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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

"You got a problem with cartoons?"

I don't know why I put off watching this film for so long. I love science fiction, I love well-made animated movies, and I love Spider-Man. And after finally seeing it, I love this movie too.

Because this is a movie tailor-made for Spider-Man fans, whether you fall under Gen-X, Y or Z. If there's a frame of reference that you have for Spider-Man, the filmmakers have likely incorporated it into this movie thanks to its animated, metatextual format. There's a passion for the character and material here that feels genuine rather than obligatory.

A lot about this movie could have been very obligatory. Like most superhero movies, its story is an origin story. But again, thanks to the power of post-modern self-awareness, the movie knows it's an origin story. More than that, it knows we know the origin story it's telling, more or less. It manages to have a lot of fun with that concept, whether playing it straight or twisting it.

I fell off reading Spider-Man (and non-graphic novel comics in general) shortly before the Miles Morales character was introduced, but the movie follows that premise fairly well, as far as I know: Miles (Shameik Moore) lived in Spider-Man's world, and ends up becoming his successor when he's bitten by another radioactive spider and Spidey himself dies.

Into the Spider-Verse does something unique in that it's not all about an origin per se, and more about living up to a legend. It's a very thematic movie, and the main theme is Spider-Man. Not just the man, but the mythos.

Despite fitting the profile -- nerdy, angsty, quippy, overachieving high schooler on the verge of adulthood -- Miles feels like he doesn't have what it takes when he's suddenly cursed with the gift of spider powers and left with the task of saving the world from some bad guys trying to open portals to other dimensions. Luckily, he receives some validation when the multiversal device taps into the titular Spider-Verse, leading him to collide with a few other Spider-Man varients.

Initially, the Peter Parker (Chris Pine) we see is about as ideal as the character gets. Then, after the Spider-Verse has been breached, we have a Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) who is more in line with the original Spider-Man's classical anti-hero vibe. Additionally, there is the more recent Gwen Stacy version of Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), a Spider-Man who's a black-and-white hardboiled detective (Nicolas Cage), a Spider-Man that is a cartoon anthropomorphized pig (John Mulaney), a Spider-Man that's a mecha piloted by a Japanese girl (Kimiko Glenn) and her pet spider.

The introduction of all these weird, seasoned wall-crawlers is a bit overwhelming for Miles, who spends most of the film simply trying to figure out how his powers even work. At the center of his story is, of course, Miles's struggle with responsibility. To his parents first, but then to the legacy of Spider-Man that he now has to uphold. The legacy of friendly neighborhood vigilantism that spans numerous realities.

One thing I really like about the movie is the idea of Spider-Man as an inclusive superhero by design. Stan Lee had often said that the beauty of the Spider-Man costume was that it was full-body, allowing people of any race or gender to identify with the character and imagine themselves under the mask. Miles and the other Spider-People in this movie all represent that. It feeds into the inspirational side of the Spider-Man story. In most interpretations, Spider-Man is just an average person with flaws who is forced to recognize that he shouldn't take what he has in life for granted and should make the most of his abilities, learning to uplift others rather than oneself alone. At its heart, it is always a coming-of-age tale as well as a morality tale. On those fronts, I'd say Into the Spider-Verse really flourishes.

It also flourishes in just about every technical aspect of the film as well. The animation style here is just gorgeous, popping with color and energy. The concept of the Spider-Verse paved the way for a lot of creativity, giving every Spider-Person a distinct art style that becomes really fun whenever they're all together. I've seen a few movies that blend the magic of cinematography with the dynamic art of comic books, and this is probably one of the best of that bunch. There are text and narration bubbles, splashes of onomatopoeia, and many frames even have the uncanny look of comic panels in motion. The film's writing and pacing is also very snappy, so the plot moves a lot like a comic too.

Really, the whole movie showcases why Spider-Man is such a popular superhero. The character, his quirks and abilities, and his multifaceted yet fairly accessible world opens a lot of doors in the imagination for writers and artists to play around in, be it kinetic action, epic tragedy, soapy drama, lighthearted comedy or just basic sci-fi hoopla. I tip my hat to everyone who had a hand in making this amazing little movie. I think people will enjoy it either way, but for lifelong Spider-Man fans like myself, it was a real treat.
Spider bites:

* Music: There are a lot of catchy songs on the soundtrack, but I've listened to "Sunflower" by Post Malone and Swae Lee the most.

