'too many cooks spoil the broth'. In this case, the number of Spider-men/women/pig might not afford them proper screen time. We get a sense of Miles Morales, Peter B Parker and Gwen Stacey but there wasn't enough time to fully flesh out the addition of three more spider-people in the film's second half.
Peter B Parker has a strong reaction when he sees this world's MJ (he and MJ were divorced in his own dimension) so it would make sense that other spider-characters would also be emotionally discombobulated when they see familial counterparts to people they know back in their dimensions, right? Except in Gwen Stacey's dimension, her best friend, Peter Parker, died in her arms… so why didn't she react when she saw Peter B Parker? And let's assume that if we follow the comic book, in Peter B Parker's world, his version of Gwen Stacey had died by the Green Goblin's hands, so why didn't he react to her when he met her?
Oh, and you had the Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone) appear in the first half of the movie but not at the climax? What is up with that?
What to look out for: Easter eggs galore. Keep an eye out for references to Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, yes, including the—gag—third instalment. Also, like any other Marvel movie, stay until the end of the credits.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is out in theatres.