A Review of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Years from now, when I look back on the year 2018, I want to remember it as the Year of the Superheroes. This year saw an unprecedented explosion of superhero films. I even plan on covering them all after Christmas. But this is for me to talk about what is possibly the best superhero film of the year, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
I thought that Avengers: Infinity War was going to be the cherry on top of a sundae of superhero movies. Though after seeing Into the Spider-Verse yesterday, I realized that it was the hot fudge; Into the Spider-Verse was the cherry on top. Saying “I loved it” would be an understatement. So as I was driving home from the theater, I knew I had to write something about it. I actually tried to last night, but it wouldn’t save. It was already late, so I couldn’t even put up something for my 25 days of Christmas series. My bad
I will get back to the Christmas thing today with a double feature to make up for it. For now, I want to talk about why I think you should go see this film!
This is a bare-bones summary of the plot. MINOR SPOILERS AWAIT YOU!
The first thing you should know is that this film is an origin story for a new Spider-Man, Miles Morales. Aside from being incredibly smart, Miles is an otherwise normal teenager. All that changes once he gets bitten by the spider and gains spider-powers. Just as starts to figure out his new abilities, he stumbles across his world’s Spider-Man who’s trying to stop the Kingpin from activating a Super Collider capable of ripping apart reality. While he manages to temporarily take it offline, Spider-Man is tragically killed in the attempt. Before he dies, though, he meets Miles and, sensing he has similar powers, entrusts him with the key to stopping the Collider for good.
As New York mourns for the loss of its hero, Miles is confronted by an older, alternate version of Peter Parker. As a result of the Super Collider, multiple incarnations of Spider-Man were pulled from their realities into Miles’, and unless they get back home, they’re going to die. These Spider-People (who I will refer to Spiders from here on out) must team up to stop the Kingpin from tearing reality apart while also helping Miles embrace his destiny as the next Spider-Man.
Putting aside the amazing animation, references to Spider-Man lore, and the plot, the main draw is the characters.
As I said before, this movie is an origin story for Miles Morales as he becomes the new Spider-Man. In that regard, he is very much a fish out of water, even before getting his powers. His parents enroll him in this private academy because they know he has the potential for greatness. Miles would rather be a normal kid, though, and prefers hanging out with his Uncle Aaron and working on his graffiti.
Miles never asks to be unique or his powers, and while he wants to live up to the Spiders expectations, he doesn’t think he has it in him. As a result, he has a hard time getting his powers to work. A tough time. But once he steps up to the challenge, he is just as capable a hero as the other Spiders.
I’ve seen this kind of story before: normal person gets thrust into an important role, tries to live up to it, fails at first, but eventually turns into the badass everyone knows he can be. Regardless, I still enjoyed watching Miles’ growth because it manages to be told interestingly.
On the other side of the spectrum, we get the alternate Peter Parker. Unlike the one in Miles’ universe, this one has been Spider-Man for twenty years, but he’s kind of washed-up from it. He has already lost his Aunt May, and he and MJ split up because he was too worried for her safety, leaving him at rock bottom. He even cries in the shower with his costume on.
This Peter Parker has apparently lost the drive to be Spider-Man and hates how his life has turned out. He’s so convinced that his life is not worth going back to that when it looks like Miles won’t be ready, he is willing to stay behind to shut off the Collider even though that means he’ll die.
He ends up becoming the very reluctant mentor to Miles in the film, and through him, he inadvertently is able to pick himself out of his slump and reignites his drive to be Spider-Man and turn his life around. It’s a reminder of the positive effects that a good mentor-student relationship can have on both sides. Hopefully, we will see more of his personal life in future films.
With every good thing, there is usually a bad thing. This film is amazing, but it did have a few things that bugged me.
In hindsight, I realize that most of this film is not original. As in, it is based on the countless stories and incarnations of Spider-Man over the years. Miles’ origin in the film is similar to his origin in the comic books, down to watching his world’s Peter Parker die in battle.
