Director: Bob Perischetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Bryan Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Nicolas Cage, Liev Schreiber
Have I Seen it Before: Have I ever even seen anything like it? Let’s put it this way: I normally only list only four cast members. Here, as there are so many other great ones doing great work here, limiting things to only four felt somehow unfair.
Did I Like It: God, yes.
Why, of why, didn’t Lucasfilm just let Lord and Miller make the Solo movie they wanted to make? They have an absolutely unbroken track record of turning idiotic ideas (The Lego Movie (2014), 21 Jump Street (2012), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)) into insanely watchable movies. They’re involvement here is only tangential, but they manage to turn a pretty good idea into a surprising, wondrous epic that is certainly in the running for best Spider-Man movie ever, best animated movie of the year, and is hands down the best animated feature film featuring superheroes of all time. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)—a film I dearly love and the previous king of the category—has been dethroned.
Now, transdimensional fiestas, and meta commentary on the sprawling history of a seminal character is more than enough to attract my interest. The animation style, fusing together traditional cel, Pixar-level 3D, and a frenetic appreciation for an era of comic books just ever-so-slightly past both serves the story at every moment, and manages to be entirely new, all at the same time. I tend to stay away from 3d presentations, but when I see this movie again—and I surely will—I may deign to take on an extra pair of glasses for the experience.
That every character—even the supporting ones—has an equal claim to pathos and hilarity is truly remarkable. The cast—as I mentioned above—delivers on this seemingly impossible task.
Shameik Moore imbues Miles Morales, the film’s newest Spider-Man with such likable charisma, that anyone whole complains about a black Spider-Man is going to find new depths of foolishness in their complaints. All of the clever flash of the movie would fail to come together if Morales’ story and Moore’s performance weren’t among the best parts of a film already filled with best parts.
Among the others, Chris Pine is a perfect amalgam of ever cinematic Spider-Man to date, emphasis on the perfect, while Jake Johnson is a far more schlubby (and dare I say attainable) version of the same. The arc of Johnson’s Parker and his relationship with Morales gives hope to this thirty-something who realizes Spider-men keep getting younger, while I do the opposite. John Mulaney becomes the cartoon character we never knew he was destined to be. While I’m loathe to lump together and put near the end Hailee Steinfeld and Kimiko Glenn as Spider-Gwen and Peni Parker, theirs were the versions of the character I was least familiar with, and the ones I’m most eager to read more about as soon as possible. Even Nicolas Cage comes to play first and get paid second. It’s been a long time, Nic! It almost made me forget about Left Behind (2014), and actually gets me to warm up to the idea of Mandy.
Go see this movie. It comes with my highest recommendation.