REVIEW: ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ is an Amazing Feat of Animation with a Powerful Message

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman. For Persichetti and Rothman, this is their first directorial credit, and for Ramsey his second directorial credit for a feature-film, having directed Rise of the Guardians in 2012. With a screenplay from Phil Lord, the writer behind the awesome LEGO Movie, this team of talent executed a film that was visually dynamic and beautiful. Additionally, it was filled with the meaning of being a Spider-Man.

For those of you who don’t know about the concept of the Spider-verse, it’s a concept built on the idea that there are multiple and infinite parallel universes to the one that Peter Parker exists in. Because of this, and the necessity of heroes, in every continuity there is a Spider-Man, ham, or woman there to answer the call. In this film, we meet Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a teenager living in the Brooklyn and pulled out of his comfort zone by being moved to a new magnet school by his parents. But when he’s bitten by a radioactive spider, his life turns from average schoolboy crushes to becoming a hero.

When Miles has to become Spider-Man due to tragedy, he learns that he isn’t alone as he navigates his new powers with the help of other Spiders, Peter Parker, and Gwen Stacy. The film is filled to the brim with references that dedicated Spidey readers and viewers will notice, laugh out loud at, and draw immediate comic book comparisons to. In fact, iconic Spider-Man movie scenes were featured in the film, even when that includes scenes Spidey fans don’t want to remember happened.

Beyond the references Spider-fans will love, the representation of Miles Morales as an Afro-Latino teen living in a bilingual household is extremely real. Miles switches between Spanish and English in the ways that many Latinx teenagers and families in general do, regardless of language fluency. The reality of Spanglish for Latinx in the United States is sometimes written in unrealistic ways, using words that Google translate would spit out but that your abuela would never be caught saying. When Moore referred to Miles as  Mexican, when he is Puerto Rican, during this San Diego Comic-con, I was worried. 

But in Into the Spider-Verse, this isn’t the case. In fact, the writing uses slang on top of showing loving conversations between Miles and his mother Rio (Luna Lauren Velez) in Spanish. It may seem small, but the character of Miles has long had his latinidad erased or neglected by fans and writers alike. With a Black father and Puerto Rican mother, Miles is a character who means a lot in terms of representation to many people and communities. So, to see him on the screen as an undeniable Afro-Latinx character brings much-needed representation to a space that has neglected Latinx characters.  

But it isn’t only the relationship that Miles has with his mother, the film also showcases his relationship, love, and disagreements with his father, Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) and his uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali.) These are just as pivotal as his relationship with Peter Parker (Chris Pine) and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) that makes him into the Spider-Man that he’s destined to be. Both relationships are beautifully handled and highlight the film. And the relationships and emotion between all characters is a testament to not only the dialogue from Lord, but also the performances of the all-star class. Particularly Moore’s moments with Pine, Ali, Henry, and Johnson.

The animation is unmatched by anything else this year. With directors that have extensive experience working in art departments of animated films, it’s no surprise that it’s good, but it is surprising at how easily the team of animators and directors have seamlessly blended varying styles of animation into one film without making it feel confusing. This film knows what it is, and while each Spidey holds onto a piece of a different animation style used in their universe of origin, the film never once feels disconnected.

The hyper-color style, glitch effects, and Ben-Day dots, reminiscent of a comic book, all serve to give the film a unique identity that hasn’t been seen any other films. The beauty of the art is unmatched, with the animators bringing comics to life, 2D elements and all. They utilized hand-drawn art with CGI to bring the story to life. The team has spoken extensively at their process of bringing in lettering and changing standard animation shading and blurring into a unique comic look.

I challenge anyone who watches Into the Spider-Verse to walk out and think that Miles isn’t his own character, with his own unique set of family dynamics and drive. The film sets Miles against a sea of spiders, including two versions of Peter Parker and he never fades into the background. Beyond making Miles stay the focus, the film also explains its other characters like Elder Peter (B. Parker,) and Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld). The film also tells us the quick origins of each character, Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) in addition to those mentioned previously.

By doing this, the movie shows that similarities are important. The hardship that Spider-Man goes through is a note that is necessary for those with Spider in their name to come terms with their identities as heroes and take a leap of faith. But more importantly, it highlights that anyone can be Spider-Man, an important concept that the character’s co-creator, Stan Lee commented on countless times.

The only flaw someone could say that this movie has is that a large marketing campaign meant that multiple scenes had already been shared to audiences. But ultimately, that flaw doesn’t even stand because although I was worried about seeing so much of the film released beforehand, I promise you that there are differences between the final film and what was shared that makes the entire movie feel like a new experience even for those who watched every promo. The villains that are revealed in this movie are also designed beautifully and bring alternate versions of some of the best rogues in the Spidey gallery. But, I love this movie so much, that I can’t spoil that for you.

While Miles and the other Spiders may be fighting villains, Miles is also fighting with himself. When will he be ready to save New York? When will he be Spider-Man? And what does it mean to accept the things you have no control over. The storytelling and evolution of Miles throughout the film makes this not only a great super-film film, but a great coming-of-age story that will guide so many through adolescence, in the same way, the original stories from Lee and Steve Ditko did. The heart of this film is the heart and spirit of the character that was created in the 1960s: anyone can be a hero.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse releases nationwide December 14th. Make sure to stay after the movie for a post-credit scene that seems to continue the story, with a Spidey voiced by one of my favorite actors, and one of the most well-known Latino actors in Hollywood right now.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL;DR

While Miles and the other Spiders may be fighting villains, Miles is also fighting with himself. When will he be ready to save New York? When will he be Spider-Man? And what does it mean to accept the things you have no control over. The storytelling and evolution of Miles throughout the film makes this not only a great super-film film, but a great coming-of-age story that will guide so many through adolescence, in the same way, the original stories from Lee and Steve Ditko did. The heart of this film is the heart and spirit of the character that was created in the 1960s: anyone can be a hero.