Movie Review: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
by Karina Le | published Feb. 8th, 2019
(Both objectively and subjectively, it’s a fantastic movie. But, as corny as this may sound, the movie was simply too short and felt a bit rushed at some points in the story. Because of the pace, I deem it a 4.5/5)
Recently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” has been acclaimed for its stunning visuals and renowned soundtrack. However, some people may question what makes this movie so distinct from its predecessors, especially in the superhero genre. What sets Spider-Man — specifically Miles Morales — apart from more familiar superheroes such as Superman or even the first Spider-Man, Peter Parker? This question is what the film itself tries to answer.
Essentially, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” operates as an origin story for Miles Morales, another version of the superhero Spider-Man. He allows the superhero's persona to be seen in a different light, though his backstory is similar to that of Peter Parker’s.
Miles, in this movie, is a teen living in New York City. In his city, there already exists Spider-Man — the aforementioned Peter Parker. However, due to several circumstances, Miles has to pick up the mantle from Peter. With the help of five other Spider-Men from different dimensions, he must stop the main villain from threatening the existence of all of their universes.
Reaction and Response (Spoiler Size: S)
The first thing one should note about this movie is its unique art direction. Each Spider-Man within the cast comes from a separate universe, and this is illustrated in the film through the individualized animation and art styles used for each Spider-Man. Due to the similar universes of Miles, Peter B. Parker (not to be confused with Miles’ Peter Parker) and Gwen Stacy, they’re all stylized and animated similarly. However, they do have their own respective quirks. The other half of the Spider-Man cast — Peni Parker, SpiderNoir and SpiderHam — have very distinctive styles that show how different their universes are compared to Miles'. The reason for this decision, as well as the overall style of the movie, was a “[celebration of] its print origins with bold graphics and mainstays of comic-book style” as reported by The New York Times.
The animation is beautiful to look at. Even in the scenes presented in the trailer, one can see the quirkiness of the animation. Movements are somewhat stilted despite the smooth animation presented, but rather than take away from the visual aesthetic, the unique animation enhances it. Through these stilted movements, it creates what can only be described as a comic book coming to life, which is true to the movie’s origins. Miles Morales was a innovation to the Spider-Man lore, and the movie's innovation in the animation field reflects this.
Not only is the animation beautiful, but the soundtrack is phenomenal. One of its tracks, “Sunflower,” performed by Post Malone, jumped to #1 on Billboard Hot 100 singles a few weeks after the movie premiered.
In a purely subjective sense, I believed the movie breathed innovative art. Both in its animation choices, as well as its way of blending the soundtrack into scenes, it was such an artful experience. Though I was attracted to the movie by its unique style of animation and the bits of music I heard in the trailer, I ultimately stayed in the theater for the story the movie wanted to tell.
Critique and Importance
No matter how cheesy it is, the movie had a moral to tell through its plot. To avoid certain spoilers, Miles is abruptly propelled into being a superhero at a very scary time in his life. He is severely under-experienced in both the objective sense, since he had only been Spider-Man for a few days, but also in comparison to the other Spider-Men in the film. In a particular scene, you could feel the pressure and stress placed onto Miles as he must take the mantle from Spider-Man even though his situation was created by chance.
Though Miles is seemingly forced to become Spider-Man, that's far from the truth. By the end of the movie, the audience understands that Miles truly wanted to be Spider-Man and do the right thing by fighting crime to protect New Yorkers. He decided that he wanted to use his power for good, rather than lament or relish in his luck. During a very quiet moment in the movie, as Miles struggles about what makes a hero like Spider-Man, he comes to the conclusion that really, anyone could’ve been in his position. Anyone could’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider — quite literally illustrated by the other, present Spider-Men in the main cast — and anyone could’ve experienced the same things he did. What really matters was what he decided to do with his powers. It is with this revelation that Miles takes a leap of faith and comes to accept his role as his city’s Spider-Man.
The thing about Miles that makes the story real and a pleasure to watch is that he is someone you can find just walking down the street. He comes from a household with both parents present, lives comfortably and has his needs met. He goes to school just like anyone else, and he struggles to connect with people like anyone else. He’s no genius in his field — even with his interests, there’s nobody in the movie saying that he’s the next Picasso. Miles is really just your average high school kid.
It’s because of his normalcy that people can see themselves in Miles. The audience feels his struggle as people who have struggled in a similar way with identity and personal worth. I think this relatability was one of the reasons why the movie did so well. The film was able to produce a character that was just as flawed and human as a random person you can run into on your way home. The film ultimately uses Miles's normalcy to say that anyone can become Spider-Man just by caring about others.