The seventh of Spider-Man’s big-screen solo adventures may be the most Spidey-like of all. Co-writer Phil Lord—half of the duo fired from Solo—and the directing triumvirate of co-writer Rodney Rothman, Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey have animated what amounts to a love letter to Marvel’s friendly neighborhood crime fighter. The assembled animation team brings to life a Spider-verse in what is both one of the year’s top animated features and best superhero movies.
Into the Spider-Verse joins Sam Raimi’s first two excellent Spider-Man entries—which set the standard for live action superheroing prior to the creation of the MCU—atop the hierarchy of Spidey movies. What makes it so special? Its collaborative team of Spider-Men, a Spider-Woman and a Spider-Pig sells the everyman nature of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s accessible superhero. Peter Parker is a regular guy who got bit by a radioactive spider—who hasn’t experienced that (minus the radioactive part)? Into the Spider-Verse celebrates Spidey’s extraordinary lack of specialness with supreme style and crackling energy.
The movie offers fresh takes on Spider-Man, Doc Ock, Green Goblin, Kingpin—voiced with criminal glee by Liev Schreiber—and more that leap off the page (er, screen). Each new Spider-Man bursts with a unique flair—Nic Cage’s Spider-Man Noir is a black-and-white blast—but smartly focuses on a downtrodden Peter Parker (v. Jake Johnson) reluctantly mentoring the up-and-coming Miles Morales (v. Shameik Moore, Dope).
Into the Spider-Verse further excels at establishing deep emotional connections between various pairs of fathers, sons, uncles, aunts and Spideys. These Spider-People (and one animal) have more to fight for than the usual MJ-based stakes. Into the Spider-Verse is further proof that with great superheroes can come great superhero movies.