After scoring big a few months ago with Venom, Sony has turned their attention to Spider-Man. But this Spidey isn’t the one many know from the MCU. This Spider-Man is animated and the person beneath the mask is… a few people. Sony has gone above and beyond to bring to the big screen a myriad of different Spider-Man-based superheroes to life. Everyone knows Peter Parker (voiced by Chris Pine) is the original Spider-Man, but there are others. There’s Mile Morales (Shameik Moore), Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and even Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). None of these iterations of the webslinger exist in the same dimension, but thanks to Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) that’s all about to change.

Based on a script from Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, and co-directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rothman, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a feature film version of different Spideys - both female and male with vastly different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. How did all of them end up in the same place? Well, Fisk bankrolled a Super Collider (that’s designed by a Kathryn Hahn-voiced Doctor Octopus) that allows dimensional travel. During an experimental run the Super Collider showed it can meld dimensions but with catastrophic results. It’s during this trial run that Miles unwittingly meets Peter Parker, who’s intent on saving the world by destroying Fisk’s invention. Things go horribly awry and Miles is left to replace Peter as the new Spider-Man.

A couple of things to note – unless you’ve been living under a rock (or you simply choose to ignore anything film-related) this is an animated version of Spider-Man and isn’t part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Depending on your like (or dislike) for the MCU, this could be a blessing or a curse. Regardless, this is fantastic and is likely the best superhero film since… well, since Black Panther.

If nothing else, Spider-Verse is gorgeous. The animation is a combination of cutting-edge computer graphics and old school comic illustration, and the pairing affords amazing and colorful results. It’s rumored up to 140 animators worked on this project and, based on what I saw onscreen, every single one of them put in some amazing time and effort. If you’re planning on seeing it, I’d recommend watching on the biggest and/or best screen you can find. It’ll be worth it.

The best thing about Spider-Verse, though, is the story (specifically Miles’). This project was originally conceived in 2015, back when the two Andrew Garfield Spidey films moped themselves through the box office. Sony looked to revitalize the Spider-Man franchise and saw Morales as the solution.

Miles is a teenager with a brilliant mind and plenty of potential, but he’s struggling at the progressive boarding school he’s attending. As you may have guessed, this is a coming of age tale, and the lives of many are dependent on Miles learning about himself as a person and as a superhero. Miles’ story arc mirrors the Tom Holland Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the MCU, and Holland’s take has become the standard. Miles is an amazing character in animated form, and thanks to Spider-Verse, it would be lovely to see a live-action Miles when and if the time comes.

While Miles learns about himself and is forced grow up in mere days, he gets “some” help from Peter B. (get it?) Parker. Peter B. is a reluctant mentor and a flawed version of the original Peter (whom Miles unwittingly ran into during the Super Collider dry run). In some sort of masked Karate Kid way, Peter B. is Mr. Miyagi to Miles’ Daniel san. It works swimmingly as the mood throughout is light and breezy, but Spider-Verse while still contains an element of danger and the possibility of complete failure.

With so many superheroes (and good number of villains), you would think Spider-Verse would suffer a la DCEU’s 2017 film Justice League. Surprisingly, this works and in addition Spider-Verse makes a strong case for having a plethora of characters. If the focus stays on one character, and that character’s backstory is strong and plausible, then everything should work out. In this case, everything outside of Miles Morales is support, so none of the other characters (no matter how memorable they are) take away from the main protagonist. Besides, when all the good guys are just variations of a central character it’s easy for Persichetti, Ramsey and Rothman to stay on track.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only the best animated film this year (that’s saying something since there were some amazing animated titles in 2018), it may be one of the best films of 2018, period. It’s funny (and meta), action-packed, emotional and even inspirational. It’s perfect for all ages – there’s nothing questionable that would keep parents from allowing their kids to watch, yet it isn’t so campy that it’ll alienate adults. And beautifully, it places a father-son relationship (Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry voices Miles’ father, Jefferson Davis-Morales) front and center to maximize its family-friendly tone.

In short, it’s perfect for the holidays but its message and themes are everyday tropes that should be believed and practiced by everyone.

4.5 stars out of 5

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