Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The first big-screen animated movie based on the Marvel Universe is also the first Marvel movie that isn’t set on Earth-616. That’s the primary reality in all of the Marvel films and comic books. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – which is essentially the origin story of Miles Morales as Spider-Man – even starts by being kind of coy about how Miles really lives in the alternative reality of Earth-1610. Things get less subtle when Miles watches as Peter Parker gets killed off while fighting the Green Goblin, who’s a giant demonic creature in Miles’ universe.

Lots of Spidey villains look different on Earth-1610. That makes for a few surprises. It’s hard to miss The Kingpin, however, who helps to keep the plot straight with his plan to create wormholes into alternate dimensions. That doomed Peter Parker is trying to shut down the experiment when a merry mishap leads to other alt-universe Spideys getting dragged into Miles’ world. That includes a slightly schlubby Parker who reluctantly agrees to train Miles in a plan to destroy the Kingpin’s evil device.

They’re joined by the Spider-Woman of Earth-165 – wisely worked into the film’s main plot – plus a film noir Spider-Man who’s usually living in 1933. Anime gets added courtesy of Peni Parker. She’s a cute girl from Earth-14512 with a psychic bond to a spider living inside a giant robot. Spider-Ham joins as a former spider on Earth-8311 who was bit by a radioactive pig, and his Loony Tune antics still aren’t as cartoonish as Miles’ first outing as a superhero.

There are a lot of ways to screw up cramming this kind of pop-culture explosion into a cartoon superhero tale. Instead, the spectacular Spider-Verse does a fine job of treating the main Kingpin story line seriously. The assorted Spideys are also shown a lot of respect, and their constant clever references to the Marvel universe never feel forced into the script. They’re just part of the general mayhem.

Spider-Verse isn’t even the most cartoonish production to ever come out of the Marvel Universe. It’s easily the best Marvel product that Sony’s offered since jumpstarting the genre with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002.  And the movie’s obligatory post-credits scene (SPOILER: set on Earth-TRN199) is also going to be hard to beat as an instant classic.