I have been waiting to see this film ever since I saw the first look. Spider Man as a character and comic book always leaves so much to say in its film version. Reading a Spider Man book is an amalgamation of color, story-lines, world building, interesting side characters, and eventually, the stories of everyday city life. It has always been the go-to superhero for me when I watch or read too much dark stuff. But despite 6-7 mainstream films, little has been achieved on these lines, of doing justice to the every-man quality, of a friendly neighborhood hero . The films have mostly been about the big bad or the big showdown in Times Square.
What this film does differently is realize these possibilities. There is the psychedelic eye-popping color aspect, yes, and it is one of the major pulls. Never have we seen the world of Friendly neighborhood web-slinger shine so loud. It is like a kid was given a palette ranging from Murakami to Pixar to choose from. What makes the film even great is the rootedness. Miles Morales(Shameik Moore) is still the vortex of this confusing alternate realities plot. He is still a neighborhood nobody, seeking a simple fun evening with his uncle drawing graffiti in the subway, getting embarrassed by his cop dad as he drops him to the school.
There is so much packed in the film (6 Spider Men, a handful of villains, music montages, comic book panels) that it feels almost a Herculean task to make it work. What helps to a great extent is the balancing of the larger elements with humor that is inbred and feels improvised too at times. There are self-references that can put Deadpool to shame. The radioactive spiders are almost like the ever-watchful eyes of the Studios, the training montages are another fun element.
I loved the music video montages, the emotional core, the “is this me, is this happening to me?” element in places, a great Doc Ock, an even great Prowler. Jake Johnson gives it a Lego Movie-like lightness that makes us both laugh and cry, with the melancholic Peter Parker. And Nicolas Cage is having some fun here with Spider-Man Noir.
The world that Spider-Verse creates in terms of technique and animation is much like an alternate dimension in Spider-Man or superhero films. Highly recommended, and preferably in a good theater.