A Leap of Faith

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is often considered the greatest Spider-Man movie ever made. Many call it a game changer. One of the best animated movies, if not best movie period. Into the Spider-Verse holds a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and actually managed to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. If you don’t count Big Hero 6, that makes Into the Spider-Verse the first Marvel movie to win the Oscar in that category. It was a rare instance of Sony beating Disney. An impressive feat considering Sony Animation just made The Emoji Movie one year prior. I can honestly say I never understood this level of hype surrounding Into the Spider-Verse.

Much like Black Panther released the same year, it is a little overrated. Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, but my feelings have always been complicated. I’m already against Sony’s stranglehold on the Spider-Man franchise, so I didn’t see the point in making a theatrical animated movie. Even if it was made by The LEGO Movie creators Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. Despite the admiration, Into the Spider-Verse is the lowest grossing Spider-Man movie. Similar to Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, I’m not sure audiences knew how to get excited for an animated superhero movie. Especially when MCU Spidey was already in full swing. I was prepared not to like Into the Spider-Verse, but I have warmed up to it overtime…

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man teams up with Spider-Man and Spider-Woman

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse went a vastly different route than some might’ve expected. Sony probably expected another traditional Spider-Man adventure, but Lord & Miller wanted to explore the Spider-Verse. Something only animation could accomplish. The idea of a Spider-Verse is actually a lot older than people think. The earliest alternate version of Spider-Man was Ben Reilly, the Scarlet Spider. A clone version of Spider-Man that inspired several different Spider-People in comics over the years. My earliest introduction to the concept was the Spider Wars arc in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Where Spider-Man was joined by many unique Spider-Men from alternate dimensions. Including the Scarlet Spider, a billionaire Spider-Man with an iron suit, a half mutated Spider-Man, Spider-Man with Doc Ock’s tentacles, and an ordinary human Spider-Man from the real world.

The Spider-Verse was further explored in the video game Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. The game included the Amazing Spider-Man, the Ultimate Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir, and Spider-Man 2099. It was enough to inspire the 2014 comic book storyline “Spider-Verse.” I only ever read the Miniseries that featured most of the characters from Into the Spider-Verse. With the exception of Miles Morales. I’ll be the first to admit I never cared for the character. The 2010’s were a low point for comic books that arguably started with the creation of Miles Morales. The half black, half Puerto Rican Spider-Man was created in 2011 after Spider-Man died in the Ultimate universe. I’m biracial myself, but Peter Parker will always be Spider-Man to me. Regardless of story quality, it always felt like Marvel was trying to be PC with their biggest icons.

Putting Miles front and center in Into the Spider-Verse was one way to increase his appeal and possibly prove me wrong. Into the Spider-Verse has a lot more effort put into it than Sony was used to. Animators were tripled just to accomplish Lord & Miller’s vision of a living comic book. Characters are still very stylized, but state of the art computer animation is blended with hand drawn comic book illustrations. The frame rate is also decreased in a mildly distracting way. Into the Spider-Verse feels like reading a comic book with the inclusion of comic book panels, thought boxes, onomatopoeia for action, and even approval from the Comics Code Authority. Every Spider-Man introduction includes their comic book and breezy narration from the character.

The first Spider-Man is Peter Parker from what can be considered the Ultimate universe. He’s basically an amalgamation of every Spider-Man ranging from the 60’s cartoon to the Sam Raimi films. Except with minor differences like having blonde hair and blue eyes. The similar looking Chris Pine voices this version of Spider-Man since most of the cast is made up of former or future superhero actors. The lead Spider-Man is Miles Morales voiced by Shameik Moore. He feels right for the part since he’s as young as Tom Holland and already played a black nerd in the movie Dope. The main difference between Miles and Peter (besides race) is their family dynamic. Miles has two living parents who love and support him. Brian Tyree Henry is likeable and complex as Miles’ police officer father Jefferson Davis. Luna Lauren Vélez doesn’t have much to do as Miles’ nurse mother Rio Morales, but she does speak Spanish.

