Prior to the screening of this movie, I was very skeptical of the quality of the movie; I knew the graphics were ground-breaking and spectacular but, Sony has a terrible record when it comes to making movies in this vein. Spider-Man and The Incredible Hulk were the first comic book characters I was ever into as a kid, so that made me twice as weary of the film. Finally, the Spider-Verse story line(s) are particular interesting to me. The only comics I have gotten over the last 5 years have been Spider-Man related. Seeing the travesty that was, ‘Venom’, my hopes were not too high. But, oh no, this movie was AMAZING! It’s way better than ‘The Incredibles 2’. It’s not ‘The Black Panther’ but it’s somewhere in that pantheon.
The movie is a coming of age story involving Miles Morales, a Brooklyn teen who is struggling to come to grips with his new life as a middle school student at an upscale Middle School. Like most other teenagers, he is struggling with his identity and place in the world but unlike most teenagers he is very expressive, out-going and, hyper-aware of who he is, where he is from and, the expectations placed upon him. He masks his doubts and insecurities by being or acting all swagged out and expresses them through his graffiti art but, neither seems to be getting him closer to meeting the expectations placed on him by his family, teachers and, friends. The only person that seems to understand his struggles is his uncle, Aaron Davis; who appreciates his creative expressions and encourages him to be confident in himself, despite the pressures of having to live up to the expectations of others. On one of his adventures with his uncle, he is bitten by a genetically enhanced spider from another dimension (or universe), leading him to develop Spider-Man abilities. Scared and confused as a result of the new development, he re-traces his steps to find the spider and, to prove to himself that he is not a new Spider-Man. This call-to-adventure leads to a wonderful adventure beyond anything he could have ever dreamt of and, most importantly, beyond any of his greatest expectations. He IS Spider-Man and, that is pretty amazing.
My initial opinion of the film was dazzling amazement. I was in awe of the graphic style in which the story was told. That is, without a doubt, the first thing that jumps out at you. The pictures are well drawn, crafted and, animated. The color palette is glorious. It’s hard to watch this movie and not be amazed at the incredible work that went into its production. I already want to collect so much of the art of this film, it’s incredible. My current wallpaper is art from the film. It is spectacular. Also, look out for Easter Egg art placed in the background of the action during the film. It’s pretty cool. The music (soundtrack) to this film is pretty dope too.
My second opinion of the film was of the quality of the character development of the central characters in the film and the quality of the supporting characters as well. Both the protagonist and the antagonist have compelling story-arcs that, despite being multi-layered, are very relate-able to a general audience. They are interesting (and comical) caricatures of people whose motives are grounded and, in contrast to some other superhero comic book characters, very praise-worthy. Too many stories involve protagonists that are all-powerful yet all-good, all-too-perfect in every way and, antagonists that are the complete opposite with the added dimension of having what I call “take-over-the-world-or-destroy-it syndrome”. There’s only so much Superman or Venom story lines that you can take before it becomes all too cliche and, all too boring and unimaginative. The characters in ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ are well thought out and well flushed out characters that make sense while appeal to contemporary sensibilities as well. One side note though: the graphic representation of the Kingpin is corrupted because the character himself has become corrupted (within the story itself) but that characterization (despite being very funny) is a bit on the nose in my opinion.
My third opinion of the film was of the quality of the story itself. Ultimately, I think it speaks to our sense of self, family, community and, responsibility to each other. Like Stan Lee’s character said in the movie, [“…eventually, it all fits.”] I think that’s a very powerful message. We all play and have a meaningful role to play in each other’s lives and, we are all Spider-Man in that sense. You don’t have to be Superman because that’s not realistic but you can be Spider-Man; anyone can be Spider-Man.
A secondary theme that is found in the film is the idea of coping with loss. Almost every character in the movie experiences loss and disappointment in a very intense way and the way they react to this loss shapes who their character in very profound ways. The story does a great job of reminding us that we all have our mountains and hurdles to overcome and that is the norm, not the exception. The people around can act as manifestations of an echo-chamber of the pain we feel when we are at a loss or they can amplify our potential in positive ways; and, we can do the same for others too. It has a very hopeful outlook on dealing with great expectations and the losses that come with failing to meet those expectations. Regardless of how we do, eventually it all fits.
Another theme that is found in the film, surprisingly, is a deep dive into fatherhood and brotherhood relationships. Miles is a conflicted teen, struggling to get a grip on life and its accompanying expectations. Not surprisingly, he finds comfort relating to his uncle, someone his father describes as having made bad decisions, and Peter B. Parker, a Spider-Man who has made terrible decisions. Both Aaron and Peter play a big role as central father figures to Miles as he struggles to overcome the pressures of his new life but ultimately, it is the love of his father that grounds him by providing him with a solid foundation for accepting himself by freeing him from the burden of having to live up to great expectations in order to be valued as a person. He would be loved, welcomed and appreciated regardless of how things turned out. I thought that was a very powerful message for any child to receive from their parent (father or mother). There’s so much more I can say to this but I don’t want to spoil the film.
Another theme that I found in the film was that it is a better representation of the society we live in today and this is important, especially for young people in our societies. Too often, big movies like this fail to represent minorities but in this film everyone is well represented; there’s something for everyone. The film is all inclusive and non-divisive. It’s a great film! Probably one of the best movies I have seen this year and definitely one of the best animated cartoons of all-time. I can’t wait to see it again because I know there are so many details that I will find each time I watch it. It’s a film with so many layers that all work together. It’s a “Marvel” that Sony was able to put a movie like this out there.
I have a few (if any) complaints about the movie. The first one I mentioned earlier is related to the graphic depiction of Wilson Fisk (the Kingpin). He is larger than life in every way; ridiculously so. The second gripe I have is that the movie is not being promoted as hard as some of Sony’s other projects; which were very terrible. Venom seemed to have a wider promotional budget and screening than Into the Spider-Verse did and, that seems to be a hindrance on the film. But these are minor gripes. Overall, I think the film is fantastic and is a must see.
Go and see this movie right now, asap. I will definitely be going to watch it again and can’t wait until it’s out on DVD too. It should be a classic film (with one of Stan Lee’s final cameos).