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Yes, that means it’s better than Spider-Man: Homecoming. I wasn’t planning on seeing Into the Spider-Verse. I was passing the movie theatre when I remembered that my friend was seeing it. I asked her if she was there, to which she said yes, and it was actually starting in five minutes. So I raced in, got my 3D glasses, and sat down for the ride. It was really, really great.
There are so many things that worked in this movie, from the work behind the camera and in front of it, as much as “in front of it” applies to an animated movie. This movie took four years to make, and as a result, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse deserves all the awards it gets. It recently won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, slapping down two Disney films in the running as well. It has a chance to win the Oscar for the category at this rate. It has currently made over 200 millions dollars and has an incredible 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, 87 percent on the harsher Metacritic, and 8.7 on IMDB. The numbers are very impressive.
I’ll start with the writing and the plot. It was tight and to the point while having to juggle a complex story. Miles Morales, our young Afro-Latino hero, feels out of place in the world. The relationship with his father is a little tense, he’s upgraded to a fancy and predominantly white school, and he's trying to make new friends there. One day, his uncle—the only one who supports Miles' more artistic and creative spirit—takes Miles through the NYC subway system to give him a place to do his art. After spray painting a gorgeous piece of graffiti on the wall, he gets bit by a radioactive spider. Once Miles realizes what’s happened to him, he goes back to investigate, only to get caught up in Spider-Man fighting Kingpin and the Green Goblin. Kingpin has a collider machine to bring different multiverses together. Long story short, the present Peter Parker dies and entrusts the destruction of the collider to Miles. The multiverse brings multiple Spider-people to Miles’ dimension, and queue a journey of self-discovery for multiple characters.
The plot is a lot to juggle. There are multiple Spider-people, though only Miles, an older and cynical Peter Parker, and Gwen Stacy as Spider-Girl get fleshed out. The plot hinges on multiple universes coming together and disrupting the space time continuum. Somehow, everything is super coherent and I never found myself confused. They found a way to have characters off screen learning what’s happening with the dimensions colliding, so when they enter, we don’t have to go over everything again. They do this in a clever way, showing each heroes background in a comic book narration style. Everyone has similar tales: Someone close to them died, they got spider powers, and they became Spider-Man in their own universes. It doesn’t feel like they’re rushing through things, rather they’ve used the comic book medium to make the movie fast-paced. They can easily get between scenes and explain things we already know. For example, Peter Parker narrates the beginning, explaining his life. He can breeze through it because we know the story already. Instead, they can spend time making funny jokes, like making fun of that horribly entertaining dance sequence from Spider-Man 3. I full-out belly laughed when they re-enacted that scene. I thought the plot was very well-thought out and tight, considering how much ground they had to cover.
Moving on, I loved the music. From the original songs from acts like Vince Staples and Post Malone’s now iconic “Sunflower” to the original score, everything fit. The hip-hop vibe fit perfectly with the Miles Morales character. He’s a vibrant, creative, and fun character, and the music reflects that. What really shines for me is the original score. It was intense when it needed to be, sad when it needed to be, and even scary. A stand out for me was the theme of the Prowler. That loud horn sound, like an alien from another planet, made him terrifying. When his music builds to its most intense point, it’s revealed that none other than Miles’ own uncle is the man behind the villain’s mask. The music made you just as upset as Miles was, and you really feared for him in that scene. They mixed hip-hop beats with techno music to make for some intense chase scenes (shout out to my home, the Hudson Valley, for making an appearance here) and fight sequences. I was on the edge of my seat when older Peter was trying to protect Miles from the Prowler during one of the last fights in the movie. I thought the score made scenes like this emotional and helped you to get invested.
