In a time when most superheroes in the movies are perpetually dark and moody, and even the ones that used to be fun are really down in the dumps lately, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" is a bright blast of fun - a movie that feels like a revelatory miracle.

This is a comic book movie that actually leans into being a comic book - animated in a way that feels like the pages are in motion. It's the best, most striking animated movie of the year, and maybe the best Spider-Man movie ever, or at least top two.

The Spider-Man in this movie is Miles Morales, a middle-schooler with a very different world perspective than Peter Parker with a mixed race background.  He's bitten by a radioactive spider, and yeah, you know the drill. I know what you're thinking - do we really need another Spider-Man origin story? We've had two already. But that's exactly why this is so good - taking something familiar and making it fresh.

The movie dabbles in multi-verse hypothesis as Miles is soon joined by a Peter Parker from a different dimension because bad guy science contraption thingy. They're soon joined by more Spider-people from other realities - my favorite being Noir Spider-Man voiced hilariously by Nicholas Cage, who needs  his own spin-off movie. There's also The Amazing Spider-Ham, a pig voiced by John Mulaney. Yeah, really.

A lot of this is deep-cut "Spider-Man" lore, and it should feel like naked fan service or just an overstuffed excuse to sell more toys - and maybe it is - but the movie never feels like it. It's clever and heart-felt, smartly self-referential and deconstructionist. We should have expected that from the writers of "The Lego Movie," who also made this.

 "Into the Spider-Verse" is for everyone from the hardcore comics fans and the casual movie watchers. The characters are fantastically drawn, both from a writing and animation perspective, and the world they inhabit is one we don't want to leave.

At a time when superhero movies are more prevalent and popular than ever, the game just changed. 

EPPLER'S RATING: * * * * 1/2


* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful  - The worst, an insult to movies