Movie Review: Into the Spider-Verse

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Movie Review: Into the Spider-Verse

All versions of Spider-Man in the film hide from Miles' roommate by crowding in the corner of the ceiling.

All versions of Spider-Man in the film hide from Miles' roommate by crowding in the corner of the ceiling.

All versions of Spider-Man in the film hide from Miles' roommate by crowding in the corner of the ceiling.

All versions of Spider-Man in the film hide from Miles' roommate by crowding in the corner of the ceiling.

Anna Henning

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Bringing Marvel comics to life, saying Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a masterpiece is an understatement. This love letter to comic lovers and Marvel fans alike is both visually breathtaking and unexpectedly meaningful. The film brings interesting characters from several universes together to prevent a black hole from being created over Brooklyn, New York. With an action-filled plot and a soundtrack to match it, the beautiful and unique style has easily made Into the Spider-Verse one of my favorite animated films.

Over time, Marvel Comics has created countless alternate universes, with some similar to Earth, some completely different from Earth, and some set in different times. Using the original Spider-Man character as inspiration, Peter Parker’s story has been slightly changed hundreds of times, creating different versions of Spider-Man. These different versions vary his character’s culture, gender, and even species. In 2014, Marvel brought hundreds of versions of Spider-Men together into one universe in a new comic titled “Spider-Verse”. This idea made its cinematic debut to the big screen December 14, 2018. The characters include the original Peter Parker as well as six other versions of Spider-Man.

As someone who has not read Marvel comics before and is still learning about the Marvel universe, I was slightly nervous to watch this film. Marvel movies are complex, both in their backgrounds and in their characters, making them intimidating. In an attempt to better understand the Marvel universe as well as understand more leading up to Avengers: Endgame, I have recently been doing more research about different Marvel movies and their backgrounds. Into the Spider-Verse made me nervous, as I was worried about not knowing enough to truly enjoy the film. However, this film is something that can be enjoyed with no background knowledge. It gives playful backstory throughout the film for each new Spider-Man character, and although it is complex, it is easy to understand. I would recommend seeing some of the original Spider-Man films to fully appreciate the film, but viewers do not need too much previous knowledge.

One of the best aspects of the movie was witnessing the different versions of Spider-Man come together and get to know each character better. Surprisingly, the film spends the least amount of time focusing on the original Peter Parker, and it instead allows the audience to get to know the lesser-known versions.
Since becoming a hero, Peter B. Parker has not seen as much action, instead wanting to snack on pizza, burgers, and bagels.

The first alternate version introduced to the film is Peter B. Parker, who can be described as everyone’s second choice for a hero. He comes from a parallel universe to Earth, looks almost identical to Peter Parker, and has the same origin story. However, he is more human-like and makes more mistakes than Peter Parker. After his rise to fame, Peter B. Parker’s story is messy, imperfect, and full of regret. He struggles, as he lives in a messy apartment constantly eating pizza to get over a divorce. Although his character is a bit stuck-up, he is more relatable than most heroes in the sense that his story is not perfect. He takes the role as Miles Morales’ mentor early on, and, quite frankly, is terrible at it. He has to learn the role of leadership and teaching, and learns to find himself once more despite his flaws.
Miles wants to help the other versions of Spider-Man on their mission, but he struggles to be what they need him to be.

Miles, the main protagonist of the story, differs from all other versions of Spider-Man. Unlike the others in his universe who are already established, he is just beginning to figure out what his powers are, and tries his best to learn quickly. Throughout the film, he tries to find his place as a person in the world, and later, as a hero. He struggles a lot with how to be himself, feeling overwhelmed by others’ expectations of him, and uses all of the other versions of Spider-Man as examples of what to do instead of following his own journey. He reads Spider-Man comics throughout the film, trying desperately to find answers he struggles to find within himself. Miles goes from trying to be what everybody else wants him to be to who he thinks he should be. His character arc is very well done, and I enjoyed watching his journey of finding his individuality. A key part of Spider-Man movies is the concept of being imperfect and figuring out how to be a hero. Out of all the different Spider-Man movies I have seen, Miles trying to figure out his new abilities has been my favorite, narrowly beating Tom Holland’s hilarious performance in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Watching Miles stick to everything, trying to figure out how to walk on walls and struggle to shoot webs, has been my favorite character I have seen. I appreciated that even though this movie is about bringing heroes together, I still got to see the development of another one. It added more dimension and an interesting plot to the story.
I loved all the details put into Gwen’s apperance, such as her hair, eyebrow piercing, and teal pointe shoes.

