Review: The newest Spider-Man might be the best superhero movie of 2018

Sony Pictures Animation

Sony Pictures Animation

You might think Spider-Man movies have been done to death—but you’ve never seen the wall crawler quite like this.

Into the Spider-Verse takes place in an alternate reality, so things feel a bit unfamiliar from the get-go. There are plenty of subtle differences, but for us, the standout deviation from a typical Spidey flick is that Peter Parker (Chris Pine), while destroying a supercollider that creates holes to other dimensions, gets murdered by the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). This opens the door for a new hero, another radioactive spider-bite victim named Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). But Miles is just a kid, and with this universe’s Spider-Man gone, he feels helpless and alone.

Enter the paunchy and downtrodden Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), a Spider-Man pulled through the void from yet another universe. Miles thinks he can learn the ropes from the superhero; however, life hasn’t been good to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and he’s reluctant to take Miles under his wing. And yet with Kingpin looking to restart the supercollider (and possibly create a multiverse-shattering black hole in the process), this depressed schlub of a hero must team up with Miles to destroy the machine.

On paper this might all sound a bit convoluted—but in execution, Into the Spider-Verse is damn near flawless. More Spider-Men (and women and a pig) enter the picture, and with each addition, the movie gets better. You have to give credit to Brian Michael Bendis, Sara Pichelli, and the other Marvel mainstays who laid the foundation for this story in print. However, the success of Into the Spider-Verse owes largely to the behind-the-scenes work of 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie masterminds Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who once again leverage their trademark wit and humor to create a special moviegoing experience.

It’s also worth acknowledging the whopping 142 animators it took to bring this movie to life. Descriptions like “dazzling” and “eye-popping” get thrown around a lot in movie reviews, but Into the Spider-Verse truly fits the bill. Stylistically, it’s a masterpiece; one cannot even compare the look and feel of the animation with anything else. Its cues are pulled from comics, pop art, cartoons, you name it, smashed together to form a movie that feels like a comic book come to life in a way that no Marvel movie, or really any movie, has done before. Novel frame rates, Lichtenstein-y Ben-Day dot highlights, odd use of selective focus—the attention to detail is striking here. And as the film builds to a maximal psychedelic climax, we're invested in the visuals as much as the remarkable storyline.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is easily the most fun and inventive animated movie of 2018. And amazingly, in a year that featured the powerful Black Panther, a shocking Avengers: Infinity War, and the surprise delight of Ant-Man and the Wasp, it might also be the best superhero movie of the year.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
Rated: PG
Theater: Opens Friday, area theaters