Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is unmistakably an art piece, with six different animation styles folded around each other to evoke layered worlds.
It’s also definitely a comic-book romp, adventurous and thrilling, joyful and thoughtful. None of those things make it less art.
The opening act of the movie makes it clear that it’s quite conscious of itself as art. The characters riot through the Guggeheim art museum, fighting a version of the Vulture who is a living sketch, literally made of paper and charcoal and in the style of a da Vinci drawing. They destroy famous works, like Balloon Dog by Jeff Koons, currently the most expensive piece of art ever sold by a living artist.
Recently in the real world, one of Koons’ balloon dog sculptures was broken by a visitor to an art fair who got too close. But Spider-Man wants you to get close.
“Just as art can be kept behind glass in museums and institutions, it can also be an accessible, dazzling spectacle on a movie screen that takes viewers on an emotional and action-packed journey across dimensions. And isn’t it way more fun that way?” reads a review posted by IGN.
In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, different art styles evoke the different dimensions. There’s the India-influenced Mumbattan, in bold, ornamented colors. There’s Neuva York, in the stark, harsh styles of Syd Mead’s illustrations. Gwen’s world is pure emotion, animated in watercolor washes that bleed from mood to mood.
Moviemakers have been asking for animated films to be taken seriously as an art form since the genre debuted in the days of Thomas Edison.
“Animation is cinema,” said Guillermo del Toro last year, accepting his Oscar for the stop-motion film Pinocchio. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is pushing that claim with joy and fervor, and deserves to be set alongside any other cinematic masterpiece released this year.
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