As someone who has never been a fan of Spider-Man, I met the deluge of praise for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with a healthy amount of skepticism. I have never liked any of the Raimi films (yes, even Spider-Man 2) and the Andrew Garfield-led reboots fell equally flat. While I have enjoyed Tom Holland’s take on the character, Spider-Man: Homecoming still felt as though there was something missing. So I resigned myself to the fact that perhaps Spider-Man simply is not the superhero for me.
But then I watched Into the Spider-Verse and for the first time, I now have a Spider-Man film that I can truly say I love. Every single aspect of this movie works perfectly. The animation style is truly astonishing. It is deliberately unique and modern yet makes a concerted effort to feel retro at times by mimicking the look and feel of tangible comic books. The performances of the voice actors from Shameik Moore’s Miles Morales and Jake Johnson’s Peter B. Parker to supporting roles from Mahershala Ali (Uncle Aaron) and Brian Tyree Henry (Jefferson Davis) provide emotional punches that transcend any barriers presented by being an animated film. And Daniel Pemberton’s score has a fluidity that is able to keep pace with the plot that unspools at sometimes breakneck speed. The music seamlessly shifts tones as the scenes jump back and forth between various plots and characters. At no point does the score feel out of place from what is on screen.
Needless to say, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse could only have been accomplished as an animated film. Its plot is as ambitious as it is unprecedented. It is a testament to the team of writers and directors that a story this complex is able to be presented in a way that is easily digestible and immensely entertaining. Most superhero movies struggle to tell a coherent, emotional story with a single hero at the center. Into the Spider-Verse manages to be successful while juggling multiple variations of Spider-Man on screen at the same time — as well as a variety of villains — and never loses its heart in the process. The audience is always keenly aware of not just Miles’ conflict and development, but also Peter Parker’s and even Kingpin’s. And though it is filled with humor, it never lets the jokes undercut the moments that need to be serious.
Writing as a recent convert to Spider-Man fandom, it feels like the world of animation is where Spider-Man truly belongs. A character whose skillset and humor is conveyed more effectively in the hands of comic book artists and animators than actors and special effects shops. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is unquestionably the best Spider-Man film to date and is the best animated film of 2018. And amazingly enough, should be in the discussion for best superhero film of all time.