Spider-Verse Spins a Wonderful Web

Animated film is an instant classic.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was the superhero film we needed but didn’t deserve. It’s also, conveniently, the best film of 2018.

Hyperbolic and outlandish as that sounds, it’s true. What is it that we’re looking for in a movie to be called “Best Film?” Did we enjoy said movie? Did it look gorgeous? Was there a woke quality that we can rally around and talk about? Then Spider-Verse is your film.

Now, a recap for those not familiar. Peter Parker was your average nerd until being bit by a radioactive spider blahblahblah. Well, unless you’re fourteen-year-old Miles Morales, a half black, half Puerto Rican kid adjusting to his new school at Visions Academy. Yes, of course, he gets bit by a radioactive spider (otherwise, what are we doing here?), but he also must get five other interdimensional spider-men back home, all thanks to The Kingpin.

Five additional spidermen sound like too much, but directors Bob Persichetti, Pete Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman handle it with expert ease. Similarly, this film could’ve been just a coming-of-age film, a pure comic book story, or an animated film, a first for the Spidey series. Written by Phil Lord, the story is bursting at the seams with everything Spider-Man. Connecting everything into one massive [story] not only makes the film cohesive, but also rewatchable. It’s the combination of all those things that make this film way better than it has any right being.

The voiceover work carries the film just as much as the art. There are big names aplenty to check for in the credits, but all the performances are heartfelt. Shameik Moore as Miles Morales is one of the more revelatory Spidey performances. There isn’t the “aw shucks” persona by Tobey Maguire or the confident underdog of Tom Holland. Moore sounds like a teenager coming to terms with his powers and growing up. It’s this performance that strengthens all the others.

This is easily one of Jake Johnson’s best performances as the slouchier and grouchier Peter B. Parker. The punchlines hit with his normal zip, but the underlying empathy hits harder. Mahershala Ali and Brian Tyree Henry act like they’re in a drama, not an animated film. Chris Pine may play the ideal Spider-Man and Lily Tomlin and Hailee Steinfeld may fit the roles of Aunt May and Spider Gwen, but even then, they all have empathy. It’s always better when the villains, The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) and Olivia Octavius (Kathryn Hahn), think they’re good guys. The only two that crush at a rapid-fire clip are John Mulaney and Nicolas Cage. And rightly so, there could not be a better pair to hit the comic relief.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Best film of the year.


JP Spence

JP Spence is a writer, screenwriter, and improviser living in Los Angeles. He previously served as the media critic for the Topanga Messenger and as Editor-In-Chief for the LA Valley Star. You can find Josh @JP_Spence on twitter or at any press screening.

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