Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse ****

Great animation and imagination in the storytelling make this the year’s best animated film.   

Is it worth $10? Yes 

“Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” is a bold, blissfully fun jolt of imagination. The animation is crisp and colorful, the story is endlessly creative, and the execution is top notch. This is not only the best animated film of 2018, it’s one of the best movies of 2018, period.

It’s not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s recent “Spider-Man” storyline, though it does draw from those films, and the earlier Spider-Man films starring Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. “Spider-Verse” centers on teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who like many idolizes Spider-Man (Chris Pine). Miles also loves graffiti, isn’t a great student, and has a crush on Wanda (Hailee Steinfeld). His policeman dad (Brian Tyree Henry) is a disciplinarian, so he spends a lot of time with his “cool” Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali). It’s with Aaron one night that he is bitten by a radioactive spider, which gives Miles Spider-Manesque powers.

Circumstances soon find Miles trying to help Spider-Man stop Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) and Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone) from opening a portal to alternate dimensions. They fail. Spider-Man dies, and the world as Miles knows it becomes…different. He must destroy the portal before the world permanently changes. Thankfully for him, he receives unexpected help: A new Spider-Man (Jake Johnson), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), Spider Gwen (Steinfeld again), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) enter Miles’ world through the portal and assist in saving the day. The catch is they can’t stay long or they’ll die. Other villains include Scorpion (Joaquin Cosio), Tombstone (Marvin Jones III), and Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn). And because no “Spider-Man” story would be complete without them, Mary Jane (Zoe Kravitz) and Aunt May (Lily Tomlin) appear as well.

What’s really great about the film, which was written by Phil Lord (“21 Jump Street”) and directed by Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, is how it ingeniously builds on the familiar. We know the Spider-Man big screen story well at this point, and the way “Spider-Verse” takes what we know and expands it into so much more is creative nirvana. Better, it does so in ways that make narrative sense, there are no loose ends, and the animation is superb. Add to this a soundtrack of pop hits and some very funny moments and you have a film that anyone of any age can enjoy.

There have been seven “Spider-Man” films since 2002, some of which have been quite good. But this is the best of the bunch. I’ve never read a comic book and don’t intend to start, but I sensed at my screening that fans of the comics loved the twists and surprises as they came. Knowing just the movies, I loved them too. “Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse” is two hours of unbridled adrenaline that is full of innovation, and is an absolute blast to watch.

Did you know?
Stan Lee appears (in animated form, of course) to give Miles some sage advice.

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