Bold and boundlessly inventive, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spidey movie since Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2, and the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight. Its funky pulse, vibrant cartooning and neon-graffiti aesthetic make the other movies about Marvel superheroes look staid and safe by comparison. Suddenly, it's more obvious than ever that too much of Captain America and The Avengers take place in same-y steel labs and drab frontage-road office parks. Like the Lego movies, from which its creators borrow a spirit of creative license, the Spider-Verse ethos is one of play, of the joyous mash-up. Its story smashes universes together and sets a host of alternative Spider-folk running amok in the New York City of Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, the mixed-race Spider-Man (his father is black and his mother Latinx) invented for the comics in 2011 by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli.
Here Spidey-ness is something like open-source software, and any possible permutation any kid or comics creator ever doodled is likely to show up: Here's Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker's girlfriend who got murdered in the comics and the miserable The Amazing Spider-Man 2, swinging in from an alternate universe where she's the hero and it's Peter Parker's death that haunts her. And here's Peter Porker, Spider-Ham, a heroic pig from some Looney Tunes counter-Earth of falling anvils and enormous mallets that fit right in your pocket.
Even in the giddy gush of it all -- such breathless web-swinging! such bravura Spider-brawls! -- the writers and directors have achieved something rare in comic book films. This Miles Morales has a more textured and convincing life and world onscreen than in his actual comics.