'Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse'
(PG / 100 mins)
Overview: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the creative minds behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, bring their unique talents to a fresh vision of a different Spider-Man Universe, with a groundbreaking visual style that's the first of its kind.
'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' introduces Brooklyn teen Miles Morales, and the limitless possibilities of the Spider-Verse, where more than one can wear the mask.
Verdict: It's hard to fathom that the same Sony Pictures that, in 2012, decided the best way to expand the appeal of its live-action Spider-Man franchise was to start over with lesser movies, has now become smart enough to put its resources into a superb new — really new — Spider-Man cartoon. Maybe someone in a Culver City boardroom got bit by a radioactive MacArthur Fellow.
Whatever the reason, for a powerful corporation to relax its grip on an ancient specimen of blue-chip IP enough to let the creatives have some fun is a rare thing, and one that should not go unheralded. Marvel Comics weathered the ire of reactionary fandom back in 2011 when it introduced Miles Morales, a Spider-Man no less Amazing than that nerdy orphan Peter Parker, but for the fact he was the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse and an African-American beat cop. Miles became the Spider-Man of the publisher's "Ultimate" line, a spiral arm of the Marvel Universe that...
...you know what? Don't worry about it. To cite the refrain of this graphically dazzling, generously imaginative, nakedly optimistic, mercilessly funny and inclusive-without-being-all-pious-about-it animated odyssey called 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse', "Anyone can wear the mask"!
Without getting all hung up on plot, some messing about by The Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) prompts what you might call a crisis on infinite earths, allowing the just-bit high-schooler Miles to meet up with confident twenty-something grad student Spidey (Chris Pine, once again getting that swagger-to-humility ratio just right) as well as divorced, depressed, forty-something dad-bod Spidey (Jake Johnson).
For all its visual dazzle, Spider-Verse is working the same optimistic side of the street as the Richard Donner Superman of 40 years ago and the Wonder Woman of last year.
It believes in heroism and sacrifice, even when it's practiced by a wisecracking pig, who I'm pretty sure is seen eating a hot dog at one point. (It's the role Mulaney was born to play, baby.)