Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie yet, and that’s coming from someone who swooned over Spider-Man: Homecoming. Or maybe it was just relief that a film came along that finally managed to capture just what made Spidey one of the most popular superheroes for decades. It is a little unfair, since the fact that Into the Spider-Verse is animated means there are so many more opportunities to delve into the Spider-Man mythology in a fashion that suits the character perfectly.
In a film that’s all about the vast universe that’s sprung up around this character, it’s fitting that the first thing Into the Spider-Verse does is acknowledge that history in a quick montage of the various iterations pop culture has given us over the decades. When we get to that dumb dance in Spider-Man 3, the movie demurs, “We don’t really talk about this.” As if everybody hasn’t already.
In other words? In its opening moments, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse promises us a film with much of the meta humor and appeal of the Deadpool franchise, only with all the earnestness of the hero we love because he’s firmly committed to helping others and just doing good in general. And the rest of the film delivers on this premise with eye-popping animation that allows for vastly different styles to seamlessly coexist on-screen to create a kind of living, breathing comic book.
All this begins with one of the more recent Spideys to take on the heroic mantle, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). He has yet to gain his powers as the film begins, but after a proper amount of character and world-building, he encounters a radioactive spider that not only gives him the abilities that will change his life, but brings him into conflict with the villainous Kingpin Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), who has set a plot in motion that leads to various realities colliding with each other, thus bringing Miles into contact with Spideys from some of those realities.
It isn’t just a blast seeing more well-known fan favorites like Spider-Gwen swing into action, it’s iterations like Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), a talking pig, the anime-inspired Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), a cheerful girl who fights crime in a mechanized spider suit, and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), a black and white character who always has wind blowing his cape around, along with a habit of making old-timey, dark puns. Just seeing these characters play off each other would be worth the price of a ticket, plus the fact that the cast seems to be having a blast bringing them to life.
But since the director and writers of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse were also heavily involved in making films such as The Lego Movie and 22 Jump Street, the excellent animation and voice work complements rather than compensates. The story itself is fantastic, full of humor and heart as Miles not only has to cope with events far bigger than himself with more experienced heroes, but learns to come into his own and embrace life as a superhero himself. And thank goodness, the movie also knows how to commit to the kind of diversity that avoids self-congratulation. Miles Morales has always been far more than that, and Into the Spider-Verse portrays him and the variety of people that populate the film in a respectful, matter-of-fact way that other movies could take a lesson from. Stay tuned after for post-credits scenes that add even more fun.