Jefferson has the usual distrust of Spider-Man and just wants his son to stay out of trouble. Miles is smart, carefree, and listens to “Sunflower” by Post Malone & Swae Lee, but he also does graffiti and doesn’t want to attend a prep school. His biggest influence is his Uncle Aaron Davis effectively voiced by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. He teaches him the “shoulder touch” to use on a girl he likes at school and they do graffiti in a subway. It’s there that an unstable spider bites Miles, but he barely reacts to it. His transformation is funnier than most incarnations since he can’t silence the voice in his head and sticks to everything. The girl from before introduces herself as Gwanda and an awkward encounter forces her to cut part of her hair. Since Spider-Man is real in his universe, Miles finds out about his powers from True Life Tales of Spider-Man comics that his roommate reads.

Ganke Lee is Miles’s best friend in the comics. He wasn’t given any speaking lines, since Ned from Homecoming is practically a carbon copy of the character. While investigating the spider, Miles stumbles upon a fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. I’m a big fan of the original Ultimate Spider-Man comics, but I never liked the giant monstrous goblin version of Green Goblin. He’s also given bat wings and a long tongue for some reason. Their battle is interrupted by the movie’s big bad the Kingpin. Probably the only time we’ll ever see Spider-Man fight Kingpin on the big screen. Speaking of big, Kingpin is seriously exaggerated with enormous proportions and a small head. Liev Schreiber gives him a thick Italian accent and sympathetic motivations to save his wife Vanessa and their son. Though he’s still ruthless and does plan to bring them back with a Collider machine that taps into the multiverse.

For the short time he’s on-screen, Spider-Man manages to encourage Miles before being viciously beaten by Kingpin. Miles is pursued by the Prowler throughout New York City. The original Prowler was the misunderstood Hobie Brown, but the Ultimate version turns out to be Miles’ Uncle Aaron. Something he doesn’t find out until later. The whole city mourns Spider-Man including his wife Mary Jane Watson. MJ is still a redhead, but she is voiced by Zoë Kravitz. Miles honors the fallen hero by purchasing a Halloween costume from another fallen hero. Stan Lee’s cameo as a store owner is poignant since it was his first cameo since passing away. His philosophy of anyone being behind the mask is a major theme in the movie. Miles tries to live up to Spider-Man’s legacy, but he has to visit Peter’s grave for guidance. The scene was actually shown as an end credits scene for Venom.

The second Spider-Man is Peter B. Parker from what might be considered Earth-616. He’s the closest to the Spider-Man we all know and love. Except this Spidey is older, fatter, more jaded, and divorced from Mary Jane. Although I felt like they were mistreating the character, it is undeniably funny. Tobey Maguire was originally considered for the role, but it would’ve been too distracting. Jake Johnson is a fair compromise since he does sound like an older Spider-Man. Peter visits Miles at the grave and they swing around in a cartoony chase scene with the police. Miles takes Peter back to his room where he reluctantly decides to mentor the young hero. Since the multiverse is slowly being ripped apart, they plan to stop the Collider with a flash drive that Peter calls a “Goober.” They infiltrate Kingpin’s research facility where Peter continues to give Miles lousy advice.

Another primary difference between Miles and Peter is the former’s ability to emit bio-electric “venom blasts” and turn invisible. I’m not sure why he has those additional powers in the comics, but it is an interesting change of pace. While at the facility, Peter is discovered by a quirky female scientist voiced by Kathryn Hahn. She turns out to be Dr. Olivia Octavius, otherwise known as Doctor Octopus. There’s never been a female Doc Ock in the comics, but I’m fine with it as long as this is an alternate reality. She has the goggles and tentacles, but they’re made of tubes instead of mechanical. Miles manages to get the kill code by disappearing. Leaving Peter to fight Doc Ock until they escape. Miles learning to swing in the forest with one of Peter’s web shooters is a nice way to strengthen their bond.

