It really wasn’t all that long ago when Sony was so hellbent on delivering a Spider-Man cinematic universe, with 2014’s bloated The Amazing Spider-Man 2 putting the kibosh on those plans indefinitely. And I say “indefinitely,” because only four years later, those plans seem to be right back on track, what with Venom tearing it up at the box office like it was nobody’s business and Jared Leto’s Morbius the Living Vampire going into production in February. And now that Spider-Man is finally part of an established cinematic universe in the one over at Marvel, it seems only fitting that Sony might as well flex their copyrights muscle and one-up that universe – at least in scope – by making an animated Spider-Man movie, known as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Taking on an animation style that rips itself right out of the comics, this new-look Spider-Man may take a moment to adjust to, but will prove all the more rewarding for it by giving the filmmakers the creative freedom to do basically whatever they want. And what they want is to deliver a love letter to any and all comic readers, especially fans of the wall-crawler. It’s not going to replace the live-action films by any stretch of the imagination, as the Tom Holland iterations might prove to be the best of the bunch, but Into the Spider-Verse is nevertheless an eye-popping, stimulating cinematic diversion in its own right, and worthy of standing against the best of the best superhero films.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse starts off as you would expect, with a high school student – this time in the form of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) – getting bitten by a radioactive spider and gaining spider-like abilities. However, before he can kickstart his individual origin story, his quickly crosses over with some others. Wilson Fisk a.k.a. “The Kingpin” (Liev Schreiber) has been developing a Super Collider, with the intention of using it to bridge dimensions and reunite with his perished wife and son. Unfortunately, the tests begin to tear the space-time continuum, and sucks up various Spider-people in the process. Miles comes across the likes of Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), an alternate universe’s out-of-shape, depressed version of Spider-Man. With Peter acting as Miles’s mentor, the two aim to stop Fisk and put the multiverse back together. To do that, they’ll also have to team up with Gwen Stacey / Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Peter Porker / Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage).
This movie can get pretty weird – especially toward the end – but in the best possible way. In fact, the zanier and more unstable the action set-pieces, the more beautiful and dazzling the animation style. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re sensitive to drastic shifts in color or light, but for the majority this should be some pretty spectacular stuff. Granted, it took some time for me to acclimate, it being ostensibly stuck between two dimensions and three, but boy was I invested at the end of those 117 minutes. This really isn’t anything like any superhero movie you’ve ever seen, even if you’re comparing it to another animated offering like Big Hero 6. Largely because something of this magnitude, namely something that inherits the multi-dimensional nature of the comics, has never been attempted, and yet is such a perfect fit for the animated spectrum. I mean, don’t expect to get the full-fledged Spider-Ham movie you’ve always been dreaming about – though if we play our cards right, that dream may just become a reality – but the plethora of supporting characters we are introduced to are vibrant and unique enough for them to each get their moment in the sun. 2018 has been something of a lackluster year for animated fare. Not to say that the likes of Isle of Dogs, Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet weren’t great in their own rights, but none of them exactly lived up to their full potential or to their immediate – and in the case of the first, spiritual – predecessors. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse on the other hand is like nothing you’ve seen in theaters this year or any other year. While it likely won’t beat out those three other contenders – it’s basically a toss-up from where I’m sitting – I’m holding out hope that they’ll end up cancelling each other out and hand the Best Animated Feature Oscar to this one, because on ingenuity and story alone, it more than deserves it.
Final Score: 9/10