Gwen Stacy, or Spider-Gwen, is another version that appears in the movie. In her universe, she was the one bitten by the radioactive spider, becomes the hero, yet is unable to save her best friend, Peter Parker. She learns throughout the film to make friends again and breaks down some emotional walls. She claims at the beginning she does not want friends because she is afraid of losing someone close to her again, but by the end finds a community. She is an amazing character in every way, from her ballet moves in combat to her no-nonsense attitude.

Three other versions of Spider-Man also show up in the film. Their character depth is not explored as much as the others, and the audience learns less about them then Peter, Miles, and Gwen. However, they all play important roles in the film and were all great additions to the team.
Spider-Man Noir brings the audience right back to the 1930’s with his class and formal language.

Spider-Man Noir, a Spider-Man from the Great Depression era, was one of my favorites. Reflecting the time period he comes from, he is completely black and white, and cannot see color. He also sports a fedora and a cape-like overcoat. He is definitely a guarded person, and tends to be more formal than the others in the film.
Peni Parker and her spider robot bring elements of the future into the film.

Peni Parker brings an anime character from the future into the movie, and she has the most unique backstory of all the versions. She pilots a robot with a radioactive spider inside it. Her father used to pilot it, but after his death she allowed herself to be bitten by the spider so she could pilot the robot in his place. She brought a lot of brains to the group, and helped with a lot of behind-the-scenes technology. She looks different from some of the other characters, as her appearance is meant to imitate the animation styles of anime films. The attention to little details such as this in the movie really made the film more interesting and beautiful.
Just as Peter B. Parker claims things could not get any weirder, Spider-Ham walks into the room, bringing comical relief to the film.

Peter Porker, or Spider-Ham, comes from a universe where there is an animal version of every superhero. He brings a lot of humor to the story, with lines like, “Do animals talk in this dimension, ‘cause I don’t wanna freak him out.” He is given a more two-dimensional, cartoon appearance, and I loved the visual variety he and Peni brought to the film.

In both the movie and the trailers, there is an emphasis on the phrase, “…and I am the one and only Spider-Man.” Before the characters ended up in the same universe, they each believed they were the only ones with the spider powers, and took pride in that idea. Upon meeting each other, every character experienced a reality check. Although some were stunned and disappointed that they were not the only one, ultimately they found comfort in each other. Their similar experiences make them able to relate to each other, and they create a community. They find comfort in the fact that they are not the only ones with those experiences, and they support each other through the emotional struggles of being a superhero. This is an important take-away from the film, as every person may feel alone in their situation. However, they can find others like them and feel less alone.

I thoroughly enjoyed the plot, as I adore action movies. Movies that have good character development while not trying too hard to do so are more exciting than films that slow down to try to achieve the same thing. This movie has a lot of action, and the character development seamlessly blended into the plot. The film allowed me to get to know the characters and their stories without sacrificing the exciting moments of the film. There is a good balance between character interaction and action, and therefore the plot held my attention all the way through. It was never boring or slow, and I really appreciated that.

Going into the film, I was expecting it to be entertaining, but was not expecting the plot to be deep or explore new ideas. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the emotion behind the film, as well as its complex plot. In the film, Spider-Man said, “anyone can wear the mask”, implying that anyone can be the hero and they do not need anything extra to do so. Through Miles taking a leap of faith, he learns that he can be what he needs to be, and through his own willpower he finally accomplishes what he sets out to do. Into the Spider-Verse explores individuality and self-awareness. There is more than one Spider-Man; there is more than one hero. Anyone who takes the step, no matter their universe, can become their own hero.

When I think about what I like in a movie, most of the time visuals are an afterthought. I enjoy films for their characters and story line, and the visuals are not as memorable for me. However, Into the Spider-Verse was a visual work of art. I have never seen animation quite like that before, and it added so much to the experience of the film. It felt strangely realistic, and did not shy away from the comic inspiration. Every detail, such as the backgrounds filled with dots, the onomatopoeias during action sequences, and little lines coming off of something when a sound needed emphasis added so much to the quality of the film. It was colorful, beautiful, and unique. I do not usually remember films for their visuals, but I will definitely remember this one for them.

I was expecting Into the Spider-Verse to be good, yet it exceeded all my expectations. It has comedy, action, emotion, detail, and more. It was never boring, never confusing, and more interesting than ever I thought it could be. I rate this movie four out of five stars, and I don’t only recommend it to people who enjoy the Spider-Man franchise. It is for anyone with an open mind, a love of action, and a longing to belong.