It’s always going to be a bold claim to make after the hugely successful Infinity War coming out, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best superhero movie of 2018. Infinity War, with it’s exciting scenes and bold ending, was still fairly by the numbers. Huge CGI action and a dull subplot about Thor’s axe brought it down in my rankings. This, however, is such a powerful film, with amazing humour, incredible design and heartbreaking emotion.
After a fantastic opening montage of studio logos done in various glitching styles, the origin story of Spider-Man plays out. As he himself says, “you know this”. But then the rest of the film completely subverts the story, taking elements everyone knows and flipping them completely. We follow Miles Morales, a young teenager struggling through life, who is close with his uncle and having girl problems. Sounds familiar? After being bitten by a radioactive spider he discovers he has various superpowers. Very familiar! But after The Kingpin, an evil crime lord, creates a machine that crosses various parallel universes, Miles realises he must team up with the Spider-People of those dimensions to stop a threat to all reality. It’s so much better than I’m probably making it sound okay!
The voice cast in this are stellar, and really bring the emotion and spirit of Spider-Man. Among the cast are Shemeik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage and Chris Pine, all playing various incarnations of the title character. It’s brilliant that under the ‘Spider-Man’ umbrella, so many different versions of the character are on show, each with their own quirks and traits. It’s well documented that Spider-Man was always Stan Lee’s favourite character, and with Lee giving an amazing posthumous cameo in the film, it’s truly a fitting legacy to see how influential his favourite creation has been.
The design of this film is utterly sublime. The colours, the style, the comedy, all of it is perfect and wonderfully original in the Spider-Man film franchise. The whole movie replicates a comic book, utilising elements like text on screen, thought bubbles and dramatic lines to show action or pain. The colouring has also been done to replicate the old method of printing, with colours and shades often appearing in Pop-Art style dots. The character designs are equally brilliant, with The Kingpin having a particularly hilarious yet threatening look of a tiny head on an outlandishly huge body.
The comedy and emotion of the film are perfectly delivered side by side. Half of the film is spent making silly jokes about anything from growing up to the mythology and legacy of Spider-Man (there’s even a joke about the pointing Spider-Man meme, something which I thought was hilarious). However, the film’s tone switches in an instant to something so much darker, with shock twists and truly heartbreaking moments creating a powerful story. At the heart of it, the family emotions at play here are as raw as they come, and it’s a testament to the incredible animators than a cartoon superhero film like this can produce such tear jerking material.
Honestly, I cannot fault this film. It is beautifully designed, has a powerful emotion behind it but also delivers very big laughs. It is, for my money, the best motion picture adaptation of Spider-Man, and the best superhero movie of this year. With Stan Lee’s tragic passing just under a month ago, no better tribute could have been made. He would have been so proud.