If Toy Story was the biggest leap forward for mainstream feature animation since Snow White, it took another 23 years for the needle to shift so significantly once again. But then in thwipped Spider-Verse, boasting a jaw-droppingly ambitious visual identity that feels completely distinct from anything else – blending 2D and 3D textures with comic book paper flourishes, amending the frame-rates of different characters to portray their emotional state, chucking in blasts of acid-flash colour, and leaning into the cartoonish, exaggerated qualities that animation makes possible. And that’s before you see our hero Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) sharing the scravereen with the black-and-white Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), the anime Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and the Looney Tunes-esque Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) all in one frame. It’s an all-out pop-art freak-out of a movie, with gorgeous details and genius sight gags packed into every frame (‘Bagel!’).
But all the visual dazzle also serves an emotional purpose, encapsulating the characters’ head-spaces. When Miles’ Spidey-senses kick in, they do so with pulsing psychedelic colours. And when he’s at the peak of his powers in the stand-out ‘What’s Up, Danger’ sequence, the screen flips so that his head-first leap of faith down to the city below instead appears sees him ascending to the heavens, the entire world pivoting around him. Away from the visuals, the characters are layered and loveable, Miles proves himself a more-than-worthy Spider-Man, the multiverse storyline is brilliantly handled, and the emotional gut-punches land with total accuracy too. Plus, with Phil Lord and Chris Miller on producing duties (Lord co-wrote the screenplay too), it’s packed with their signature laugh-out-loud gags. Spider-Verse excels on so many levels, it’s already an instant classic – both as a superhero movie, and as an animated masterwork. It’s a film so ahead of the game, it feels like it blasted in from another universe entirely.
Read the Empire review.