The characters are all great, it’s hard to focus on a few of them. I think the main two are obviously Miles and older Peter Parker. Miles is such a stand out. Sometimes the main character can get overshadowed or not developed well. That didn’t happen here. Instead, Miles turned out to be one of the most refreshing heroes to date. Miles is struggling to find an identity for himself. His father pushes him to a prestigious school out of his comfort zone, and he doesn’t know how to express himself in a fulfilling way. The mask of Spider-Man helps him do this. He struggles so much with his newfound powers, connection to his dad, and in just wanting to be enough. At first, his powers stress him out even more. After Peter’s death, Miles throws himself into learning how to use these powers. In his eyes, he let Spider-Man die. He has to be better and destroy the collider because he sees it as his responsibility. I loved watching him grow. He’s so stressed and puts so much pressure on himself that he can’t get a grasp on things. The other Spiders test him and he never quite measures up. He tries to force his new powers to work at will, which only frustrates him further. Only when he relaxes and hears his father voice his unwavering support of Miles does he relax and trust himself to do the right thing. By believing in himself, he’s able to control his powers and eventually save the day. What makes him wonderful is that I can see children walking into this film and wanting to be Miles Morales. He’s a great hero in that he doesn’t quite know what to do, but he does what’s right. Even when he’s scared, he still goes the extra mile to save the day. He's an inspirational kid, the embodiment of a younger Spider-Man.
The other character that makes the movie is the older Peter Parker. In his universe, he gets out of shape and runs from Mary Jane because he doesn’t want to have kids. He becomes a reluctant mentor to Miles when he finds out they have to work together to bring everyone back to their universes and destroy the collider that could level New York City. He’s clearly a bad mentor at first, caring only for himself and telling Miles to stop every step of the way. Instead, the more time he spends with Miles, he starts to really like him. Miles just wants to help, and Peter ends up giving him genuine advice, and endlessly risks his life to save the boy. Peter finds out he wouldn’t mind having a kid around to teach and take care of. He gains courage himself and ends up back at Mary Jane’s door at the end of the movie. The way he and Miles compliment each other works perfectly. They wouldn’t normally interact, yet together they show each other things they couldn’t see clearly about themselves before. I loved the two of them together.
While the plot and characters were entertaining to watch, I think the number one thing that puts this movie above most of the animated movies I’ve seen is the animation. I haven’t seen a 3D movie in years. I wanted to see this in 3D. It was amazing. The animation on this movie is something unlike any other movie I’ve seen before. It’s a mix of 3D modeling, comic book-style, and too many things to name. They took the visual medium and used it to the fullest. For example, the Spidey Sense was shown as squiggly lines whenever it kicked in. When the other Spiders from different universes would “glitch out,” because they were out of their world for too long, it looked like a multicolored computer glitch. It was so unlike anything put to film before. My roommate did some research and said each second of the film took approximately one week to make. There was effort in every frame. The colors were remarkably vibrant, especially in the scenes when the collider is on and throwing dimensions into each other. Buildings and trains fly through the air, and it looks so surreal. It also makes the action look great. Everything is slightly exaggerated and the scenes where the Spiders are swinging and fighting are breathtaking. They use multiple angles and fast camera movements to make it feel like you’re with Spider-Man. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster. The designs were also on point. Doc Ock looked fantastic, and she was intimidating as well as modern. The updated design for her character was so cool. I really enjoyed her. Similarly, Kingpin had a great design. He was a huge block of a person with a small head. He looked like an incredibly exaggerated mafia boss. It fit with the film though, so it was perfect. I hope they make a sequel, because I’d love to see more of this style.
As a side note, I think this movie did a great tribute to Stan Lee, in what is probably my favorite Stan Lee cameo out there. When Miles goes to buy a costume after Peter Parker is killed, Stan Lee is the man selling them at the store. He says he used to know Peter, and when Miles asked him if the costume fits, Stan Lee tells him, “It always fits, eventually.” They linger on the shot of his character for a bit, and it felt amazing to watch cartoon Stan Lee memorialized in the story of one of his greatest creations. At the end, they also put a wonderful and timely quote from the beloved creator, reading:
“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”
Into the Spider-Verse was such an amazing film. I had so much fun watching it. It felt like a whole experience of a movie. If you can see it in 3D, I would 100 percent recommend it.