Spider-Man: Sony’s Real Chance at a Spider-Verse
This is what a comic book movie should be. I am a fan of almost all of the live action and animated films and TV shows based on the Marvel and DC properties, even the Dark Horse and Image ones as well. The animated Spider-Man TV show from the 90’s was my childhood, it is a huge part of what made me love the character. And with almost every episode or movie, you get some feeling that you can be a hero too if you were one of them. But none of those representations reached the level of impact as this movie.
I rarely review animated films on this site. In general I have some rules I like to follow that make my life a little easier. But this movie isn’t something that can be put in a box, and I appreciate the fuck out of it for that. The 2018 Sony 3D animated movie, written by Phil Lord and directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, doesn’t make sense. I honestly do not understand how this movie got made. Why Sony would green-light an animated film to go to theaters staring multiple characters from various dimensions is beyond me. Especially seeing how Marvel is using Peter Parker in the MCU, they have been trying to get a live action cinematic universe off the ground, and Have a Venom trilogy in the works. Maybe that’s why the movie did something fans have been wanting for years. They made a movie about Miles Morales.
For people who don’t read the comics, seriously no judgment, Miles Morales is the black Spider-Man. That is a bit of a generalization. He is a half black, half latino, kid in the Ultimate Universe, who serves as that world’s Spider-Man after Peter Parker dies. The movie is from this character’s perspective. And honestly it is the reason the movie is so good. Not that it is specifically a black kid, but that it is not Peter Parker, but we’ll get to that later. The thing about animated movies is how the talent needed for such a film is more on the animators then the actors. The credits for the art department is immense. I honestly feel a little ignorant because I can’t post 40 names in this review, and I don’t recognize any names nearly as much as the voice actors. But the animation in this movie is perfect. The style and creative designs bring visuals that interrupt your brain from thought and force it to indulge in pure emotion. The creative team behind these new variations of classic characters breathe fresh life into the franchise. Even if the plot and story was bad (which is far from) the animation is so spectacular that the movie would survive The Snappening of visual appeal alone. One thing I specifically appreciated was the individual art styles for the unique dimensions and how they can all still blend together, much like the point of the film.
The voice of Miles is from the multi-talented Shameik Moore. And even though the movie is about the entire ‘Spider-Verse’ the story itself is focused around his struggles and “brutal origin story”. I went into the movie having read very few Miles Morales comics but I did know a some of the key marks. Most of the people I talked to did not and the twists really blew them away. The perspective of this character resonates with viewers that are tired of hearing the same origins stories over and over. We know all about Peter Parker and how he came to be Spider-Man, people don’t want to see it. The creators of this movie knew that, which is why they gave us an out of shape loser Peter voiced by Jake Johnson. The film does a great job giving us the young new story with Miles while giving us the Peter Parker we didn’t realize matches perfectly with our feels for the character. And the results are hilarious. We also get several other versions of Spider-Man. Hailee Steinfield is the fan favorite Spider-Gwen. Nicholos Cage voices Spider-Man Noir. John Mulaney brings Spider-Ham to life. And we even get an anime Peni Parker voiced by Kimiko Glenn. I could go on and on about the voice casting… so I will. Mahershala Ali, Bryan Tyree Henry, Lily Tomlin, Zoe Kravitz, Kathryn Hahn, and Liev Schreiber all give great supporting performances. But the point of having so many unique versions of the character is that Spider-Man isn’t just one person.
Look I love Batman, but I know I can never be Bruce Wayne. The Captain America movies teach us to be better people, but we cannot all be Steve Rodgers. I have loved Spider-Man since I was a kid. I have a pretty specific connection to the character and appreciate all the movies around that property. Read Why We Love Spider-Man Movies and What Sony Keeps Getting Wrong for more on it. (Title is now is a bit out of date because Sony got this one right). In a comic story I once read, a character asks Spider-Man why he covers his entire body in a costume, showing no skin. This isn’t unique to the character but his answer is important. Anyone can be Spider-Man. When the citizens are saved they can picture anyone wearing the suit. Into the Spider-Verse highlights that sentiment. Everyone can be Spider-Man. The film connects a black kid in school, a middle-aged loser, and an emotionally separated girl. It doesn’t matter why you fight, what your back story is, how old you are, or what color your skin is. Shit it doesn’t even matter if you’re human. All that matters if that you continue to fight when others quit.
Why I loved this movie so much was that it reignited a passion in me to be a good person. All of us go off the beaten path every once in a while; reality beats us down. Preconceived notions get inside of our heads. But no matter who you are, we all know what is right and what is wrong. Far too many times we justify being bad because reality makes it hard. But you don’t have to be a specific cookie cutter version of a hero to act like one. This movie never once makes it a point to say “Spider-Man is black” or “A woman can be a hero” and I appreciate the hell out of that. It isn’t pandering just to get attention. It’s message is authentic. We all have the ability to be Spider-Man. All you have to do is stand up and be a good person.
Movie enjoyed and review written by: Troy Smith
I actually wanted to say one more thing. We were unfortunately given the news that Stan Lee had passed away a while ago. And although his lose is met with great sadness, sometimes the universe lines things up that makes us smile. In no way am I glad he died, but let’s not kid ourselves, we all have to go sometimes. I’m glad that this movie was the first Marvel property film to be released after his death. I’m sure Captain Marvel and Avengers Endgame will have cameos and tributes for Stan Lee, but out of all his children, Spider-Man was his favorite. So some cosmic alignment can take some sad news and make you smile every once in a while.