It’s amazing the kind of run Spider-Man is on outside of the realm of the printed page. Between Tom Holland’s performances in the MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE and the PlayStation 4-exclusive SPIDER-MAN that was released in September, the friendly neighborhood wall crawler is on a run that few characters manage to match.
Clearly, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE was a hit. According to IMDb, the film, which was released in theaters in December, has won 56 awards over the last couple of months, including an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, BAFTA and the African-American Film Critics Association. That’s an incredible run for an animated feature about a superhero.
So, it’s a great movie, right?
I hate writing that. I wanted to love this movie; I’d been looking forward to seeing it for months, though I rarely get the chance to go to a movie theater any more. With the movie now available to own digitally, I jumped at the chance to buy it on iTunes, though. The movie has a lot of heart, and it introduces characters that I never thought I would see produced cinematically. I can honestly say I never thought I would see Peter Porker: Spider-Ham in an award-winning big budget film. Though I suppose I shouldn’t put anything past Kevin Feige and the rest of the team producing the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
SPIDER-VERSE is an entity unto itself, though. I would have thought that it wasn’t tied to any other other cinematic Spider-Man, though it seems like the first Spider-Man we meet basically lived the life of Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. It’s a cute nod to continuity, even if this particular Peter Parker doesn’t survive his battle with Kingpin in the film’s first battle scene. The death of Spider-Man sets Miles Morales, an ordinary teenager, off on his hero’s journey after he promised Parker he would foil Kingpin’s plot to scour the multiverse for his family, threatening the fabric of the space-time continuum in the process.
Miles is a smart kid whose dad is a cop, sent to a new school in Brooklyn who has trouble fitting in. He doesn’t want to be in the scholastic position of his new surroundings, and just wants to go hang out with his uncle, who is very clearly involved in some unsavory dealings. Of course, getting bit by a radioactive spider tends to mess you up, and one day he wakes up with his senses going nutty with the ability to stick to walls, shock people and turn invisible.
Going after a mammoth like Wilson Fisk is a tough task for an experienced hero, and Miles is nowhere near an experienced hero. Thankfully, he has some help, as multiversal Spider-folk are brought into his universe, including a down-on-his-luck Peter B. Parker, Gwen Stacey, Spider-Man Noir, Peni Parker and Peter Porker, Spider-Ham. Peter B. Parker, in particular, serves as a mostly ineffectual teacher as he relives some glory that he didn’t feel like he could experience in his own world. After all, there he’s divorced, Aunt May is dead, he’s overweight and nothing is going right for him. Here, Spider-Man is revered.
The band of Spider-friends eventually tell Miles to sit this adventure out, fearing that he’d be killed. But Miles’ act of defiance, suiting up and chasing after the others to help put Fisk down, is a pretty important part of becoming Spider-Man.
It’s an effective origin story for Miles Morales, a hero most people probably don’t know if they aren’t regular comic book fans. It’s impossible to not be in his corner from the get-go. Not only does he manage to become the hero he wants to be by the end of the film, he manages to teach his new multiversal partners a thing or two. The alternate Peter Parker, especially, is inspired by Morales to make things better for himself on his world. After all, everyone can be a hero, as the film tells us repeatedly.
The artistic style of the movie is beyond beautiful. Accentuating the comic book origins of the characters with frequent thought bubbles and narrative boxes was an inspired direction. It felt authentic to the story and the little gimmicks throughout the movie never distracted from the narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed the artistic style, and I think that all of the little Easter eggs allowed by the animation will make rewatches of the movie a must. From comic books to movies to television – many not even related to comic book universes – the movie is filled with little inside jokes. I caught a bunch and I’m sure I didn’t catch anywhere near all of them.
There’s no denying SPIDER-VERSE was a fun movie, and a worthy addition to the cinematic legacy of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. And it absolutely deserved all the awards its won over the last couple of months. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t manage to connect with it and get as excited as I thought I would be watching it. Something about it just didn’t resonate with me at all. I can’t even really explain it. Maybe my expectations were too high going into it. Maybe I’ll feel differently about it upon a rewatch, but my first experience watching it unfortunately didn’t blow me away as much as I’d hoped.
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is available on digital platforms now. The movie will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on March 19.