Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse is the fourth Spiderman franchise to hit the big screen, and it seems to know it. The movie, produced primarily by Sony, both plays off the traditional backstory of the Peter Parker character as well as slips in references to the original movies. But Into the Spider-Verse’s acknowledgement of the movies also manifests itself in knowing that audiences are growing tired of the same old Spiderman story, given that it is the franchise’s fourth iteration (Marvel Studios is still producing Spiderman movies as well). The result is an innovative, powerful movie unlike any superhero flick and one that took any and every opportunity possible to blow audiences out of the water.
The most obvious difference in this movie as compared to its predecessors is the animation, but after that, the most significant change is this movie’s protagonist, Miles Morales. After being bit by a radioactive spider, Miles finds that he has new powers such as sticking to walls and spider-sense. But even more surprising is that there are multiple Spidermans from different dimensions that have entered his universe. Morales and his fellow spidey friends must defeat a diabolical villain who wants to take advantage of the dimensions while also figuring out a way to get each Spiderman back to his or her own universe.
The animation in Into the Spider-Verse is one of a kind. The film diffuses multiple techniques of animation together, primarily a 3D animation style with a texture that looks like a comic book come to life. The film is visually stunning in its use of these styles, making action scenes phenomenal to watch (though they can cause sensory overload at times). This is the first non-live action Spiderman movie, and Into the Spider-Verse uses this difference to go in a way that no other superhero movie has gone before and stand out in a crowded genre.
Whereas earlier Spiderman movies are straightforward and intense, Into the Spider-Verse pokes fun at the Spiderman character and superhero movies in a self-referential way that is rare for a movie of any kind. Characters such as John Mulaney’s Spider-Pig (a.k.a. Peter Porker) also lend humor to the movie’s playful tone. However, the emotion in this movie is as real and powerful in this movie as any superhero film that has come out. The plot, though predictable at times, masterfully establishes themes and ideas that make for an impactful finale. Arguably the film’s greatest triumph is that it infuses the concept of multiple dimensions, a topic popular in many superhero TV shows that run out of ideas (cough, cough, The Flash), and finds a meaningful story bolstered by this idea.
Into the Spider-Verse is a sight to behold visually as well as thematically, and it takes the crown of best movie of the year from my previous favorite, Black Panther, by a tight margin. Though the idea of another Spiderman movie is typically met with groans, this one avoids the pitfall of retread by transforming what is possible for not only the character but for the genre and movies in general. It is movies like Into the Spider-Verse and Black Panther that encourage me by proving that superhero movies are advancing forward and outward instead of forcing cinemas into an endless stream of cookie-cutter movies.
Favorite Movies of the Year (only films that I saw in theaters were eligible)
- Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse
- Black Panther
- Incredibles 2
- American Animals
- Ready Player One
- Avengers: Infinity War