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Miles Morales Swings Into a new age of Marvel, Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse a film review

Written by Alex Frost

If you haven’t already heard of Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse (directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman) through word of mouth, you might of heard about it due to the plethora of ‘prestigious’ awards its gone on to win, some of them being: the Golden Globe’s Best Animated Feature Film; the BAFTA Award’s Best Animated Film, and the Academy Award’s Best Animated Feature. These are just to name a few, that’s not even accounting for the accolades it achieved with the smaller awarding bodies. Even with that information, If you’re the type of person who doesn’t put much merit in awards and what-not, don’t worry I’ve got your back! If you’re still wondering if Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse is a good film… I’m here to tell you why it is, in fact, a film worth watching. Also talking about why the film holds a place in the hearts of so many – especially people of varying ethnic backgrounds.

Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse tells the central story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a biracial teenaged graffiti artist, becoming Spiderman after he is bitten by a radioactive spider. If you’re confused by this because you thought Peter Parker was Spiderman, don’t be you’re not wrong – this isn’t the typical Peter Parker story. Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse toys with the idea of a multiverse by plunging multiple different ‘Spider-people’ (as it is acknowledged in the film) into one story – Peter (B.) Parker (Jake Johnson) is also among the characters but instead of the spry Spiderman we know he’s a down-on-his-luck couch potato from an alternate world. The main protagonist, Miles Morales, is also considered one of these ‘spider-people’. Miles must help these ‘spider-people’ figure out who/what tore them from their worlds and return them to their respective dimensions. The plot itself is (surprisingly) straightforward even when dealing with the concept of a multiverse; the plot doesn’t get caught up in the science of a multiverse and instead focuses on a straightforward return-them-home narrative. I think it is with this straightforward plot that the film can hit you with its fantastic characters.

Miles is inevitably the films roundest and most sound character all thanks to a solid performance by Shameik Moore – and a well-written script. Moore does an excellent job of portraying the full range of Miles’ emotions from his anxiety of becoming Spiderman to his wonder and excitement of being a fresh-faced hero. The supporting cast also shines through in Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse. Brian Henry who plays Miles’ father, keenly stood out to me; the way he interacts with the character of Miles feels so lifelike and allows for some impactful dialogue. The miscommunication between Miles and his father was engaging to watch, and Miles’ father grounded the plot in an otherwise bizarre plot surrounding a multi-verse. The only critique I have is I wished to see more interaction between Miles’ uncle (Mahershala Ali) and himself – as he plays heavily into the plot. The interactions between Miles and his uncle, whilst few, help to establish a genuine background for Miles. The voice acting for the cast does not feel under par for an animated film – the quality holds up throughout.

The film happily dethrones Disney and Pixar as being the long-running winner of the best animated feature award with its gorgeous aesthetic. The animation and art style in Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse is outrageously gorgeous, no other media has managed to capture the comic book aesthetic quite like Into the Spider-Verse did. Miles could not look cooler swinging through the streets of New York – with a detail character design that allows for a range of emotions to pass from his face to his posture. The film manages to mix up the animation and art style upon the introduction of each of the ‘spider-people’ as each of the ‘spider-people’ has their own distinct art style to represent their comic counter-part: Penny Parker has a distinct anime art style to her that syncs well with her Mecha robot; Spider-Man Noir captures the moodiness of a noir with his black and white palette; and Peter Porker pops on screen with his exaggerated looney tunes look that matches absurdity of having a Spider-pig. This all could have been jarring but it was well executed and came to be a visual treat – that added a refreshing quality to the film when they all came within the frame.

“The animation and art style in Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse is outrageously gorgeous, no other media has managed to capture the comic book aesthetic quite like Into the Spider-Verse did.”

Accompanied by beautiful visuals is an equally fantastic soundtrack.  The subtle hip-hop soundtrack helps attribute style and power to all of Miles’ actions – I, in particular, enjoyed ‘What’s Up Danger’ performed by Blackway and Black Caviar. The soundtrack helps create Miles’ identity of Spiderman. Unique from Peter Parker’s orchestral music as he swings the city, we now have a more stylish hip-hop soundtrack as Miles’ manoeuvres around New York. It wholeheartedly just feels cooler!

Initially, you may find yourself questioning the protagonist shift from Peter Parker to Miles Morales, but the film outright refuses to let it be strange. I know, personally, I worried that Marvel would pump out a Peter Parker 2.0 who’s only difference as a character was his ethnicity – I say this as someone who has never been particularly fond of Peter Parker, finding him rather bland. It is then to my delight that Miles Morales is a fully realised character whose identity is separate from Peter Parker but not separate from the identity of Spiderman. That is one of the truly marvellous things that Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse manages to achieve, it wrestles away the idea of Spiderman BEING Peter Parker to Peter Parker BEING a Spiderman. The film doesn’t shy away from showing the pressure that being the legendary hero brings but it also doesn’t shy away from showing the strength that Miles or any other of the ‘Spider-people’ exerts to become him.  Showing that if a white man can do it, why can’t any other ethnicity or gender (or species – looking at you Peter Porker!) do it as well? The film wears its flag of inclusivity with pride and it doesn’t allow the film to feel preachy, just empowering to all. Even though the film doesn’t tackle ideas of sexism or racism there is an underlining effect of empowerment for all the characters.

It is for these reasons I find Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse to be so important. Its Marvel ‘swinging’ in the right direction, towards an ideal where anyone and everyone can feel they have the potential to be a hero. The (late) Stan Lee cameo within film truthfully felt like a summarised version of this point. Miles’ looks at the mask of Spiderman and asks if he can return it if it doesn’t fit but the clerk (Stan Lee) informs Miles: “It always fits eventually.” Symbolising that effort and dedication are what truly matters – it just takes some time.

“Its Marvel ‘swinging’ in the right direction, towards an ideal where anyone and everyone can feel they have the potential to be a hero.”