Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man not only remains the most popular Marvel superhero to date, but also feels like the most present superhero we see on our screens. With six solo movies and a couple of appearances in a few Marvel Cinematic Universe movies over the past 16 years, he’s always present in a landscape full of so many on-screen superheroes. We know the origin story, the powers, the villains, and the man behind the mask. But finally, we get a new take on Spider-Man in the new animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which shows us that anyone can wear the mask. In Spider-Verse, the one who wears the mask is Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a teenager and comic book favorite, often seen as the successor to the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker. Sure, it’s another origin story about someone taking on the responsibilities of being a superhero and knowing there are consequences with every action they take. However, Spider-Verse spins a whole new web on the origin story, one that’s so fresh, kinetic, funny, self-aware and just so awesome. It’s arguably the best Spider-Man movie ever made.
Bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales suddenly develops mysterious powers that transform him into the one and only Spider-Man. When he meets Peter Parker, he soon realizes that there are many others who share his special, high-flying talents. Miles must now use his newfound skills to battle the evil Kingpin, a hulking madman who can open portals to other universes and pull different versions of Spider-Man into our world.
The first act of Spider-Verse does a good job of laying the groundwork for what plays out in the rest of the movie. It’s driven into our head early on that this is an origin story, but it still comes off as fresh and energetic. We see what motivates Miles while the current Spider-Man in his world saves the day again and again in the city. We see Miles’ family roots, whom he depends on, and whom he loves. We see his passion as a young kid and how he is as insecure as we all once were as teenagers. In other words, when we look at Miles, we see a little bit of ourselves; and that’s what makes him a believable superhero, one who makes it feel as if we, too, could wear the mask. Now, what superhero movie have you seen in this golden age of superhero movies that could make you think you could be like the hero on the screen?
While Spider-Verse is an origin story, it throws us a curveball when antagonist Wilson Fisk (voiced by Liev Schreiber) uses a device to split open their dimension exposing rifts in other universes that introduce us to other Spider-Men. From there, we meet to kinds of different Spider-Men who try to mentor Miles. One of whom is a lazy/unmotivated Peter Parker/Spider-Man (voiced by Jake Johnson) that Miles heavily relies upon; another is Spider-Gwen (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), whom Miles falls for; another is Spider-Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage) from the 1930’s; another Spider-Man is from the future (Kimiko Glenn); and yet another one is a pig called Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney). Each Spider-Man brings their own dynamic to the table as they each come together to work with Miles Morales to get back home. The movie does a great job of balancing the teamwork aspect (which tends to be a problem in a number of superhero team-up movies) by showing off each Spider-Man’s unique talents. On top of that, each Spider-Man brings their own brand of humor, style, and personality to the screen, which keeps things from being stale. Things stay on target and hit home by the movie’s third act, which ups the action with Miles’ newfound motivation. It’s the sort of lesson about believing in one’s self that any kid could learn.
During the first couple of minutes, viewers might be trying to adjust their sight due to the visual aspect of Spider-Verse. No, it doesn’t look like you’re watching a 3D movie without glasses, but it actually appears as if a comic book has come to life. If you thought all the references and nods to other things in the world of Spider-Man were geeky in and of themselves, the visuals in Spider-Verse are the cherry on top. However, the visual presentation of Spider-Verse is what sets it apart from almost every other animated movie and a big part of what sells audiences this animated universe. It’s gorgeous and filled with eye-popping visuals that are vibrant and different with every scene that plays out. It’s more than refreshing; it, quite frankly, is marvelous to behold. And when you throw in any of the Spider-Men we see on screen doing their thing, it’s simply a visual treat more appealing than any of the action we’ve seen from any of the other live action movies featuring Spider-Man. Complementing the visuals is a distinct soundtrack, which features a number of beats that are in rhythm with the action playing out on screen, including original songs from Post Malone, Vince Staples, Blackway, and Black Caviar.
Without a doubt, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the year’s best animated movie. It’s a visual marvel; it’s a fresh origin story that flips things upside down. It’s a geek-maxed-out movie that is self-aware of its existence. It’s a superhero movie that shows us limitless possibilities, thanks to the splitting open of dimensions. In short, it’s a superhero movie we can believe in. In a year in which Sony released the worst comic book movie of the year, they also just may have released the year’s best comic book movie. Spider-Verse is a refreshing superhero tale we didn’t know we needed or thought was possible, but it’s one that is just as great as its new web-slinging protagonist. My spider-senses tell me you’re going to love it.
Oh, and be sure to stick around throughout the entire credits, which feature an all-timer post-credits scene that’s almost as good as the entire movie.
Rating: [star rating=”4.5″]