A common sentiment surrounding Avengers: Infinity War was that it was what “all comic book movies have been leading to.” Those people were wrong. The past 40-years of comic book films have been leading to Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
Now before you get all testy, I’m not saying that this is the greatest comic book movie ever made (although it’s pretty close), what I am saying is that no other film in the genre has ever embraced the source material to this extent. This is the most joyously comic-booky movie ever created. It celebrates the nature of Spider-Man and heroes themselves, while simultaneously acknowledging the truth that there have been dozens of “Spider-Men” and will continue to be as well. Ten years ago you could not have made this movie. There’s just no way it would sell. But it’s a testament to how ingrained in our culture superheroes are now that the general public are willing to buy a ticket to a plotty movie featuring multiple universes colliding, an anthropomorphic spider-pig, and one very, very big Kingpin.
What’s really impressive about Spider-Verse is in the midst of so much colliding chaos, at its heart remains a meaningful story about the expectations of adolescence. Despite there being six Spider-men in the film, everything leads back to our hero, the fan-favorite Miles Morales, voiced by Dope’s breakout star Shameik Moore. While trans-dimensional explosions are going off and a sentient Japanese Robot is fighting evil, we are honed in on Miles’ own personal story. It’s surprisingly emotional and is written well enough to help keep what should have been a flashy mess personal and grounded. In addition to the heart of the movie, it is also brilliantly funny, blending together both some clever meta-jokes which can only come from six studio Spider-Man movies in eighteen years, as well as more timeless humor, which will allow this movie to stand the test of time more than something like Deadpool, which relies entirely on referencing the state of pop culture at the time.
Of course, it is impossible to talk about how special Into The Spider-Verse is without discussing its beautiful art style. In a world where most animation looks increasingly the same, there aren’t enough words to describe how refreshing it is to see something this innovative and stunning in a major studio movie. The film has adopted an entirely new way of animation, seamlessly blending two-dimensional comic book art with three-dimensional animation. It is an incredible effect that lends itself well to a superhero film, as our characters are able to do things they would never be able to in a film constrained by the limits of live-action. By the final climax, any pretense of “reality” gets thrown out the window, as the filmmakers created an immense spectacle of cartoony action and vibrant art pieces. The creativity gets pushed to even greater lengths when the supporting cast of Spider-people gets introduced as each dimension’s heroes are animated in their own art style. The Japanese Peni Parker could feasibly have jumped ship from any anime, the Tracyesque Spider-Man Noir (wonderfully voiced by Nic Cage) has sprung from a 30’s era pulp strip, and John Mulaney’s Spider-Ham would fit right at home in any Warner Bros. Cartoon.
Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse is easily one of the best movies of the year. It is emotional, gorgeous, funny, exciting, and above all else-new. I understand not being interested in seeing it because, “it’s just another superhero movie,” believe me-I’ve been there. But this is not just another superhero movie. It breathes new life into an increasingly stale genre while being fresh and interesting. No matter what your attachment to Spider-Man as a character or to the genre as a whole, you will not be able to leave the theater without being thoroughly charmed by this movie. It really is that good.