(On Cable TV, June 2019) At a time when both superhero films and animated movies feel a bit stale, here comes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to remind us that there is always another way to do things. This newest take on Spider-Man doesn’t stray far from the usual formula—in fact, it revels in it, starting with the familiar origin story to divert from what we think we know about the character, and then using parallel-universe plot devices to bring in no less than seven other versions of Spider-Man from the silly to the sublime. But that’s only the plot part of the film, and as fun as it can be, it pales in comparison to the innovative never-seen-before visual style of the film. Taking cues from badly printed comic books of decades past, Into the Spider-Verse offers a consciously different style of computer-aided animation, going for a far more expressionistic presentation of the material than the vast majority of CGI animated features these days. Nearly every frame could come from the pages of a comic book, and if I’m not that fond of some techniques (the moiré, the step-printing, the out-of-focus backgrounds looking as we’re watching a 3D film without glasses), the overall result is so fresh and vivid that even those things don’t matter much. There’s simply too much to like here, from the appealingly diverse cast to the hard-driving score to the repeated paeans to past takes on the character. (If you’re not in love with the film by the time Spider-Ham shows up… I’m not sure what to tell you.) Tons of freeze-frame gags will ensure that the film has a long life for fans, while the good control over the pacing of the film ensures overall re-watchability. This is a really clever take on the character, and the reconstruction of Spider-Man is up to writer/producer Phil Lord’s previous work in other genre properties. (The new take on Doc Ock is sexy and terrific, while Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Gwen are particularly well executed.) Between this and the MCU-linked renewal of the live-action character with Tom Holland, it’s been quite a sharp ascent for Spider-Man from the depths of the useless Garfield movies. The past few years have led to something far more fascinating than the ridiculous “Spiderman Universe” movie plans once in the making. Into the Spider-Verse deservedly walked away with an Oscar, not just because it respectfully found a way to play with a familiar character, but it most notably shredded the envelope of animated movies in a way that, hopefully, will lead to more innovative approaches in the future.