What’s better than Spider-Man? TWO Spider-Mans (or is it Spider-Men?)! Either way, take that thinking to its conclusion, like Lego Movie co-writer Phil Lord did, and you end up with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a cinematic universe to end all cinematic universes.
Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) has hit a bit of a rough patch in middle age, as has teenager Miles Morales, who just got bitten by a radioactive spider and is going through some changes as a result on top of struggling with fitting in a his new school. Right after being bitten by that pesky spider, Miles stumbles into a science lab where another Spider-Man (Chris Pine) is trying to stop the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from opening a dimensional portal. During the battle, Kingpin kills that Spidey but not before the first Spider-Man, the middle-aged one, is sucked through the portal that the Kingpin’s machine created.
Confused? You should be, but the most amazing thing about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is that this jumble of Spider-Mans (Men?) makes perfect sense on-screen. And that’s a compliment in two ways. First, because there is so much happening in this movie that it has no right to make sense, and second, because there are a whole lot of other amazing things about this movie.
Spider-Verse’s animation, particularly the art style, is stunning. A number of other superhero films have taken inspiration from the comics, whether in using captions, multiple panels, or bright colours. Spider-Verse takes that to a whole other glorious level, owning its comic book roots and jumping off the screen even in classic 2D.
Spider-Verse is also remarkably accessible. This is not a solo superhero film with only two or three familiar characters to track. Spider-Verse is chock full of obscure one-offs, alternate takes that faded away, including an entire “Ultimate” comic book line that was canned by Marvel in 2015 due to lack of interest. All of that can sit comfortably in the background but no prior knowledge of anything is necessary, even of Spider-Man, to understand and enjoy this film.