By Bradley Lane
If you are anything like me, you are tired of seeing superhero films dominate the box office. In recent years superhero films have become increasingly uninspired and homogenized in their presentation, story and direction. Films in Marvel Cinematic Universe are especially unremarkable because they require a continuity that demands them all to stay grounded in the same reality and style of previous films, forcing them to eventually all look and feel like the same increasingly uninteresting film we have all seen before. This leads us to 2018’s standout superhero film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse; because it is not a part of any preexisting cinematic universe it is given an incredible amount of freedom to take interesting, bold and completely worthwhile risks.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse takes place in a universe parallel to our own. In this universe we follow Miles Morales, a giftedly intelligent and creative teenager as he develops powers like his hometown hero, Spider-Man. However, Miles finds himself struggling with his identity as a new Spider-Man after the death of the original Spider-Man shortly after developing his own powers. Luckily, an alternate dimension Spider-Man, more jaded and exhausted by heroics, crosses path with Miles in his journey to complete the original Spider-Man’s mission and reluctantly agrees to teach Miles how to be Spider-Man.
Everything about this film should not work as well as it does. The over-the-top comic book animation style should take away from the more serious moments in the story, the decision to base the movie around a character unfamiliar to non-comic book reading fans should alienate new audiences, and the numerous amount of characters should take away from the larger story. But it all just works. Not only does this film balance an enormous cast of interesting and developed characters, but it also stays accessible to kids with a great role model in Morales and keeps the story grounded with a moral center that is sure to inspire children and adults alike.
One of the most important messages Into the Spider-Verse sends to its impressionable audience is the idea of developing a unique identity. Retracing the steps of an older Spider-Man doesn’t lead to Miles becoming a hero; rather, it is only when he takes the lessons he has learned from Spider-Man and combined those with his own identity that he comes into his own as a hero. This works both as a great message for kids, but also functions as a commentary for the film itself. It borrows from Spider-Man films before it, while creating its own visual and tonal identity, to make something entirely new and original.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not content with being just another superhero flick and takes necessary and innovative steps to separate itself from the currently oversaturated market, all the while remaining massively entertaining fun for the whole family. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is available to stream on Netflix. – 4.5/5 stars.