Hold on to all your senses because the new web-slinging animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is downright sensational.  The film serves as a living, breathing example for why not every superhero film has to be live action.  The script by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, who adopt the Miles Morales lore of the “Spider-Man” comics created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, utilize every glitz and glamour of the animation medium, all measuring up to one of the most innovative ventures seen on the silver screen this year.  Taking the outstanding voice talents of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, notably Shameik Moore as Miles, the film just doesn’t drop the gauntlet as the best-animated film of the year; it rises to the ranks as one of the single best films of 2018.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” gives the origins of Miles Morales, a young New York boy in an alternate universe where “Spider-Man” is the city’s greatest hero.  But when Miles crosses parallel dimensions and teams up with “Spider-Men” and “Spider-Women” from those dimensions, the variations of the character team up to stop a threat to all the realities.

Packed wall-to-wall with action and laughs, the movie introduces and develops the framework of one of cinema’s most exciting new superhero characters.  Miles Morales is relatable, a familiar kid from the block, focused on being a teenager but falling into the standard conventions of adolescence without necessarily being branded by typical movie tropes.  Moore’s voice performance gives Miles a depth of nuance and vigor that makes our boy jump right off the screen and into your seat.  Surrounded by an excellent ensemble of voices that allows each of them to have their own moments of greatness, the film pops in a way very few could have expected.

Managing to stand out among the large cast is Jake Johnson‘s take on Peter Parker, one of the older, overweight and lazy versions of the web-slinger.  Infusing his familiar caricatures of emotion, Johnson gives a subtle amount of intensity and wisdom to a translation of Parker who is much more lost than he is found.  Hailee Steinfeld‘s Gwen Stacy puts forth the most compelling case for why an all-woman Spider-Man movie is the best idea since Marvel decided to stop trying to do Hulk movies.  Her inflection of sass and grit pours from the words like an avalanche of erudition, unveiling a side of the superhero genre not yet explored but ready to be investigated.  Other laughs and highlights are trickled in with the likes of Oscar-winners Nicolas Cage and Mahershala Ali, Lily Tomlin, Liev Schreiber, John Mulaney, and the man of the year, Brian Tyree Henry, adding another notch on his already impressive 2018 cinematic belt.

Visuals are astounding, production designs are eye-catching, sound work is sonorous, and Daniel Pemberton‘s score offers a gargantuan amount of heartstopping beats that will be felt for the film’s entire runtime.  The song “Sunflower,” performed by Post Malone and Swae Lee, is an original number we should be all championing for inclusion in the Original Song race.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” isn’t just about being the best-animated film of the year, which it clearly is without any reconsidering of any other that came before it.  It propels the genre into new heights, easily trumpeting the likes of most superhero films, in particular, the other “Spidey” films that have preceded it.  It very well might be the best of the entire series yet, and the viewer should sit with an uncontrollable urge for every outing of Miles Morales that will be given for years to come.

Diversity in Hollywood has been an evolving image and machine, with some studios stepping up to the plate in a big way.  Sony Pictures Animation should be applauded as a trailblazer for not only changing the image of an already very familiar figure, but expanding that conversation into gender, socio-economic critiques, and the sub-division of society’s interpretation of what a superhero is, and what is their purpose.  The directing team of Bob Persichette, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman‘s singular vision is a collaboration of geniuses, searching not only for perfect optics but a respectful interpretation for all engage. What a downright magnificent motion picture for the world to indulge.

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is distributed by Sony Pictures and opens in theaters on Dec. 14.

GRADE: (★★)

Be sure to check out our Official Oscar Predictions Page to see where “SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE” ranks among the contenders!