Let’s get one thing out of the way: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie.
I realise that this is not a controversial opinion, but I’ve annoyed everyone I know when they ask me what Wall-Crawler movie I think is the greatest by consistently answering “why, Spider-Man 2, old chap, it’s the very ticket.” (For all most of you know I might talk like this.) Spider-Man 2 is and always will be my favourite version of the character because it got me young and brutally raised my expectations for what blockbuster cinema can do. I’ll never give a different answer to this question. But the best Spider-Man movie (because best and favourite can be two separate things, old chap) is absolutely Spider-Verse. It might even be the greatest comic book movie of all time.
SACRILEGE! I hear you cry, or that could be my cat staring at her empty bowl (I’m having a weird day, are you having a weird day?), The Dark Knight is the greatest, or an Avengers movie that doesn’t feature Ultron in the title, but bare with me because I’m being extremely facetious. Spider-Verse may or may not be better than those examples, but I’m not talking about superhero movies, I’m talking about comic book movies.
I love comics; I think as an art form there is nothing like it. It takes the best parts of books and movies and splashes them together to create an experience that is almost impossible to replicate. For decades, comics were seen as embarrassing kids media – Hollywood studios would kill to make a Batman movie, or a Superman movie, but they would take all the iconography and forget about the stories and the medium that gave them meaning in the first place. This has changed in recent times, to the point that you can throw a stone and hit an iconic comic moment recreated on the big screen.
Spider-Verse is the rare comic book movie that dares to recreate the experience of disappearing between those flimsy, wonderous pages. We’ve had movies like this before: Ang Lee failed brilliantly at trying to bring the panelled visuals of comic books to the big screen in the fascinating disaster that is Hulk. Then there is Frank Miller, the best and worst writer in all comics who co-directed and adapted his own brilliant Sin City series into one excellent movie and one very bad movie (except for Eva Green, she nearly saves the second one), and his own solo adaptation of the legendary Will Eisner’s The Spirit a movie so bad that I want to get away from this very sentence as quickly as possible. I could have just said it was shit. There is also 300, but I’m on an enforced sabbatical from talking about Zack Snyder.
The message in this movie is simple. Anyone can be Spider-Man. Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy, a cartoon pig, Spider-Man is not a billionaire like Batman and Iron Man, he’s not a god, an alien, a soldier, or even a cop. Each of the characters, apart for Spider-Man Noir, are ordinary people looking for their place in the world. Like you, like me. The message is simpler than that: anyone can be a hero. That’s why I love Spider-Man – he’s the little guy, Peter was the little guy, Miles is the little guy, and what’s more relatable than that? There is a positivity and a wonder to Spiderverse that my older less cynical brain responds to much more than the likes of Sin City, and it’s that which brings me back to that familiar, warm comic book place.
Into the Spider-Verse is the perfect encapsulation of the best parts if both cinema and comics. The static image and vibrant art are given motion and sound, the animation is genuinely incredible, and the cast is wonderful. But none of this would work without the story. Sin City 2 had these things but the stories weren’t as compelling. Spider-Verse does not have that problem.
Peter and Miles’ relationship is a reminder to all of us that those who say to put away childish things never give themselves the chance to learn anything from them. We don’t move forward by forgetting who we were and what made us this way. I wouldn’t be the person I am today with Spider-Man, without Batman, without Buffy, without the Power Rangers. It’s why these stories are important to us. It’s why I’m writing about silly kid stuff six days before my 32nd birthday, and why I’ll be writing about it for years to come.
By Kevin Boyle
(header image via New York Times)