I will fully admit to having superhero fatigue. After multiple years in a row of being bombarded with the latest Marvel and DC live action blockbusters, I find it hard to get excited for the next adventure in spandex. The Marvel movies are competent, but generally formulaic and unexciting at this point. DC has all but admitted it doesn’t know what it’s doing with its film properties. So who would have thought that Sony of all corporations, the people who shat out two terrible Spider-Man movies just so they could keep the rights, would be the ones to get me out of my superhero funk?
Spider-verse gets so many things right, it’s hard to know where to begin. Everything here just feels right, especially New York City. While many of the Disney Marvel movies take place in the Big Apple, it’s just a setting in most of them, it could be interchanged with any other major city and nothing would be lost. Not here though. NYC is a living, breathing entity in Spider-verse. We’ve got a quintessential New York hip hop soundtrack, diverse neighborhoods, everything just feels alive. The whole film is a giant love letter to the culture of the city, and for a character that is synonymous with New York, getting that vibe right is a big deal.
A big thing that Spider-verse does well is that it owns the fact that it is a comic book movie, helped in no small part by the fact that it’s animated. Words fly by on the screen during action sequences just as if you were seeing them on a page. Some of the set pieces are so over the top that the only way they could feel remotely believable is because they are animated. And the cast of unique characters, with their distinct art styles, plays extraordinarily well with the medium. This film would not be nearly as strong if it were live action, and it going all in on the medium kind of makes me wish there were more animated superhero flicks.
What’s weird about this film, as it’s an origin story about a character who doesn’t need one, is that it never feels tired. We follow the young Miles Morales from being a normal kid, to getting bit by a radioactive spider, to him struggling to learn how to use his new powers. But as most well known origin stories are unnecessary at best these days, this one works, even as it hits all the expected beats. Maybe it’s the energy of the story and the vibrant, diverse art style. Perhaps it’s that the story a lot more than your typical origin tale. Whatever it is, I didn’t find myself getting bored like I do seeing Bruce Wayne‘s parents killed on screen for the one hundredth time.
Minor quibbles aside (seriously, is Miles’ father literally the only cop in New York?), i haven’t had this much fun with a superhero movie in a long time. The team behind this absolutely nailed the character of Spider-Man and did so in a way that can’t be captured in any of his live action outings. If you were sleeping on this because it is animated, or Sony’s poor handling of Spider-Man up until this point, do yourself a favor and give this a shot. As Disney keeps taking more of the Marvel pie with its acquisition of Fox, it’s a nice reminder that there’s more than one way to do a superhero movie.