Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Review — An Amazing Tribute
With Spider-Man having found a good home in the proper Marvel Cinematic Universe, the age of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy feels like a distant memory. But while Peter Parker is off gallivanting with the Avengers, Sony has ushered in a new beginning for new Spider-Man Miles Morales, crafting a contemporary origin story for him while celebrating the Spidey that came before him and the different incarnations of this classic character. The result is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a bold animated experiment that results in one of the best Spider-Man movies ever put to screen.
Beware! There are minor spoilers ahead!
Sony is well-aware of Spider-Man’s history, recapping the original Spidey’s origin story at the start of the movie. Many of the Spidey moments that the character recalls include big moments from across the Tobey Maguire films, both good and bad. The origin story is a plot device used frequently throughout the movie, serving as both great comedy fodder and also as a testament to how many different ways the Spider-Man (or Spider-Woman, in Gwen Stacy’s case) character’s story could be told effectively. It also capably sets up the central motivation for main character Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore). These Spider people have all cemented the beginning of their superhero careers, so how is he going to begin his own story?
Miles discovering his place in a multiverse filled with heroic, selfless Spider heroes proves to be the heart of Into the Spider-Verse. Like the best Peter Parker stories, it parallels with Miles trying to find his own place in the world, as he starts life at a new school with people he doesn’t know. Similarly, Miles is quickly surrounded by a Peter Parker he doesn’t know (Peter B. Parker, voiced by Jake Johnson), along with other seasoned Spider people. The differences aren’t just in terms of experience and personality, they’re quite literal. Into the Spider-Verse‘s animation style is put to beautiful use, utilizing different art styles for each of the different Spider people, like the anime style for Peni Parker (voiced by Kimiko Glenn) and the gritty monochromatic design of Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage). By contrast, Miles is a normal kid, just discovering his powers, and has yet to learn what it means to be a hero.
But while Miles does get his “With great power, comes great responsibility” moment, it’s not quite the same as Peter’s. That’s because it’s not supposed to be. The path that Miles walks down is his own and the manner in which he learns where he fits into the world is what makes Into the Spider-Verse a truly great Miles Morales story.
If Spider-Verse has a weakness, it’s in main villain Wilson Fisk (voiced by Liev Schreiber) The Kingpin is a tried-and-true Spidey bad guy and he’s presented brilliantly here. He’s larger-than-life, presented as bigger than every other character in the movie. He’s dressed in all black, representing a void in this colorful world. However, his big plan feels flimsy. He wants to reconnect with his estranged family, but his idea is to use other-dimensional counterparts? That logic doesn’t exactly hold water, especially as viewers are presented with the idea that every dimension’s Spider-Man (and in some cases, Peter Parker) are totally different versions of themselves. For Fisk to expect a different dimension’s Vanessa and Richard to be exactly the same as the ones he knows doesn’t quite work.
Putting aside how the plot collapses under its own logic, Fisk is presented as a strong villain with a crew of heavy hitters. Without spoiling who Fisk’s lieutenants are, they fit perfectly with Into the Spider-Verse’s idea of subverting expectations and presenting something different than the usual Spider-Man story, while simultaneously celebrating everything great about it.
Into the Spider-Verse is made all the better by a strong voice cast. Shameik Moore captures what it means to be Miles Morales. But the true surprise for me is Jake Johnson, someone who I didn’t envision as Peter Parker in the slightest. But given the idea of just which version of Peter this is, Johnson’s casting actually works. Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy is a true breakout character, proving to be a hero in her own right and a character deserving of her own story in the future.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a movie for Spidey fanatics of all stripes. It’s great for anyone who loves Miles, who loves Peter, and for anyone who loves the history of this beloved character.
One last thing to note, without spoiling it, go in prepared for quite possibly the saddest Stan Lee cameo yet, not just for obvious reasons, but also because of where the scene is placed. But even with my theater shedding a few tears, everyone present knew both he and Steve Ditko would have a smile on their faces knowing how their creation was presented.