The Spider-Verse concept has also been done before. Spider-Man has traveled to alternate realities on several occasions in the comic books. He’s even teamed up with other Spider-Men several times, and not just in the comics. He’s done it in TV shows and video games too.
What’s more, since the focus is mainly on Peter and Miles, the other Spiders do not get as much time to shine. They do get their own moments in the spotlight, but the focus is on these two.
Take Spider-Woman, AKA Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen. If you know your comic history, you know the original Gwen was Peter’s girlfriend. What happened to her? Look up the ending to The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That’s what happened to her in the 1970s.
This version of Gwen ended up getting the spider-powers instead of Peter. She only appeared four years ago, but she’s already proven fairly popular with fans. That just makes it more of a disappointment that her character doesn’t get more time in the spotlight. She’s the first of the Spiders that Miles meets, before he even gets his powers, actually. She doesn’t seem to get as many moments, though, as Peter and Miles do. Plus, there is a sub-plot about a romance brewing between Gwen and Miles, though nothing ever comes of it onscreen. With sequels already planned, this hopefully be explored some more.
Then we have the other three Spiders: Spider-Ham, Peni Parker, and Spider-Man Noir. They don’ have as much of an impact on the plot other than providing backup in fights. They still get their moments to shine, but the film doesn’t have enough time to develop their characters. Their vignettes (which each Spider-Person gets) are even shown simultaneously to save time. Missed opportunity, as Spider-Man will be interesting no matter what version it is. Or will they?
Outside of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, I think the Spider that has the best chance of succeeding in a spin-off film is, ironically, the one with the least written material: Peni Parker. Of all the Spiders, she’s generated the most buzz. See?
Next to the Goku float at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I think this is the best example of anime going mainstream.
She doesn’t have that many appearances in comic books, but her story is pretty interesting. She’s from the 32nd century, she doesn’t have powers, uses a mech powered by a radioactive spider that helps to power it. It’s like what would happen if Spider-Man met Gundam. Since she’s proven to be so popular, I think she has the best chance at a spin-off. I want to see a Spider-Mech fight crime. I just hope fans don’t go overboard with fan art.
As for Spider-Ham and Spider-Noir, I’m not so sure. They are interesting characters, but I don’t think they could get their own spin-off films. They seem to work best when used as part of a group. Spider-Noir’s dark and serious attitude is played off for laughs, while Spider-Ham.. well, he’s just plain silly. Don’t underestimate him, though. He’s still Spider-Man (sort of).
In conclusion, I still think that this movie is awesome and the best superhero film of the year, regardless of the faults. Yeah, the story is not exactly original, but since this is based on a comic book, that can be expected. Fans don’t mind, myself included. As for the lack of screen time the other Spiders get, that can easily be corrected in sequels or spin-offs, which I hear Sony is already playing. This may be the best Spider-Man film that we have gotten thus far, and that’s saying something!
One reason why I liked this more than even Infinity War is because of who it focuses on. Spider-Man is Marvel’s best hero for a reason. It’s not because he’s the strongest or the smartest, but the one that fans can emphasize with the most. He’s the most human of them.
More than that, though, every time I see him, I am reminded of the lesson behind the character. At the memorial for the Peter Parker of Miles’ world, MJ says it, and Miles echoes it at the end of the film: anyone can be a hero, if they’re brave enough and willing to stand up for what they think is right. That’s the lesson that Stan Lee and Steve Dikto taught us.
Speaking of which, this film marks the first Stan Lee cameo since his passing last month. Steve Dikto had died earlier this year, and fans are still getting over the fact that Stan Lee is now gone as well. I just hope that, wherever they are, they are looking at the movie and feeling proud of what they created. The world wouldn’t be the same without Spider-Man in our lives, and this film reminds us of how much he means to us.
If you haven’t got any plans to see this film, then I recommend that you make them. It is worth the money and time to see the best superhero movie of the year.