My love affair with comics started not with the works of Stan Lee or Alan Moore or even Tim Burton, but with Saturday morning cartoons; X-Men: The Animated Series; Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends; Silver Surfer.
And while the often brilliant spandex movies that have been churned out on an industrial scale over the last decade have brought these characters to a massive, global audience, there’s something pure and untouchable about those sketchy old animations. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse brought back memories of racing out of bed in my pyjamas to watch the amazing adventures of Spider-Man et al.
Producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller – of The Lego Movie fame – have crafted what might be the missing link between the printed page and modern, live action movies. Their CGI world is embellished with crosshatching and Lichtenstein-esque ben-day dots, which recall the 1960s comics this movie so lovingly references.
It borrows elements from the very best superhero movies – the irreverence of the early Spider-Man films, the fourth-wall breaking humour of Deadpool, the high emotional stakes of The Avengers – but creates something that feels totally fresh and vibrant.
It follows Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teenager who gets bitten by yet another radioactive spider. Only in Miles’ world, there’s already a Spider-Man, and he’s just been killed in the line of duty. Over the next 20 minutes, more and more Spider people start to appear, drawn from various dimensions by a dastardly King Pin scheme. This mixed race, mixed gender bunch each get their own parody of an origin story before a series of spectacular set pieces begin, combining traditional fight sequences with hip-hop soundtracks and jittery, graffiti-inspired visuals.
It’s a joy – more than any superhero movie, it feels like a comic book brought to life, capturing both the lovable silliness and the genuinely weepy emotional highs.
In an era obsessed with recreating animated classics in live action, Into the Spider-Verse is a wonderful, welcome reminder that animation can be exactly the right medium.