Spidey sense is tingling

A fresh, fun trip through the Spider-Verse

Starring the voices of Shameik Moore, Chris Pine, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali and Hailee Steinfeld. Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas. Rated PG.
Rated 5.0

With live-action Spider-Mans in limbo due to an infamous Thanos finger snap in Avengers: Infinity War, Sony Pictures ups the ante in the Spidey franchise with a new animated offering. And the eye-popping and ingenious Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only one of 2018’s greatest cinematic surprises, but maybe the best comic book movie ever made.

No film adaptation has captured the rush of reading an exciting comic book like this blast of energy from directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman. They go for broke with a seamless mixture of visual styles—hand-drawn and computer-animated—and the story is pretty great, to boot.

Teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) is trying to adjust to a new, upscale school after winning a scholarship. He’s away from his big-city friends and getting some guff from his well-meaning policeman dad (Brian Tyree Henry), who wants him to appreciate the opportunity he’s been given. Miles’ uncle (Mahershala Ali) keeps him grounded, encouraging him to continue as a graffiti artist. And it’s on one of their painting excursions that Miles is bitten by a strange spider and then, well, you know …

With his newfound powers, Miles eventually crosses paths with the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Chris Pine). And, as the plot would have it, a portal from a parallel universe opens up, inviting a whole fleet of different Spider-Verse characters into Miles’ orbit. The group of Spideys includes the older Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (a mishmash of Spidey and Porky Pig voiced by John Mulaney), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her robot and, best of all, Nicolas Cage as the black-and-white Spider-Man Noir.

So, Miles is one of many heroes with Spider powers tasked with battling Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), whose corporation is responsible for the time-hole rip that’s allowed all his adversaries into his corner of the universe. The logic is convoluted, but discernible if you pay close attention. Like a good comic book, the movie is stacked with action, plot threads and many twists and turns.

I’m not a big comic collector, but I did go through a phase when I was reading graphic novels and a few of those artists really grabbed me. I loved the artwork in Bill Sienkiewicz’s Elektra: Assassin series. Much of the art in this film reminds me of Sienkiewicz and others like him—comic art with a nice level of depth to it. The film plays like every frame is a page out of one of those awesome graphic novels, edited together into a movie.

The film pokes fun at past Spider-Man movies and takes advantage of Johnson’s comic timing. Lily Tomlin voices a very different Aunt May, who is kind of like Batman’s Alfred with a little more edge.

While I like Tom Holland as the most recent live-action Spider-Man, this sort of animated offering is more up my alley. There’s a new Holland Spider-Man movie (along with the next Avengers) coming next year, but I want more of this. Spider-Verse is surely one of the best movies of the year, the best Spider-Man movie to date and one of the best animated films ever made. Yeah, it’s that good.