Do we have a surprising latecomer to the awards race? Sony Pictures released the animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in theaters last weekend to immense critical acclaim, solid box office, and pristine A+ CinemaScore from audiences, and now the film has taken a surprising awards honor from a critics group. Indeed, the Utah Film Critics’ Association named Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse the Best Film of 2018, with ROMA serving as the runner-up. Not only that, but Into the Spider-Verse also won Best Animated Feature and Best Adapted Screenplay for Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman’s phenomenal, wildly original script.
While other animated films like Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet scored positive reviews this year, the tone of the reaction to Spider-Verse is unique. A lot of critics are saying it’s not just the year’s best animated film, it’s one of the best superhero films ever made and the best Spider-Man movie period. That’s a heck of a lot of praise, and this is one critically acclaimed feature that appears to be meeting (or exceeding) these high expectations for moviegoers.
So could the Utah Film Critics Association Award be a sign of things to come? Is it crazy to think Into the Spider-Verse might earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination? Not exactly, although there’s reason to be cautious. Since the Best Picture nomination field was expanded to up to 10 nominees, only one animated feature has scored a nomination, and that was Toy Story 3 back in 2010. Even the critically acclaimed Pixar masterwork Inside Out didn’t crack the category, and you’ll also recall that the Best Animated Feature voting branch notoriously snubbed Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s The LEGO Movie from even landing a nomination despite it being the presumed frontrunner to win.
However, the Academy voting body has changed significantly over the last few years, and Into the Spider-Verse is positively crackling with originality—something the Oscars would love to recognize, you’d think. So while I’d caution it’s pretty late in the game, the Best Picture category is already pretty stacked, and there may still be a bit of superhero stigma to overcome, I’d also say a movie about a lady falling in love with a Fish Man won Best Picture last year. The Academy’s demographic is no longer soley old crusty white dudes, and challenging and original filmmaking is started to make more of a mark (see also: Get Out, Lady Bird). So never say never.
For now, kudos to the Utah Film Critics Association for thinking outside the box. And regardless of whether Spider-Verse receives deserved awards recognition, the still film stands as a towering achievement.