Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is ... Spectacular

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Rated PG: For Minimal Language and Violence

Running Time: 117 minutes (1 hour and 57 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Animation, Comedy, Science Fiction, Superhero

Released on December 14, 2018 (US Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Columbia Picture, Sony Pictures Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Lord Miller Productions, Pascal Pictures, and Sony Pictures Releasing

"Spider-Man" Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

"Miles Morales" Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli

Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rody Rhotman

Writers: Phil Lord and Rody Rhotman

  • Shameik Moore as Miles Morales / Spider-Man
  • Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker / Spider-Man
  • Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy / Spider-Woman
  • Mahershala Ali as Aaron Davis / Prowler
  • Bryan Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis
  • John Mulaney as Peter Porker / Spider-Ham
  • Kimiko Glenn as Peni Parker / SP//dr
  • Nicolas Cage as Peter Parker / Spider-Man Noir
  • Liev Schreiber as Wilson Fisk / The Kingpin

"Everybody can be Spider-Man." There is no question that Spider-Man is a global phenomenon. From appearing in numerous critically acclaimed multimedia projects, including being in one of the greatest superhero movies of all time in Spider-Man 2, and to being featured in one of the best Playstation 4 games so far, and even being the de facto face of Marvel Comics itself, Spider-Man has had quite the influence. In the words of Browntable in his video essay, he has become so influential, that we all strive to be like him. One animated feature tackled this theme, and that is none other than the award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

In this movie, teenager Miles Morales, played by Moore (Dope), becomes a part of a bigger universe when he receives superpowers from a genetically-altered spider's bite. This leads him to encounter Spider-People from all across the multiverse, including a more worn-out Peter Parker, played by Johnson (The Mummy Remake). With his newfound powers and responsibility, Miles must learn to become his own version of Spider-Man, just before Wilson Fisk, played by Schreiver (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) could bring about the end of everything and everyone in it with his latest plan.

All throughout time, the world has been introduced to numerous versions of the titular web-head. For this movie, we have a total of six different iterations, aside from the two that we have already mentioned before. Each manage to standout on their own, despite the lack of screen time for some of them. Here, we have a still alive Gwen Stacy, played by Steinfeld (Bumblebee) with pop-punk sensibility, a version with a telepathic link to a robot named Peni Parker, played by Glenn  (Nerve) with cutesy anime-like wonder, another from a purely black and white, 30s-centric universe, played by Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) with hammed-up and ever gracious old school appeal, and one anthropomorphic pig named Peter Porker, played by Mulaney (Mulaney) with comical and childish comedic tone, who is straight from a Looney Tunes-inspired world.

In addition to each actor lending a unique spin on the characters, the film expertly makes use of its primary draw, which is the groundbreaking, state-of-the-art animation styles that further emphasized the diversity of each character. If one looks closely, Peni Parker is animated with an anime style, while Peter Porker takes a more traditionally animated route. Plus, while Gwen Stacy has a mixture of two-dimensional and three-dimensional takes, Spider-Man Noir, a film noir-inspired, sketch themed style. The comicbook rendering of the overall aesthetic, noticeable through the various shots of the city and the background characters, deliver a unique sense of wonder that is almost reminiscent of a modern moving comicbook. The colorful blend of flashes and sizzles (plus hidden visual gags such as the "bagel" sound effect) inserted in every action scene also helps take the audience to a seemingly familiar world, with an other-worldly atmosphere.

At the very center of all of these more experienced versions is a completely inexperienced teenager in Miles Morales, who is played with coming-of-age charm by partial newcomer Shameik Moore. Like all of us, Miles is pressured to avoid being the odd one out in the bunch, especially since all of the other Spider-People are confident in their respective roles. He wants to feel a sense of belongingness, which is something that is hinted at the earliest scenes of the film, where Miles reluctantly accepts a scholarship to a prestigious school all because he feels comfortable in all his too familiar environment. His yearning for conformity is even magnified by his somewhat strained relationship with his parents, especially his police officer dad, Jefferson Davis, played by Henry (Widows), whom he partially abandons for the more interesting Uncle Aaron, played by Ali (Green Book). His yearning is further amplified by him wearing a merchandised version of the Spider-Man costume. Conformity, after all, as the film's amazing soundtrack suggests, is something a teenager like Miles would look for.