* Spidey villains making their big screen debut: Scorpion, The Prowler, Tombstone, Hammerhead, all subservient to Kingpin.

* Wish they had done a bit more with Kingpin as the villain. Or maybe Kathryn Hahn's Doc Ock should have been the main antagonist. Kingpin tampering with other dimensions felt a little out of character, though his motive for doing so made sense. I'm also not a fan of the exaggerated design they chose for him.

* I like the subtle implication that this movie's version of Aunt May is bisexual. Doc Ock claims that her friends call her "Liv," which Aunt May does when they encounter each other later. A classic scenario from Spider-Man comics is one where Doctor Octopus courts Aunt May, even getting engaged to her at one point.

* All the voice actors in this do a great job, but special mention goes to Brian Tyree Henry as Miles's father, Jefferson. He's got probably my favorite character and performance in both this and Across the Spider-Verse.

* One thing I thought I'd be mad about but wasn't really is the stakes of the movie. It's so typical nowadays for superhero movies to go macro. They always have to save the planet, or save the universe, or save all of reality. I accept it here, given the nature of this movie's plot, but it still rankles me a bit. Spider-Man doesn't have to save the world or existence itself in order to prove himself a hero.


Jefferson Morales: "With great ability comes great accountability."
Miles Morales: "That's not how it goes."

Miles: (buying a Spider-Man costume) "Can I return it if it doesn't fit?"
Stan Lee: "It always fits... eventually."

Mary Jane Watson: "We all have powers of one kind or another, and in our own way we are all Spider-Man. And we are all counting on you."
Miles: (whispering) "They're counting on me..."
Random guy: (whispering) "Probably not you specifically. I think it's a metaphor."

Peter B. Parker: "I don't think my atoms are real jazzed about being in the wrong dimension."

Miles: "You can't let them run it. I'm supposed to destroy it so it never runs again or everyone's gonna die--"
Peter B: "Or everyone's going to die. That is what they always say. But there's always a little bit of time before everybody dies, and that's when I do my best work."

Peni Parker: "Can you rewire a mainframe while being shot at?"
Miles: "Can I what?"
Peni Parker: "Show me!"
Spider-Man Noir: (jabs Miles in the face) "Surprise attack!"
Spider-Gwen: "Can you swing and flip with the grace of a trained dancer?"
Spider-Man Noir: "Can you close off your feelings so you don't get crippled by the moral ambiguity of your violent actions?"
Aunt May: "Can you help your aunt create an online dating profile so she can get out of the dang house once in awhile?"
Spider-Ham: "Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?"
Miles: "What?"

Miles: "When will I know I'm ready?"
Peter B: "You won't. It's a leap of faith, Miles. That's all it is. A leap of faith."

Miles: (narrating) "Anyone can wear the mask."

I regret not seeing this in the theater, but totally get the hype now. Five out of five radioactive spiders.


  1. Logan, thank you for this awesome review! I was so happy to finally see this movie reviewed on this site, and I’m hoping you will take the time to post ATSV as well at some point.

    I saw this movie in the theater the same way I see most animated movies - at the request of one of my children. I went in with an open mind, but cognizant of the fact that A) I was a DC kid, B) was never a huge Spider Man fan, and C) didn’t read many comic books growing up.

    I was blown away by the film and immediately realized that Best Animated Feature was no longer a potato juggled between Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks. While the actual story didn’t always completely resonate, it was solid enough to very much enjoy. But the animation was just…next level. It was brilliant, inventive, and truly had me feeling like I was watching comics come to life. I may not have been a big fan of comics as a kid, but I have to think those that were (and still are) were just in awe of the animation like I was.

    Overall, this film is a game changer in animation and how a story can be told in that format. And the sequel is like watching the invention of animation all over again.

    Thank you for the review!

  2. Thank you for the comment. And yeah, I do plan on reviewing Across the Spider-Verse as well.


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