“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has great animation and a real story, too. (Courtesy Sony Pictures Animation)

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has great animation and a real story, too. (Courtesy Sony Pictures Animation)

‘Into the Spider-Verse’ amazing, spectacular, astonishing

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is an animated film — not part of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe — and not quite like anything you’ve seen before.

It’s amazing, astonishing and spectacular on its own, whatever you think about previous Spider-Man movies, comics, TV shows or cartoons; it won the 2018 San Francisco Film Critics Circle award for best animated feature.

Since 2007, when Sam Raimi followed his superb two first films with the overstuffed “Spider-Man 3,” Sony Pictures has been struggling to keep Spider-Man relevant and bankable. A 2012-14 reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man” Parts 1-2, smelled like a cash grab, and this year’s slapdash spinoff “Venom” performed well despite harsh reviews.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” finally achieves the studio’s goal. It’s a kid-friendly animated movie with a “be yourself/believe in yourself” message, yet it also feels strikingly fresh, like a spinning wheel of color and flash.

Our hero is Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who, wonderfully, is Puerto-Rican and African-American. He’s a brilliant kid whose parents send him to a ritzy school to afford him more opportunity.

He’s also a graffiti artist spending time with his outlaw uncle (Mahershala Ali). While painting together in a secret spot, Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider.

Blindsided by his new powers, and, hilariously, unable to control the stickiness in his hands, he briefly meets the traditional Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Chris Pine) just in time to see him defeated by the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber).

He knows he needs to do something, but is not exactly sure what. He buys a cheap Spider-Man costume, but then, weirdly, meets another Spider-Man, “Peter B. Parker” (Jake Johnson). This one is older, thicker around the middle, possibly from another dimension.

Before long, other, other-dimensional Spider-men and women are on the scene, including Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Penni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and even an other-dimensional Spider-powered Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld).

The characters are presented in all kinds of styles: computer-animation; noirish, black-and-white comics like “The Spirit”; Jack Kirby’s comic artwork; anime; and flat, two-dimensional TV cartoons.

The action is fluid, fantastic, breakneck, yet crisp, bright and exciting. The colors sometimes look slightly misaligned, with reds and greens spilling out from behind the images — as if it were a 3D movie with no glasses — but this effect is on purpose, to pay homage to the charmingly imperfect comic books of old.

Similarly, “Kirby dots” are part of the design; backgrounds consist of uniform spots that move and spiral with the image, rather than blocks of solid color, also to simulate the feel of reading a comic.

Other sequences cut loose and offer a modern display of what animation and imagination can achieve, such as the incredible showdown inside a huge 360-degree sphere, whose panels keep breaking off as varied dimensions slide in and out of existence. It’s mind-blowing.

The movie is also very funny, with irreverent, self-referential humor — similar to the snarky “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” — but with a broader reach, and more heartfelt, passionate, respectful tone.

It was co-written by Phil Lord, who, with his cohort Christopher Miller (co-producer here), made the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” movies and brilliant “The Lego Movie” and “The Lego Batman Movie,” which most closely resembles “Spider-Verse,” but doesn’t quite reach the same dizzy heights.

This year, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and “Black Panther” have taken superhero movies to the next level, with multi-dimensional, relevant characters that make a strong argument for the artistic legitimacy of comics and cartoons.

REVIEW
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Four stars
Starring: Voices of Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali
Written by: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutesHailee SteinfeldJake JohnsonMahershala AliMovies and TVPhil LordShameik MooreSpider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Just Posted

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

National Weather Service flood watch in the San Francisco Bay Area for Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. (National Weather Service via Bay City News)
Storm pounds Bay Area, leaving over 145,000 without power: Closures and updates

Torrential rainfall causes flooding, triggers evacuations in burn areas

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
Plan Bay Area 2050: Analyzing an extensive regional plan that covers the next 30 years

Here are the big ticket proposals in the $1.4 trillion proposal

A collaborative workspace for a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) in Coordinape is pictured at a recent blockchain meet up at Atlas Cafe. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Business without bosses: San Francisco innovators battle bureaucracy with blockchain

‘The next generation will work for three DAOs at the same time’

Most Read