Do you guys know how good Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is? In the history of ever, Evan and I have never had the same opinion on any movie. The elements we look for and consider “good” in movies are on completely different ends of the spectrum.
And yet, we BOTH thought this movie was amazing.
I didn’t believe the hype for Spider-verse. I’m not a superhero movie person; I haven’t seen any Avengers movies, haven’t read any comic books, and I don’t know who the third Thor sibling is. I haven’t watched a Spiderman movie since the first one with Tobey Maguire in it. But I thoroughly enjoyed this one! Then again, I’m a sucker for movies that take traditional tropes and subvert them in ways that still fit the canon.
As far as I understand, most Spider-Man movies start out with a high school kid who gets bit by a radioactive spider and then gets spider powers. For the most part, this movie follows this story line. Miles Morales is a kid who has just transferred to a new, prestigious school at the insistence of his father, Jefferson Davis, a police officer who thinks Spiderman is a menace. Miles’ cooler uncle, Aaron Davis, encourages Miles’ artistic growth when his dad doesn’t. I started rolling my eyes here, because it seems like such a predictable plot point, but the movie only has a few moments that are critical with the father/son confrontation, and not only is it not the main conflict in the movie, it’s also handled with grace. More on this in a little.
While Miles’ is graffitiing things with his uncle, he gets bitten by a spider that glitches out and looks like it’s a holograph (which works as a jump scare here. Not impressed.), but we can tell it’s supposed to be the equivalent of the radioactive spider that comes up in all the universes. Here’s where it gets meta: Spiderman ALREADY exists in this universe. They address this by explaining that there’s a comic IN UNIVERSE (which also is a REAL THING in real life, so we’re already leaning heavily on the fourth wall) that has two Spidermans. All righty, I think to myself, they’re going with the mentor route, I can roll with this.
AND THEN THEY IMMEDIATELY KILL OF THE PETER PARKER IN THIS UNIVERSE. He gets killed trying to stop Kingpin, who attempts to open a portal to a parallel universe where his wife and child aren’t dead. Miles ends up there by accident, and Spiderman passes on the proverbial torch. Slightly trope-y, but they’ve already subverted my expectations, so I’m entertained. However, the portal gets messed up, which predictably opens up doors for more Spidermans! Now I understand where this movie is going!
Boy, was I wrong, I did not understand where this movie was going at all.
They do bring back a form of Peter Parker almost identical to the one in Miles’ universe, and they go to stop Kingpin’s plot point. And here’s where I got really, really impressed. Most stories that involve parallel universe often explain their universes as the same, but slightly different: a critical decision was made differently, a dice roll or a coin flip outcome came out differently, someone is wearing a different color, the good guy is actually evil, so on and so forth. These parallel universes? They do not do that. They pull together every single Spider-man ever and give them an explanation for why they exist. Lots of fandoms will reject things that were not made by the original creator, and Spider-verse tells those people to fuck off and I am HERE FOR IT.
So, not only do we get that Doctor Octavius is a woman (whereas in most iterations, it’s a man) and it comes out as a fantastically written plot point, it also introduces iterations that casual fans might not know exist. We get Spider-Gwen, Nicholas Cage Spider-man Noir, Spider-ham, and Peni Parker. Female Spider-man! Old School Spider-man! Spider-pig! Asian female spider-man who doesn’t have spider powers but decided she was gonna build a spider robot! GIVE ME ALL OF THEM. There’s so much diversity, and it’s a very, very nice change of pace from the recent live action Spider-man movies that have come out.
I neglected to mention one other thing that all Spider-man movies have: the tragic backstory of Uncle Ben dying. In this movie, Uncle Ben doesn’t die because of a random mugging. Uncle Aaron is working for Kingpin, trying to kill Spider-man, but hesitates when he finds out this Spider-man is his nephew and gets killed for it. Miles’ doesn’t get a black and white situation of good and evil, he gets an accident where things could have been different, but not easily. We can understand Aaron’s point of view and we’re rooting for him. We don’t want him to kill Miles, but we don’t want Aaron dead, either. This is much, much different than a random backstory of death. Miles’ doesn’t blame himself on Aaron’s death, but rather, the angsty avenging backstory is given to his father, who assumes that Spider-man killed his brother. This is great. I don’t get to see a lot of teenagers written maturely and think things like, “We have a bigger problem, this death was not my fault and I can process it later.” Again, more subversion, and a pleasant one.
So we have all these Spider-people trying to get home. Miles, being the newest Spider-man, has no grip on his powers and generally messes up a lot, but it’s believable. I can’t imagine that any person has been in a situation where they’re the new person and they have no idea what’s going on, but they want to help and have good intentions. The other Spiders decide he’s a liability, and tie him down to a chair. The death of Miles’ uncle brings his dad to him, apologizing for his behavior, which is a little cliche, but at this point I’m willing to let it slide because the movie has done so well in so many other ways. Miles breaks free and sets his heart on training so he can help, and we’re treated to one of the most gorgeously animated scenes in cinematic history. And I say that as someone who watches almost exclusively animated movies. It was jaw-dropping. I don’t know how to explain it without just posting the scene itself, it is THAT good.
Miles’ more or less has a steady grip-- not great, and not perfected, but good enough so that he can help-- on his powers and goes to help the other Spiders. I can now mention the one possible drawback on this movie: the art style. As someone who enjoys animation, I loved the art style. However, this movie is 3D movie animated as though it was meant to be a 2D movie, which can be very jarring to watch. At times, it comes off as uncanny valley. In the movie’s defense, that’s sort of the point-- universes collide, art styles collide. It’s all brought together gorgeously at the end where all the portals are interacting with each other, but I do understand that it’s not for everyone.
They fight, it’s not a particularly new fight scene, but there are two very, very interesting things that happen during this scene:
One, Kingpin successfully opens up a new portal to find his wife and child....only to find that his family is still horrified by the things he’s done. And that sucks so very, very bad for Kingpin. Finding out you went through all this work and your family still is disgusted by you? Not something that happens a lot when writers are playing with parallel universes. I loved it.
Two, without realizing it’s his son, Jefferson begins to understand that Spider-man isn’t the bad guy, and starts to encourage him. The dramatic irony here doesn’t cause anxiety in the audience. It’s absolutely gratifying. Even in the end, he never knows it’s Miles. Miles introduces himself to his dad as Spider-man and they form a semi-truce, which parallels how sometimes when you have fights with your parents, you decide just to let it go and it’s an authentic and realistic depiction of how sometimes things just...are. And that’s great.
Personally? I can overlook the flaws in this movie because they’re not so much flaws as they are points in the story that can’t be changed without changing Spider-man in its entirety. This movie did a seamless job of keeping canonical elements while making it seem like a brand new movie, bringing together every single possible iteration of a character, ever, and they do so in a wickedly creative way. I don’t think any other movie has been able to do it, and I’m not sure that they’ll be able to do it as well as Spider-verse, because now the bar has been set exponentially high.
By the way, the post credit scene? They already had a risky thing going by using a meme to inject some humor, because a lot of times using internet humor can be cringe-y when done incorrectly (Companies that do it well: Arby's, Wendy's. Companies that do it terribly: McDonald's, Taco Bell's shitty report show done by their teenage interns), but they already blew all my other expectations out of the water, so I figured I'd stay. I already had high hopes, and they were surpassed. Make sure you watch it to the end!
10/10 Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is flaw-free.