I would have seriously sworn that at least one of those “Spider”s in the title was a “Spidey.” A (top-notch) element of this movie’s tone that we’ll get into.
Anyway: I went to go see the new animated Spider-Man movie with my dad when I was home last week, because my dad has loved Spider-Man since he was a kid, and I’d heard that this movie was actually incredibly good. People were praising the inventive animation, which always piques my interest (listen the Pixar movies look flawless, but they all look the same), and I had also just learned that it’s by the guys who got their start making Clone High, and eeeeverything else I was hearing about the tone fell into place. Would you like to watch a beautifully visualized Miles Morales Spider-Man movie by the creators of Clone High? You absolutely would, if you are me!
Into the Spider-Verse is bouncingly meta and self-referential without ever being less than completely in love with all this. It joshes on comic book (and specifically Spidey-verse) conceits because it just loves them so hard, an artistic approach I find very relatable. It’s funny and quippy and playing with tropes, but the story is always this really sincere depiction of a dorky Afro-Latino Brooklyn teen trying to find his place in the world. He sings along terribly to hip hop on his headphones and speaks Spanglish with his mom that’s not even translated, and it’s all just so wonderful and genuine. It’s a movie utterly oriented in this kid’s cultural context in the world, without being about that, which is a remarkable feat to pull off. Especially while it’s simultaneously a rollicking superhero action movie, a spry and clever genre comedy, and a flat-out gorgeous piece of visual art.
Here’s my blisteringly hot Marvel take of 2018: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a better comic book movie than Black Panther. Because Spidey-Verse is the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen. This one finally realizes the aesthetic and narrative potential of the American superhero film genre that began almost a dozen years ago, which is a movie that renders a classic hero story fresh and newly meaningful, while capturing that beloved punchy, graphic look and exhilarating movement unique to the medium of comics. It actually seems pretty silly in retrospect that it took them this long to realize that of course these things should be animated. Great animation like this, the kind whose style is thoughtfully and creatively designed to be in service to and conversation with the kind of story it’s telling, can deliver jaw-dropping moments in a way live action never will, because they’re just different forms—but in a way that’s not so different at all from great comic books.
And Spidey-Verse also features a sweatpants-wearing, existentially tired 38-year-old hot mess dad bod Peter Parker, which is truly what is making this a four-quadrant success because every worn-out adult is just like, “yeah.”