Since 2002, Sony has released six different Spider-Man movies. During that span, there have been three different Peter Parkers (played by Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland), three different Aunt Mays who have progressively younger (Rosemary Harris, Sally Field, and Marisa Tomei) two different Mary Janes ( Kirsten Dunst and Zendaya), and three different Green Goblins (Willem DeFoe, James Franco, and Dane DeHaan).
Most of those movies bleed together and reduces the same conflicts into clichés. Sound even in the wake of the splendid 2017 charmer Spider-Man: Homecoming, it's hard not to feel like Another Spider-Man movie on the horizon is more of a taunt than a treat. It's difficult to shake the fear that a new one could sink into what is now a well-established web of indistinct existence, becoming another Spider-Man movie that was made only because studio executives know that people will buy tickets to go to see a Spider-Man movie, no matter how terrible it is.
The best Spider-Man movies convincingly tap into the spirit of the character, his divine earnestness. He's not unbeatable. He does not have a magic hammer. He does not have a magic suit. He's just a kid who wants to do the right thing, who will risk anything to save us all.
And no Spider-Man movie should ever leave its audience asking: What made this one different?
Rest assured, true believers: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will not let you down
The new animated movie is a sleek and soaring, a wonderful paean to the spirit of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's legendary webslinger, embodying the relentless hope and optimism of its hero in such a classic way. But it also unearths an exhilarating new ground – by way of spectacular deviations from the norm that the Marvel Cinematic universe and live-action filmmaking do not always allow for – that makes it feel like something tremendously innovative, while still traditionally Spidey.
Into the Spider-Verse centers on Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a character who has lived a full life in Marvel's comic books but does not exist in the live-action MCU.
Morales is a biracial kid – he's half Puerto Rican and half black – living in a universe that's parallel to the main Marvel universe. Peter Parker's Spider-Man still exists in this parallel universe, performing everyday acts of heroism just like you'd expect; In fact, the only thing that really sets it apart from the main universe is that Morales exists in it.
By fate, Morales It obtains its own powers that are similar to Spider-Man's, but they create for Morales an entirely unique set of trials, triumphs, and tribulations. The tried-and-true themes of power and responsibility are present, but they manifest differently for Morales because he's living in a world where Parker's Spider-Man already lives.
Parker It's a sterling example of what it means to be a hero, and instead of Morales having the freedom to carve out his own kind of heroism, he feels the pressure to carry on Parker's legacy.
Consequently, his story is less focused on wielding his power with responsibility, and more on his responsibility to abrace his power Morales must learn to accept his own greatness and overcome his personal insecurities in a world that can cruelly recall any of us at any time that we are not that special
It's a tall order, and one that's complicated by Morales's young age. But Into the Spider-Verse impressively never lose sight of the fact that Morales is just a kid, just like Parker was when Lee and Ditko first created Spider-Man. Though Homecoming Got at that idea, there has been a tendency in previous Spider-man movies to age Parker up – as if being a kid and balancing, school, heroism, and family was not as valid as being a superhero adult.
Into the Spider-Verse is quick to dispense with that notion. Screenwriters Phil Lord (who co-directed the film) and Rodney Rothman seem to inherently understand that the wide array of joys, fears, and uncertainties that all kids experience, and that all adults are familiar with. Into the Spider-Verse He treated his characters' emotions with care and validity, while trying to solve a puzzle that has long stumped people of all ages: Who am I supposed to be? And the scarier follow-up: What if I do not deserve that identity?
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a Spider-Man story that never forgets Spider-Man is human
There is no Spider-Man without the classic saying, "With great power, comes great responsibility." (Some trivia: the original quote is actually, "with great power there must also come great responsibility.") The creed was born out of Uncle Ben's death, a death that Peter Parker could have prevented had he not had a lapse in judgment and a moment of selfishness.
But when we met Miles Morales in Into the Spider-Verse, he does not yet have the emotional maturity to understand the concept.
Morales, just as he was when writer Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli created him in 2011, is a pre-pubescent kid tween geeky. Like Parker, he's an accomplished student, but he wants to hide that part of himself. He has attended the posh school for the gifted and rich, but he wants to go back to being a normal kid, at the regular high school, with all of his friends. When he gets bit by a spider and obtains new powers, he initially interprets them as sudden-onset puberty. But fate clearly has other plans for Morales, and when he witnesses the death of Peter Parker, it's up to him to take on the mantle of Spider-Man.
