Sony has dazzled audiences with a series of stylish, fast-paced trailers for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, building anticipation for the first animated entry in the studio's long-running film franchise. But with the lifting this morning of the review embargo comes the feature's first true test -- and, by all accounts, it passes with flying colors.
Written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, Into the Spider-Verse places the focus on Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a Brooklyn teen who's trying to juggle high school with his burgeoning career as a web-slinging superhero. That already-complicated life is turned upside down when Miles learns that he's not the only Spider-Man: There are parallel worlds, each with its own Spider-hero, and he must team up with some of them to save the multiverse.
Early reviews lavish praise on the film's animation style and fresh approach to a property that's long-established, and has been explored again and again over the decades, in comic books, on television and in live-action film.
Here's a selection of what the critics are saying:
Alex Abad-Santos, Vox: "The new animated movie is a sleek and soaring, a wonderful paean to the spirit of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s legendary webslinger, embodying the relentless hope and optimism of its hero in such a classic way. But it also unearths exhilarating new ground — by way of spectacular deviations from the norm that the Marvel Cinematic universe and live-action filmmaking don’t always allow for — that makes it feel like something tremendously innovative, while still traditionally Spidey."
Jason Guerrasio, Business Insider: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse the best animated movie of the year."
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: "There's an upside and a downside to these multi-verses. Of benefit is the constant surprise, the sheer variety of visuals and plunges into fun-house craziness. The increasingly abundant negatives are sensory overload and overkill, a feeling that the film it pitched first and foremost to the insider geek contingent that will get all the jokes and references, plus a growing sense that nothing matters because it's dealing in ephemeral realms that come and go in a flash, which they indeed do. Cumulatively, the result is that, just as things should be excitingly building to a rousing climax, nothing sticks, nothing matters. By the time it feels that, by rights, the film should be hitting its climax and wrapping things up, it pitches headlong into Geek-Verse and keeps spinning around there for far too long."
Susana Polo, Polygon: "Spider-Verse oozes style, which is not hard to do when you’re working with Spider-Man, arguably the most graphically perfect superhero costume created outside of the dawn of the genre — and the instantly iconic costuming offshoots of his amazing friends."
Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly: "Spider-Verse has plenty of small delights, and it looks unique. You walk away wondering what a Miles Morales adventure will look like when it’s doesn’t also have to be meditation on the cruciality of the Peter Parker monomyth. (I liked it more than Homecoming, and it sure as hell is better than the Amazing Spider-Mans.) ... But for a film that invites so much self-aware chortling over franchise in-jokery, you feel Spider-Verse has missed something essential from its own screen history."
Jesse Hassenger, A.V. Club: "This is the seventh Spider-Man feature film in 16 years, but this universe has rarely felt so fresh."
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times: "[W]hile there is plenty to mock here — Lord and Rothman’s script gets in some choice digs at Peter Parker’s relationship issues — what distinguishes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in the end is that it takes its mission seriously, even when it’s being transparently silly. There is nothing cheap or snarky about the way the movie festoons its action sequences with 'POW!' and 'BLAMMO!' word bubbles, or shows us squiggly little lines whenever someone’s Spidey sense tingles. It’s a sign of a movie not just embracing its hand-drawn comic-book roots, but also striving to be the fullest, truest version of itself it can be."
Molly Freeman, Screen Rant: "This is a Spider-Man movie that's aware viewers have seen Peter Parker's origin story told time and time again in print, animation and live-action - Into the Spider-Verse even employs a recurring joke that taps into the theme of telling and retelling the same story in a different light. As such, Into the Spider-Verse is a Spider-Man movie not only for fans of Miles Morales, but of the Spider-Man mantle and its legacy. It's also, no doubt, a movie that will entertain even casual fans of Spider-Man or superhero stories."
Peter Debruge, Variety: "Just when you thought you couldn’t take another Spider-Man reboot, along comes the movie to put them all in perspective."
David Griffin, IGN: "Taking a bold departure from the Pixar animation style we’ve come to expect from mainstream animated films, Into the Spider-Verse delivers a dynamic visual experience unlike any other."
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse stars Shameik Moore, Brian Tyree Henry, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Schreiber, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, Nicolas Cage, John Mulaney and Kimiko Glenn. The film opens on Dec. 14.