In 2010, then-journalist Marc Bernardin, penned a feature asking the question : why does the Sony Entertainment driven Spiderverse need to be white? This was followed on by Danny Glover, launching an online campaign of his own, leading him to audition for the Spider-Man role. As history would have it, the role went to Andrew Garfield. The world wasn’t ready for a black spider-man (COUGH bullshit COUGH). At least it started the conversation. Why does a comic book character need to be bound by the sum of his/her/their parts? Why indeed. At least it started the discussion.
Fast forward nearly a decade and enter Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. The movie’s chief protagonist is Miles Morales. A half black, half puerto-rican American teen whose biggest trial is succeeding at his new school. A school for rich kids or for smart kids? This isn’t explored. What Miles does know is that this isn’t the Brooklyn he knows or is familiar with. He is a spider geting tangled up in a much different web.
Into the Spiderverse treats the viewer to a digestible mash up of hip hop culture meets coming of age. Packaged in superhero referenced wrapping paper complete with a comedic ribbon on the top. In quickly pointing out the change of his initial journey from streetwise kid to struggling bookworm – we begin to emotionally invest in Miles quite early on. The coming of age story continues on thematically as a tie in to his journey of teen not being understood by his step-dad.
Miles takes refuge from the world in the form of his unsuccessful Uncle Aaron. As they both retreat to that special underground place to express themselves. Enter graffiti art attack session. This scene resonates throughout the entire film. Acting as the metaphorical “fork in the road” we see the connection his Uncle has with him. At the same time acting as the “checkpoint” for Miles getting bitten by a radioactive spider only to eventually stumble upon an Amazing Spider-Man battle.
The comedic scene following Miles’ transition into Spider-Man provides a light tone serving as a perfect gateway for Spider-Gwen to enter the fold. Whilst juxtaposing the darker tones that will soon follow a chance breaking of the all important “Flash drive.”
Miles witnesses Amazing Spider-Man go toe to toe with Green Goblin and The Prowler. Trying to foil a plot by Wilson Fisk to open the barrier between dimensions courtesy of his accelerator. Only to be served the most morbid of deaths at the hands of Kingpin. Liev Shreiber does an exceptional job as kingpin, delving deep into the heart of brooklyn and resurfacing with a mobster accent worthy of Godfather.
The biggest tear jerker since the creation of Film and Television.
Kingpin’s most evil of deeds sends Miles into a panic, stumbling on some debris, revealing his location to The Prowler. The Prowler’s stalk is legitimately terrifying. Its a haunting march resembling a WWII air raid siren drowning in its own dissonance. Miles escapes The Prowlers talons. This time.
A heart warming tribute follows in the form of a public funeral for Peter Parker. Presented by Peter’s wife, Mary Jane Watson. It’s the biggest tear jerker from a cartoon since the start of film and television.
Bearly recovering from our remorse-fullness, we see a lost Miles Morales hanging out at Peter’s grave only to be confronted by an unfit, jaded, Peter Parker not of this dimension. This reveals his defence mechanism, his venom blast, knocking out jaded Parker and introducing an unconscious spider-man meets Weekend at Bernies scene.
Eventually after waking up, jaded Parker agrees to train Miles in exchange for helping steal the data from a nearby lab to rebuild the flash drive. While they almost get away scot free without the Kingpin noticing. A chance encounter with the sultry Dr Olivia Octavius puts them in harm’s way yet again. A point of note here that her octopus arms work more like serpents than octopus limbs. Though the decision to make Octavius a woman spells out the obvious to comic nerds – we are probably in the 1610 universe.
Spider-Gwen is a strong empowered Woman
Spider-Gwen (or Gwen) interrupts Octavius’ pursuit of the two Spider-Men and introduces herself as the one and only Spider-Woman. Though we know better. She is a strong empowered Woman. Though her molecules are also gradually degrading . Jaded Parker can do only one thing that cowardly Peter Parker does – Seek refuge at Aunt May’s house. After a tearful reunion with his not Aunt May we are introduced to dead Spider-Man’s hideout. Containing none other than 4 more dimension displaced Spider-Men; Spider-Man Noir, Spider-Ham, Peni Parker and SP//dr.
What follows this introduction of Spider-Titans is a borderline abusive session of bravado as each Spider-Man puts Miles through the ringer. Trying to ultimately push the new Spider-Man to force out his full potential. Failing miserably, this causes an extremely upset Morales to take a breather at his Uncle Aaron’s apartment. Cue haunting Prowler theme followed by Miles activating his invisibility defense only to see The Prowler reveal himself as Uncle Aaron. Miles bearly gets out alive, deciding to flee back to Aunt May’s house where Peni Parker and SP//dr have fixed the flash drive.
What soon follows is an ambush by Kingpin, Scorpion, Tombstone, Octavius and The Prowler. To say the collective group of Spider-Men get their asses handed to them would be an understatement. The Prowler has a masked Miles in his talons, choking the life out of him as Miles reveals himself to The Prowler. Kingpin orders Prowler to kill him, only for Aaron to refuse in a highly tense moment.
A gunshot echoes throughout the cinema as the gargantuan mobster takes the life once again, this time of The Prowler. Like the moment Darth Vader revealed himself in Empire Strikes Back. The unmasking and eventual death of The Prowler is the closest this post-millennial generation will ever get to “I am your father.” Jefferson, Myles’ step-dad, arrives in his cop car only to witness the aftermath. He sees only a masked Myles. Zero context as he radios in an APB on spider-man.
Miles and the rest of the Spider-Folk return to his apartment. All of them lay down the cold truth – he’s not ready to assume this mantle. They all explain the trials they went through in losing the ones they love. Tissue please!?
At the conclusion, Jaded Peter Parker wraps Miles in webbing and they all leave. Hearts broken that they all had to do this to him. Peter knows that he will need to sacrifice himself so that the accelerator could be shut down and the others can return to their own dimensions.
Into the Spider-verse is a Journey of Self Discovery
Jefferson arrives outside Miles’s door to tell him about Aaron’s death and, assuming Miles does not want to speak to him because of his mouth covered with web, apologizes for his mistakes. Finally gaining control of his powers, Miles charges his venom blast enough to break from his restraints. Soon after leaving school, he heads to May’s house, and spray-paints one of Peter’s old suits. After learning how to web-swing, and stick to walls properly, he then joins the other Spider-People and helps them defeat Octavius, Scorpion and Tombstone, though Peni’s SP//dr is destroyed.
Miles activates the USB drive and sends the Spider-People back home just before Fisk arrives. The two fight throughout the accelerator, attracting Jefferson’s attention. Jefferson realizes that Spider-Man is not the enemy and encourages him, giving Miles the motivation to withstand Fisk’s attacks and knock him out with his venom blast, which also destroys the accelerator.
As the authorities arrest Fisk and his enforcers, Jefferson recognizes Spider-Man as a hero and Miles embraces the responsibilities of his new life. Back in their respective dimensions, Peter brings flowers to Mary Jane, ready to fix their relationship, Peni builds a second SP//dr, Noir solves a Rubik’s cube that was given to him, Ham enjoys a hot dog, Miles reveals his identity to his roommate, and Gwen finds a way to contact Miles across dimensions.
Parting gifts for us parting ways with the Spider-verse. Though if Sony Entertainment has their way, and they often do, this won’t be the last we hear of Miles Morales, Spider-Man. Into the Spider-verse is a journey of self discovery, of transition into adolescence and the gradual weight that becoming part of the world can bear. Its about change and finding yourself amongst the lows so that the better you can pick yourself back up again. Golden Globe, well deserved.