In most cases, that headline might seem like ridiculous hyperbole, but when it comes to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the film is simply the best interpretation of the comic book story experience to the big screen. That’s not to say there aren’t other brilliant comic-based films, but to date those are adaptations to live action, or to one animation style or another; in Spider-Man, it’s the pages of 4-color pages jumping morphing into motion. As an additional bonus, beyond the viewing experience, it’s also a superb story in it’s own right.
While this film doesn’t directly go in-line with the MCU series of films, it does offer up references back to many of the other earlier installments. The story revolves around Miles Morales, who lives in a version of New York where Peter Parker/Spider-Man is at his peak. Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider himself and begins to exhibit familiar abilities. Already having been facing the challenges of being a student in a new school and balancing his dreams of being a street artist and pleasing his family by doing well in school, now he’s trying to understand and control his emerging powers.
He stumbles across the actual Spider-Man who perceives their shared powers, unfortunately it’s at the same time that Peter is trying to thwart Kingpin’s plans to open a multi-dimensional rift between Earths. At great cost, they stop the process, but not before five more versions of Spider-Man begin to emerge – a far less successful and beer-bellied version of Peter, a black and white Noir version, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Ham, and Peni Noir and her radioactive-spider powered robot. They wind up coming together to try to find a way back to their respective home universes and to also prevent Kingpin from trying again and potentially destroying all of New York and tearing apart the walls between the multiverse.
It’s a solid story – the characters are compelling, and how the various backstories are touched on in brief Cliff-note asides are quick, and help bring non-comic readers up to speed with just a few scenes. In so many comic films, especially where characters are introduced, vast amount of time is spent going into the minutiae. Here it’s done deftly and with a skill that’s a delight for those familiar with the characters, and for those not, they’re not completely in the dark. And for Kingpin’s minions, we don’t have to go into grand backstory and monologuing segues, they’re given orders, and off they go. The only deeper reveals involve Kingpin’s motivations around trying to punch open holes to other worlds.
All that being said, it’s a movie so capably written and delivered that it’s more than enough to make up for the atrocious 3rd Sam Raimi and both Marc Webb films. However what elevates it into an entirely new tier of excellence, and what earns it the adage of “best comic book movie” is the animation style. Rather than adapting the comic to a new animation aesthetic, they make the animation like the comic. There are panels, there are printing dots, there’s basically all of the atmospherics that keep you in the experience; rather than shaping comics into film, this time it’s film that’s become a moving comic and in the process made me a true believer.
Even if you’re not an animation fan, give Spider-Man a try.
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