OK, just a warning: I’m about to talk about superheroes. I don’t mean this disparagingly — I’ve certainly enjoyed more than a couple superhero movies and still think Black Panther was one of the best movies of 2018. But I also hit superhero fatigue sometime around June, and I know some of you are with me.
That said, I must tell you about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Yes, it’s animated; yes, it’s got a long, confusing name; yes, this is the eighth Spider-Man movie in 16 years. But it’s also one of the most exciting and inventive animated films ever, and the most pure fun I had watching any single movie last year.
It turns out there’s a whole universe of Spider-people in the comic book world. This movie tells the origin story of one of them, a teenager from Brooklyn named Miles Morales. Miles is, of course, bitten by a radioactive spider, and develops the usual spider-powers, plus some unexpected others. Meanwhile, the villain Kingpin has created a sort of inter-dimensional portal that forces Miles to cross paths with a number of other Spider-heroes, including a couple versions of the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker, and naturally they have to figure out how to stop Kingpin and reverse all the madness.
The story is delightful and important in its inclusion of an array of races and genders taking on the Spider-mantle, and the animation is jaw-dropping. It’s as close to a moving comic book as I’ve ever seen, and it’s saturated with dazzling colors and animation techniques that look completely new to me.
If you’re skeptical, trust me, I get it. But I can’t come up with enough superlatives to describe how much darn fun Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is. 2018 was a bit of a heavy year. At the very least you can start 2019 off with a couple hours of cinematic joy.