Will Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse best Disney at the Academy Awards?

The latest Spider-Man may finally loosen Disney's stranglehold on the animation category.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated: PG

Run Time: 117 minutes

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman

Starring Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Lily Tomlin, Nicholas Cage, Liev Scheiber, John Mulaney and Kathryn Hahn

Now playing.

click to enlarge Who's your favorite Spider-Man? 'Into the Spider-Verse' offers six different versions from Marvel Comics' canon to choose from. - Sony Pictures Animation
Sony Pictures Animation
Who's your favorite Spider-Man? 'Into the Spider-Verse' offers six different versions from Marvel Comics' canon to choose from.


Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the seventh film since 2002 to star Marvel Comics’ iconic web-slinging hero, is not only the first big-screen animated adventure for the beloved character, it’s one of the best Spider-Man films ever made, merging multiple timelines and dimensions and personalities into one eye-popping visual feast.

If you can stomach it, that is.

As good as Into the Spider-Verse is, the bold decision by the creative team to forge an entirely new form of animation, one that upends the standard rule of 24 frames per second and essentially obliterates motion blur, means that you aren’t exactly sure what you’re watching at times because it resembles an actual comic book come to life.


If this is indeed the future of animation, maybe someone should have warned us old farts in advance


Background characters and set pieces appear blurry and out of focus, as if you’re watching a 3D movie without the required glasses. Colors bleed and merge, creating a strange, new kaleidoscope. For an older fan, say someone just coming to terms with the crystal clarity of 4K Ultra High Definition, I imagine Into the Spider-Verse might prove wholly unsettling and disorienting.

If you go online and read interviews with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street, the aborted Solo: A Star Wars Story), that sense of seeing an animated film with entirely new eyes is exactly the desired result they wanted, but at what cost?

I found myself blinking more, rubbing my eyes and straining to make sense of the action whizzing across the screen. At one point, I wondered if I was having a stroke.

If this is indeed the future of animation, maybe someone should have warned us old farts in advance so as not to have the technological advancements almost overwhelm the story, which is honestly the best Spider-Man tale yet to hit the screen.

Into the Spider-Verse finally introduces Miles Morales, a mixed-race youth from Brooklyn (his father is African-American, his mother Puerto-Rican), who is bitten by a radioactive spider deep into a New York subway tunnel. The character was first introduced in the comics in 2011 to succeed Peter Parker after his untimely death.

Just as Morales (Shameik Moore) is starting to explore his newfound abilities, a major threat emerges. Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin (Liev Schreiber), has gained control of what’s basically the Large Hadron Collider to break time and space. In the process, he opens portals to other dimensions, which gives six other versions of Spider-Man the chance to step into Morales’ world.

It’s a wonderful tool that allows the filmmakers to explore alt-world versions of the character, including Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), a pudgy, disaffected Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), a Looney Tunes-like Spider-Ham (John Mulraney), the anime-inspired Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and, best of all, the black-and-white Spider-Man Noir (Nicholas Cage).

click to enlarge Spider-Man prepares for battle in his bid to save New York from the evil Wilson Fisk. - Sony Pictures Animation
Sony Pictures Animation
Spider-Man prepares for battle in his bid to save New York from the evil Wilson Fisk.

There’s also a wonderful assortment of villains in addition to Fisk, including a female Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn), Scorpion and Green Goblin.

Much like The LEGO Batman Movie, which had great fun playing with the Dark Knight’s storied (and campy) history, Into the Spider-Verse is packed with Easter eggs and visual gags that delight, even as they strain your ability to catch them all. A movie poster advertising From Dusk Till Shaun. A popular celebrity restaurant called Planet Inglewood. The name Steve Ditko (who co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee) in Morales’ cell phone contacts.

And the script is whip-smart and very, very funny. At one point, Spider-Ham (imagine Porky Pig in costume) asks the group, “Do animals talk in this dimension, because I don’t want to freak him out.”

There’s even a post-credits tease to Spider-Man 2099 that acknowledges the first animated Spider-Man series, which debuted in 1967.

With so much comics history packed into a two-hour feature, it’s a wonder that Into the Spider-Verse didn’t buckle from the weight of its ambition.

And that’s why — mark my words — Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will easily be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards, and it should be the favorite to finally loosen Disney’s stranglehold on the category.  

Maybe I just need to chill out about the film’s animation advancements. After all, do I really want to be that guy who comes off like a geriatric J. Jonah Jameson yelling at Spider-Man to get off my lawn?

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at bloodviolenceandbabes.com, on  Facebook or on Twitter.

About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
Scroll to read more Events & Film articles
Join the Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at [email protected]