Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and into our hearts

(Left to right) Spider-Woman, Spider-ham, Spider-Man (as Miles Morales), Spider-Man (as Peter Parker), Spider-Noir, and SP//dr (not pictured) manage to create a colorful and three-dimensional cast of characters without making the movie seem crowded. (Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons)

The past 18 years have seen an influx of superhero movies, leaving audiences to wonder if Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse would simply be an afterthought in a movie industry run by Iron Man, Captain America, and other better known Marvel heroes. Instead, Spider-Man shines bright– it’s not a reach to say that it’s the best Spider-Man movie to date.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse introduces a whole new cast of characters who don the red mask. Mile Morales (Shameik Moore) is one such character. A fourteen-year-old kid from Brooklyn, Miles was thrust into the world of superheroes after being bitten by a radioactive spider on the Subway and (minor spoiler!) witnessing the death of the original Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Chris Pine), at the hands of Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). Peter entrusts Miles with the task of stopping Kingpin and his plan to create a machine that can successfully reach into other dimensions.

Unbeknownst to Miles and the late Peter Parker, the machine’s previous “failed” attempt at reaching into other dimensions actually brought other Spider-Men into Miles’ universe: an older, weathered, and more cynical Peter Parker (this time voiced by Jake Johnson); a very much alive and teenaged Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) as Spider-Woman; the cartoonish and witty Spider-Ham (John Mulaney); the dark Spider-Noir (Nicholas Cage); and the adorable yet terrifying Peni Parker (Kimiko Glen) and her giant and sentient SP//dr mecha suit. These characters have to band together to shut down Kingpin’s machine before it tears apart Brooklyn and get back to their own dimensions at the same time– which seems like an impossible task considering Miles’ inexperience as a hero,

Despite the seemingly complicated plot and an overcrowded cast of characters, Spider-Man does a good job of balancing out each character on screen and simplifying the plot. The end goal remains obvious and consistent the entire time– to shut down the machine and send the Spider-Men back. Furthermore, Spider-Man doesn’t concentrate on all seven Spider-Men, which would have been overwhelming given its two hour screen time. The movie focuses on Miles Morales and his journey to become the next Spider-Man. And they do a really good job, too. Miles isn’t a perfect character by any means– he’s insecure and unsure about his newfound powers– but is still determined to do the right thing, making him all that more relatable to the audience.

The relationships between the characters is what really made the movie for me, however. Alternate-dimension Peter Parker and Miles Morales’ reluctant mentor-student relationship was hilarious yet heartwarming. It gives more dimension (pun intended) to the characters– it reveals that this Peter has spent 20+ years as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and his life, as well as his hero physique, has fallen apart because of it. He’s cynical and exhausted, but he still takes Miles under his wing, proving that he’s still the good-natured Peter we all know and love. Aloof and cool Gwen Stacy’s sweet friendship with Miles also reveals that she cares much more than she lets on. But the best relationships in the movies are definitely the contrasting relationships between Miles and his dad and Miles and his uncle. Miles and his dad Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) don’t always see eye-to-eye, but they clearly care for each other very much. Miles and Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), on the other hand, have an easygoing relationship that hides Uncle Aaron’s more nefarious activities. They both support Miles in their own way and push him to believe in himself and take that leap of faith when it comes to his powers.

Spider-Man doesn’t just exceed expectations in their writing, but also in their gorgeous animation. The style pays homage to the movie’s comic book roots in a unique, colorful, and expressive style that’s unlike any other mainstream animated movie. They do a fantastic job of portraying the Spider-sense onscreen as well. The best part about the movie’s animation, however, is how they manage to combine different styles into one cohesive movie– Peni’s anime look, Spider-Ham’s 2D cartoon portrayal, and Spider-Noir’s angsty expressions all manage to blend seamlessly with the main style.

Last but not least, it’s the diversity of the characters that really cement Spider-Man as one of the best movies of 2018– at least for me. Miles Morales is an Afro-Latino Spider-Man in a predominately white superhero world. Yes, the movie industry has taken steps to become more representative of its audience, but that fact remains that superheroes aren’t typically of color– there are only six mainstream cinematic black superheroes and one Latino one (not including Miles). Hearing Miles speak Spanish on-screen delighted the little girl inside me who dreamed of being a superhero, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that had this experience. The massive critical and box-office success of this movie and others, like Black Panther and Wonder Woman, only cements that the people want more superheroes that look and talk like them.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse went above and beyond anyone’s expectations with brilliant characters, fantastic writing, and beautiful animations. It’s well worth the experience of seeing it in theatres, maybe even more than once.

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