Throughout Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, its various Spider-Men all repeat some variation of ‘you already know the story’. As is to be expected from a project overseen by Jump Street and Lego Movie comic geniuses Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Spider-Verse is a superhero movie that is acutely self-aware about its inherent absurdity and status as a corporate product. As with the duo’s previous films, though, this doesn’t merely not detract from the joys provided the movie, but in fact elevate them. A gorgeous flurry of imagination and laughs, Spider-Verse comes close to matching Infinity War as the best superhero movie of the year.
You may, understandably, be asking ‘how many more Spider-Beings could we possibly need after Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland all took the role in a less-than-15-year span?’ Spider-Verse answers this question with a resoundingly confident ‘at least six!’ Our first Spider-Man is rookie hero Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), replacing the deceased Peter Parker of his dimension – which comic fans will know as the ‘Ultimate’ universe – but soon, after some nefarious inter-dimensional science by crime lord the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), he’s joined by a litany of others.
Chief among these new arrivals is the Peter Parker of the Prime Marvel Universe (Jake Johnson). Washed up and tired of being a hero, he becomes Miles’s reluctant mentor so that the fledgling hero can help Peter and his fellow Spiders return to their home universes. None of these characters ever get lost in the jumble, thanks to Spider-Verse’s truly exceptional animation. Directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman have created an art style the likes of which has genuinely never before been seen on screen. It’s got the kinetic energy and eye-popping colours of classic comic art, while its characters have a depth and weight generally reserved for stop-motion models, even as they move incredibly fluidly through the cartoon-y world.
It’s a style that also proves itself wonderfully flexible, adaptable to the visual quirks of all its characters. For example, Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) is shrouded in a gusty monochrome fog regardless of his location, while the futuristic Japanese Spider Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) has an anime zip to all her scenes. The set-pieces are exceptionally entertaining and well-choreographed, particularly whenever the Spiders link up as a team, the youthful chaos of Miles playing off against the skilful weariness of Peter and the lightning speed of the fantastically costumed Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld).
Assisting these visuals is an absolute gem of a soundtrack, every carefully selected song exploding with the kind of energy that drives the whole film. If it all sounds a little frenetic and overstuffed, that’s because it kind of is, but this manic pace keeps things thrilling from start to finish. Incredibly funny scenes in the first half (this is a Phil Lord script, after all) give way to more action in the second, and both will keep a giant grin on your face.
Everyone is perfectly cast. There’s more than a hint of Moore’s previous superhero character – The Get Down’s Shaolin Fantastic – in Miles, while Johnson’s comedy chops and Cage’s ever-serious straight-faced baritone are ideal matches for their own versions of Spidey. Brian Tyree Henry continues his absurdly fruitful 2018 as Miles’s embarrassing cop dad Jeff, while Mahershala Ali brings laughs and pathos to his sketchy but caring uncle, Aaron.
To top it all off, John Mulaney voices anthropomorphic pig hero Spider-Ham, aka Peter Porker, and, really, what more could possibly ask from a movie? Spider-Verse is an absolute blast for kids and adults alike, and you’ll want to stick around until the very end to enjoy more of its stunning art over the credits and to reach a stinger that contains one of the funniest gags of the year.