They’re rescued by the first and only Spider-Woman in the movie (and I ain’t talkin’ Jessica Drew). The mysterious girl from before reveals herself to be Gwen Stacy herself. Spider-Gwen is another recent 2014 comic creation who became popular in a short amount of time. Gwen is so defined by her death that I never had a specific problem with her superhero alter ego. Like the rest of the costumes, Gwen’s white, purple, and black hooded spider suit is exactly the same as the comics. Her origin is also practically word for word. This version of Gwen was in a band, bitten by a radioactive spider, and witnessed the death of her best friend Peter Parker. Hailee Steinfeld is just right for a teenager like Gwen. The only reason she was around longer is because she was thrown into last week. Her popularity also meant more screen time.

The three of them decide to visit Aunt May in order to find answers. Lily Tomlin is an odd, but feisty May Parker who knows all about her nephew’s identity. She takes them to what can only be described as a Spider-Cave. A headquarters with its own Spider-Computer, hall of costumes, and even the Spider-Mobile. Although Peter, Miles, and Gwen are given the most attention, there are still three Spider-People we haven’t even met yet. They’re a little last minute, but they make the best of the short time they have. Spider-Man Noir was created in 2009 as a black & white Great Depression version of the hero. Nicholas Cage is the biggest scene stealer with his old fashioned 1930’s accent. It was actually Cage’s second animated superhero role after voicing Superman in Teen Titans! Go to the Movies.

Peni Parker is the most obscure Spider-Person who appeared in the same 2014 comic as Spider-Gwen. She’s a young Asian girl with a psychic link to a spider controlling a mech suit named SP//dr. Kimiko Glenn does her best and Peni at least stands out for her Anime design. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham is the character I most looked forward to seeing. I knew about the anthropomorphic cartoon pig for years since he’s as old as 1983. I wanted to love Spider-Ham, but I honestly think he’s the weakest link. I know comedian John Mulaney is trying to do a Looney Tunes homage, but his voice and jokes just feel off. Spider-Ham does have further appearances in cartoon shorts. With all of the longtime Spider-People slowly disintegrating, it’s decided Miles has to be the one to stop the Collider.

When their expectations overwhelm him, he disappears and learns the truth about his uncle. Miles returns to Aunt May’s house where a sinister fight breaks out. Doc Ock and Prowler are joined by Tombstone and Scorpion. Tombstone is a fairly standard version of the villain voiced by albino Black Lightning actor Krondon. Scorpion is a lot weirder with mechanical scorpion legs, a tail, and Mexican accent likely influenced by Homecoming. Their fight is messy, but it ends tragically when Miles reveals himself to Prowler. Into the Spider-Verse maintains its PG rating, but it does push the boundaries sometimes. Kingpin shoots Miles’ uncle right in front of him and they have an Uncle Ben moment in a nearby ally. I couldn’t help but tear up at the death even though I was trying not to like the movie. All Spider-People have motivational deaths, but Miles’ still needs a leap of faith.

Peter’s inspirational words and his father reaching out to him are enough to finally motivate him. Miles spray painting his own black Spider-Man costume and leaping from a building in street clothes is a pretty epic hero moment. The gravity defying web slinging can only be accomplished in animation. Meanwhile, the Spider-People infiltrate an event hosted by Kingpin. Peter runs into this universe’s MJ and it starts to give him second thoughts about staying behind. Miles makes his heroic entrance at the Collider. Heroes fight villains as the machine turns the world upside down in the most colorful abstract way possible. Miles says a tearful goodbye to his fellow Spider-People and takes care of Kingpin himself. Using his own style, Miles manages to defeat the crime lord and disable the machine.

Miles reconciles with his dad and gets him to trust Spider-Man at the same time. The final introduction by Miles reinforces the message that anyone can be Spider-Man. I’m still not completely behind the message, but adding a tribute to Stan Lee & Steve Ditko was a nice touch. The after credits scene includes another Spider-Man who was too iconic to be left out. Oscar Isaac voices Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099. A future version of the wallcrawler given a gadget that lets him hop between dimensions. His first stop is the 1967 animated series where he recreates the Spider-Man pointing meme. Into the Spider-Verse is filled with easter eggs that hardcore fans will likely appreciate. Though I’m far from calling it a masterpiece, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an admirable celebration of the quintessential Marvel superhero.

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

The Spider-People hide in Miles Morales’ room

Followed by: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One)

4 thoughts on “A Leap of Faith

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