While Into the Spider-Verse Screenwriters Lord and Rothman might be better known for their comedic work (they previously collaborated on 22 Jump Street, and Lord directed The Lego Movie), The two have written a thoughtful, nuanced story that explores Morales's uncertainty over whether he deserves the powers he has, as well as the culpability and grief he feels over Parker's death.
It is not just the spider powers that Morales questions; The privilege of attending the great and gifted school is also an obvious weight on his mind.
As he's often remembered by his loving policeman father (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry), he's very blessed. But in a world where so much happens by chance, Morales seems uncomfortable with the idea that he could be the only one who benefits from his privileges. He's also wary of taking them for granted.
Making things more complicated is Morales's Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) who is deeply caring for Morales but for some reason is not speaking terms with Morales's father. It's implied that Uncle Aaron takes part in shady dealings. But Aaron can connect with Morales in a way that adults do not. He appreciates and nurtures Morales's creativity, something that Morales's father has never done enough of. And although Aaron is not as smart as Morales and did not attend the gifted school, he lives in a comfortable enviable life in the city and apparently travels a lot. So it seems natural that he becomes the role model of Morales.
But when Uncle Aaron inconveniently disappears, Morales' story begins to center on the grueling emotional toll of finding one's identity, and of understanding how power and responsibility are inextricably linked. Morales has no friends his age. He and his father do not have a particularly close relationship. And with his new powers, He's having to deal with life-changing circumstances on top of being a kid.
Morales's vulnerability is a key reason why Into the Spider-Verse succeeds. What made Spider-Man so special when Lee and Ditko first created the character was that his story assured young readers that their fears, emotions, and joys were every bit as valuable and as valid as those grown-ups. Spider-Man was an acknowledgment that growing up is exhausting, and sometimes hurts more than scuffles with supervillains. That's incredibly painful when, no matter the reason, you can not tell anyone who you really are.
Into the Spider-Verse builds on that legacy in a way that allows Morales to be frightened, to feel unsure of himself, perhaps even to act unhelpful and callous at times, while never losing sight of his bravery and humanity.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a clinic in what animated superhero movies can do
The biggest challenge that all live-action superhero properties face is that it's expensive and sometimes impossible to translate a lush two-dimensional comic book illustrations into three-dimensional live-action sequences. Superhero television shows usually do not have the budget required to keep up with comic artists' imaginations. But even the biggest blockbusters sometimes contain scenes that look like a bunch of fight scenes were thrown into a blender.
That's where Into the Spider-Verse have an advantage
Animation allows Rothman and his co-directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey to make their scenes even bigger, even better, even more eye-popping than the comic book pages that inspired them. They are not bound by the physical limits of stunt performers or the types of sets that human hands can build, nor are they dependent on CGI. If they can draw and animate it, they can do it.
And they have capitalized on that freedom to create fight scenes that are nothing short of spectacular.
But even more dazzling than the fight scenes are the risks that Into the Spider-Verse takes and the envelopes it pushes. The movie obviously does not want to look like any superhero movie – animated or live action – that you've ever seen.
The movie pays homage to classic comic book style in the way that it plays with where your eye is trained to go. Some sequences zoom in to speed up time, or expand to show how small our hero is amid the grand scope of the universe. There's also some fun stuff that happens with verticality and space, as every frame seems to contain a trapdoor that could, at any time, plunge the action into the space below. And it all culminates in a gorgeous, dimension-shattering set piece that tumbles, swirls, and opens up several worlds within worlds, all with pockets of stunning animation that beg to be explored.
Because of a nefarious plan involving a super collider by the movie's villain, Kingpin, Morales eventually learns that there are multiple parallel universes in existence. That's why the Peter Parker who died in Morales's world can still exist in another. (It's an idea that's already been executed in the comics, and nicely leaves the door open for characters to cross between parallel universes, should Marvel and Sony ever decide to bring Morales into the Marvel Cinematic Universe live-action.)
But Into the Spider-Verse also uses the multiverse explanation to experiment with different styles of animation, and to crumple the boundaries of what a superhero movie looks like. Each universe we have its own distinct aesthetic; One character from a future timeline is drawn in a jagged animé style, while another character from a past timeline becomes a peckish homage to noir-style comic books (Nicolas Cage providing the voice also helps). All these different styles are then contrasted with the sleekness of Morales's world.
There are moments where it feels as if the movie was bitten by a radioactive comic book, and is transforming right before our eyes. It's a glorious sight to see.
With its risky visual storytelling and tender script, Into the Spider-Verse earns the greatest honor that one can bestow on Spider-man movie: It somehow makes you want to see more Spider-man movies Including at least a few more for Miles Morales alone.
Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse will be released in theaters on December 14.