Okay, so when I first heard that Sony were planning on doing a big cinematic animated Spider-Man movie, my first thoughts were… I’m not gonna lie- not exactly the most positive. It felt like just another notch on the belt of Sony’s ill-advised attempts to create a Cinematic Universe out of Spiderman, a feat that is significantly difficult to achieve even before you consider that literally every other attempt Hollywood has made to try to copy the MCU’s success has crashed and burned (minus the Godzillaverse somehow). Hell, one of the corpses littering that Cinematic Universe path was Sony’s first attempt at creating a Spideyverse via TASM2, which created a franchise that came out almost painfully stillborn.
So, with that in mind, I wasn’t initially very hyped for this movie when it was announced, in spite of being a huge animation fan. But, as more and more news and teasers came out about this film, my opinion slowly started to turn. First was the news that Lord & Miller (of LEGO Movie fame) were involving in the writing/producing, which was an obvious positive. Second was the teaser, which showed off some fantastically stylised animation that immediately got my interest and made it clear this wasn’t just going to be a cheap cash-in. Then the trailers came out revealing the whole ‘Spider-verse’ premise and I was firmly cemented as being fucking hyped for this movie, even before the absurdly positive reviews came out.
So, did the actual movie live up to my lofty expectations?
More or less, yeah.
No joke, I thought the movie was great fun and really well made to boot. The action was exciting, the animation bright and stylish, the characters instantly memorable and it really has its own unique fingerprint that sets it aside from the six(ish) live-action Spidey movies that have come before. Plus it was really heartful when it needed to be and really really funny as well.
Honestly, the movie reminded me heavily of the LEGO Movie in a lot of positive ways and not just because of Lord & Miller’s involvement. You have the colourful cast and unique animation style, yeah, but you also have the surprisingly strong structure/pacing, a fairly empathetic main character (Miles in this case,) for whom- even with the colourful cast- the film still very clearly ultimately revolves around and who has the big, dramatic and surprisingly well-constructed emotional payoff, which ties in incredibly well with the central subject (aka, LEGO/Spiderman). I’m not sure yet whether I prefer it to the LEGO movie. I think it does some things better (Miles’s emotional journey) and some not quite as well (minus Peter B. Parker and Gwen, the quirky side cast feels a touch underutilised), but the fact that it’s on the same level certainly says a lot.
Also the animation is excellent. Very pop and punchy and great to watch. I’ve always felt that animation has a lot more freedom than live-action and this is an excellent example as to why. It fits the quick webslinging Spidey action to a tee and never felt too difficult to follow (which was something I was a touch worried about watching the trailer). Then again, maybe I’m just a touch biased towards animated Spideys, having grown up on the 90’s animated tv show.
If I had to pick any flaws in the movie, it’s that, as I mentioned earlier, I did feel like some of the quirkier side-characters (Spider-Noir, Peni Parker and Spider-Ham) did feel a touch underutilised. Compared to how prominent the trailer make them look, they don’t really show up until the latter half of the movie and, while they do get a lot of great lines, moments and laughs (Spider-Noir in particular was my personal favourite), they don’t really get as much time to properly flesh them out. Which isn’t an entirely bad thing, since the movie uses that time to really flesh out Miles instead (which is good because Miles is a great character in this), but anyone expecting it to be their movie might be a touch disappointed. However, it’s not like they’re barely in it either. And the movie is still really really great.
Honestly, to sum up, I think the thing I appreciate most about it is just how fresh and different it feels from typical Spiderman media. I know we all complain about the movies jumping back to Peter Parker in high school again and again, so this movie doesn’t bother with it. Instead we get a bunch of different scenarios to explore instead, Peter as an adult, Peter as a semi-washed out schlub, Miles in high school (which carries a lot of important differences/different family dynamics than Peter) and so on. And it really does make an enormously positive difference. I brought up Sony’s attempts to make a Spider-Man cinematic universe before, but this is really the sort of thing they should’ve been aiming for the whole time. Not scrounging for villains/side-characters and trying to get them to hold their own movies, but by taking the existing characters we know and love out of their comfort zones and putting them in unique and different scenarios. I’m honestly fairly excited to see a standalone Miles Morales movie now, as well as a Spider-Gwen one or one with Peter as a proper adult. And as someone getting tired of the constant teenage Peter (as much as I like Tom Holland), this was a pleasant reminder of everything the franchise could be.
So yeah. S’good movie. Best cinematic Spidey. Go watch it.