Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Director: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsay, Rodney Rothman
Writers: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Starring: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Kathryn Hahn, Liev Schreiber
2018's comic-book phenomenon seemingly swung in out of nowhere and took the world by storm...and for good reason. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has taken one of the film industry's most heavily relied upon superheroes and birthed the character into a completely new and refreshing context, and supplies it within one of the most beautiful packages you are likely to see.
Is this the best looking animated film ever made? It's certainly up there with the best. Spider-Verse is as close as a comic book come to life than anyone is likely to get, and transforms a vivid and exciting two-dimensional world into a three-dimensional one which is infinitely malleable and dynamic. It has an utterly beautiful style, each character almost popping out if the screen and being endlessly expressive. Speech balloons appear periodically throughout the film, following our characters through their adventures as they would in an ink-and-paper story. As animation goes, Spider-Verse is unique and a cut above anything else being made at the moment.
Is this the best Spider-Man film ever made? As superhero movie plot-lines go, this is one of the most unconventional that may have been made, with a type of multi-dimensional storyline which so far has not made its way to the big screen. It is the originality of this film which may be its biggest strength, ditching a lot of typical superhero tropes and turning a lot of well-known Spider-Man themes on their heads (watch out for the surprising appearance of a well-known Spider-Man villain). Despite being a fantastical tale, it's also a very well grounded story, involving genuine people with human problems. In a time when we often see more of a hero's outfit than the person underneath, it is refreshing to find a story which can tap into some real issues.
Shameik Moore's young Miles Morales is a superb lead, giving the Spider-Man brand a completely fresh feel, setting it way apart from anything previously done with the character. After having the iconic origin story repeatedly drilled into us (something which the film will repeatedly acknowledge), it is wonderful to begin this story with something different - the conflicted but courageous character deftly provided to us by Moore is one who you will be happy to put your faith in. Meanwhile, Jake Johnson's contribution as the more familiar Peter Parker moves the film from funny to simply hysterical, as he couples his laser-precise comic timing with the film's razor sharp dialogue. His older and more cynical take on Spider-Man again takes the character in a completely new direction. Peter's years of experience as the Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man mirrors our own lengthy understanding of the character, and so shares with the audience the ability to have a good old laugh at his expense.
It is a wonderfully self-aware piece of film, having a complete understanding of its own place within the vast world of inter-connected comic-book films and having the maturity to poke fun at itself and other films like it (Spider-Man 3 (2007) is given a particular roasting). It is a tongue-in-cheek look at comic-book culture with one of its most famous faces acting as a superb conduit. Arguably the most influential and well-known superhero of all time, Spider-Man is the perfect frontman for this gorgeous and hilarious celebration of all things comics.
In one line: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse provides whole new ways for us to find superhero films fantastically funny and mesmerisingly brilliant to look at.