Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Score: A-

Directors: Bob Perschietti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Schreiber

Running Time: 117 Minutes

Rated: PG

There's a strong case that 2018 was the biggest year ever for superhero movies. The three most popular movies of the year all involved superheroes: the game-changing Black Panther, the mega-event Avengers: Infinity War, and the stellar sequel Incredibles 2.

But for sheer comic book-based thrills, none can top the late-breaking animated tale from Sony. By now, we've already had three different Spider-Men in 16 years. But Into the Spider-Verse understands that we won't be fatigued if the story is this spectacular.

Shameik Moore voices Miles Morales, the African-American teen who took up the mantle in 2011. We haven't seen this version before, but all the anxieties of adolescence are still there. Instead of a nerdy outcast, Morales struggles with identity, going to a prestigious private school, having to leave behind his neighborhood friends. While he still has the same origin – gaining his powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider – his story refuses to go through the motions.

It also refuses to conform to one animation style, bursting with color at every turn, with its characters popping off unfinished backgrounds. When a dimensional portal opens, spilling different versions of Spider-Man from different timelines, each plays by the rules of its respective home. Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) uses mallets and anvils to dispatch bad guys. Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage) broods in black and white.

But what's most surprising is that, even as it comes from part of the brain trust behind the hilarious LEGO Batman Movie, Into the Spider-Verse has a deep emotional core. Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) wonders how hard to push his son to put in the hard work and earn his success. Miles' discovery about a family member he admires is devastating. And a front porch embrace between Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) and Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) had me in tears. Even Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) has deeply personal reasons for messing with the time-space continuum.

Into the Spider-Verse also really understands comic books. Even the best MCU and X-Men movies are essentially action movies with broad mass appeal. This one leans into the medium's ridiculousness, malleability, and visual freedom. There are even plenty of Easter eggs for fans of the character, no matter when they first started reading about any version of Spider-Man.

While I had high hopes for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it exceeded all my expectations. It's the best animated film of the year, and one of the best movies of the year period.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.