When he receives his powers, and when he is invited to be trained by his universe's version of Spider-Man, played by Chris Pine (Wonder Woman), Miles finally regains a new sense of conformity after a brief experience with uncertainty. Even after Kingpin kills the adult Spider-Man, and even after failing to use the full range of his skillset on the first try, he nevertheless feels even more secure when the more emotionally drained Spider-Man reluctantly brings him under his wing. But as Miles become even more comfortable with his new role, he slowly begins to realize that trying to be like all the rest is never going to be as easy as it seems. This becomes even more apparent when all of the other Spider-People harshly train him in his universe's Spider-Man's hideout. "Everybody can be Spider-Man" all right, but not exactly like the genuine article.

Contrasting the film's message is the movie's primary antagonist: Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, a very good foil to the protagonists' who is played menacingly by the ever-reliable Schreiver, despite not having that much characterization like his villanous, super-powered enforcers. Traumatized by the accidental deaths of his wife and son, Fisk came to the conclusion that his dear loved ones may only be replaced by seemingly close-to-the-truth substitutes from other universes. He becomes incredibly blinded to the gravity of the situation, that he is more or less driven oblivious by the potential ramifications of his actions. Like all of the other characters, they are seeking for the epitomes of conformity. 

"We've all been there," proclaimed Gwen Stacy after Miles witnesses the death of his Uncle Aaron, actually an enforcer for the Kingpin himself, at the hands of his employer after refusing to kill his own nephew. With his sense of security shattered at the revelation of his uncle's indirect duplicity, the other Spider-People aim to empower Miles with their somewhat similar turning points in their lives. Miles, realizing the futility of trying to be something that he thinks he can never be, still desperately clings to the thought. His mentors have decided that he is not ready yet to fully embrace the mantle. As Peter B. Parker said, all it takes to be Spider-Man is a "leap of faith." Not a tragic origin story, or not even a fateful spider bite, but the courage to always take the chances necessary to become who they are supposed to be. In case it is not yet obvious, this serves as a reminder not only to our perspective character, but also to us, the audience. And as soon as the climactic moments come around, complete with Miles finally making his own original take of the suit, and having him perform that one memorable scene from the trailer of Miles leaping from a building, the message that the film has been telling us is as clear as day.

The story, aside from focusing on Miles Morales' journey of self-discovery, also makes several subtle, and at most times obvious references to Spider-Man's legacy in the real world. From nigh faithful recreations of iconic scenes, including one specific scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming, to actual memes, not only do these scenes serve as somethings extra for the loyal fans, but each are included to further emphasize how much Spider-Man has helped inspire countless of readers, viewers, and heroes to always fulfill their responsibilities. Now this is a rare instance in filmmaking history when Easter eggs are actually included to fulfill a more meaningful purpose.

Overall, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is more than just a bursting blend of color and creative animation. It is more than just an excuse for Sony to again compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe to make their own Spider-Man franchise. It is more than just a fan-service-centric trip to the theaters. This is a tribute not only to the legacy left behind by both Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who have been rightfully and beautifully honored by the end credits of the film, but to the countless who have been inspired by the web-swinging, Amazing Spider-Man. Though several key characters, including most of the other Spider-People, and all of the Kingpin's henchmen, audiences will nevertheless have quite a time watching this film, thanks to an innovative and carefully executed animation project, complete with heartfelt moments, decent voice acting, catchy soundtrack, and brilliantly paced action. I hereby grant this film a rating of 22/25 (Awesome).

Two months. Two months of inactivity. So much has happened, and during this time, something interesting took place. Remember our short film, Fago? Last February 23, 2019, the awarding ceremony for the 5th Don Bosco Film Festival took place, and we managed to receive four nominations for Best Editing, Best in Lights and Sounds, Best Picture, and Best Director. We also won best actor for our leading man, Eduardo "Dandin" Prats, Jr., and best screenplay (that's me). With all that said, we would like to thank everyone who supported the film. This was truly a blast to work on! 

And to conclude this review, indulge yourselves to three of the songs from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack. Yes, since I am "this" close to finally graduating from high school, you could bet that we would be publishing every now and then (hopefully). Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!


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