When I saw The Lego Movie, I was impressed with how the film gave me a false impression of stop motion with 3D animation, and I enjoyed the comedy of the film. While I felt that Lord & Miller’s particular flavor off comedy wouldn’t work for Solo, but when I learned they were doing a Spider-Man movie, my interest was piqued, but I didn’t get around to watching Into The Spider-Verse until Covid-19.
So, what Into the Spider-Verse does right is it’s a Spider-Man film that recognizes that a good Spidey, no matter who they are, puts on an air of witty confidence over a core of insecurity. This comes across through the character’s personal life, and their relationships through their parents and romantic interests. It also comes up through a just unhealthy enough degree of imposter syndrome – both in terms of their professional life and their superhero career. Tom Holland did it well in live-action, and in animation, Miles Morales has it in spades.
Also, the framework of the story fits into this perfectly – Kingpin’s wife and son in this universe died in a car accident when they left him after seeing him fighting spider-man, so he’s gotten Olivia Octavius to build him a super-collider to let him get a parallel universe version of the his family back. Gifted High School student Miles Morales (who is something of a misfit being basically the only black kid in his school) stumbles into this after being bitten by a radioactive spider, and shortly after sees this universe’s Spider-Man trying to shut down the device. Parker disables it but doesn’t shut it down, and entrusts the key to shutting down the device for good to Miles (whose Spider-abilities he recognizes because Spidey-Quickening) before Peter gets killed by Kingpin.
However, five more parallel universe versions of Spidey come through – a dumpy Peter Parker from a different universe where he had a crappier life, Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicholas Cage), Ghost-Spider/Spider-Woman (alternate universe Gwen Stacy), Peni Parker or SPD//R (who pilots a mecha), and Spider-Ham. And where this all fits in to this is that all of these characters are written strongly presenting that sense of witty confidence covering a core of profound insecurity, just in different ways, and with some being more upfront with it than others (with Dumpy Peter in particular showing his confidence as being more a part of his insecurity than a cover for it).
All of this works great for this development for Miles as a character, as while he’s faced with that same level of insecurity, both in terms of being a nervous high school kid faced with the insecurity of being a person of color in a mostly white environment, he’s also facing having to take on being Spider-Man. Yes, he has mentor figures (plural) to help him learn what he needs, but if all goes well they have to go back to their universes – which means Miles will have to be able to do this on his own, when he saw the last guy get killed in front of him.
Consequently, Into the Spider-Verse nails the vibe of Spider-Man in a way that I don’t think any other film before has really gotten quite this well. I wish I had seen this film sooner, and I think the inevitable sequel is going to have a tough act to follow.
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