Spider-Verse Weaves a Tantalizing Web

spider-verse spider-man
Image: Screenshot, trailer by Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Color me spider-bit, kiss me upside down, and tragically kill my uncle: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse might just be the best movie of 2018.

Despite the cluster of Spider-People present, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is definitively a Miles Morales movie. His introduction is wonderful. He’s a daydreamer, a charmer, more than a bit of a nerd. He loves people and is always looking for friendship. Spider-Verse is neat and quick and marvelous in reminding its audience that Miles is Afro-Latino, as he code-switches in multiple dialects through crowds of his neighborhood pals. Peppered throughout are untranslated lines in Spanish. Miles’s heritage is always going to be relevant to his character, but it also doesn’t matter. “Anyone can wear the mask” is one of the central themes of the movie.

That is not to understate the importance of a Black boy wearing the Spiderman suit. Miles is sensitive and Miles is goofy and Miles is allowed to make the wrong decisions because he’s a kid caught up in a scary world full of people that expect a monumental amount of him in multitudinous ways. To help him in his coming of age journey, he has a plethora of father figures (and his mother and Gwen Stacy, too), each guiding him in their advice and their actions in how to find the version of himself who knows he can be Spider-Man.

Spider-Verse is untouchably gorgeous. It feels like a video game and comic book and painting all at once. Pixar’s style has dominated 3D animated movies for a long time, and Spider-Verse‘s deviation and experimentation has paid off huge dividends. After Miles is bitten, his world becomes increasingly comic book-like, thought captions and sound effects popping up all around him. Other comic book/2D art styles inform the animation of the movie, like squash and stretch and splash pages. Several of the Spider-People are drawn in a different style than the main character design – anime and black and white and Hanna Barbera, existing comfortably alongside each other. The colors are explosive and bright and incredible.

And Spider-Verse is also hilarious! The antics between Miles and Peter Parker, between all of the Spider-People, are delightful and laugh out loud funny. The fourth wall is broken coyly, joyfully, gleeful as it satirizes Spider-Man/superhero origin stories. “With great power comes great responsibility” is referenced often, but never allowed to be uttered in full. Sam Raimi’s trilogy is all over Spider-Verse, and the jokes about it are teasing, but not bullying.

As comedic as it was, Spider-Verse would often swoop into serious moments, tears quickly replacing the laughter. There is real emotional depth in this film, real consequences of a violent reality. Miles’s Quest for Friendship continuously rejects the stereotypical closed-off superhero trope, and stumblings on his hero’s journey are righted by connections to his family.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the most literal translation of a “comic book movie” I have ever had the pleasure of watching. The art, the action, the characters, the comedy – any one aspect would make it a great viewing experience. Combined, they make an unsurpassed addition to animation as we know it.

It’s a Marvel movie, so make sure to stay for the credits!

Author: K-K Bracken

K-K Bracken grew up overseas and in the Washington, DC area, went to the Ohio State University to get her BA in English, and has been in Columbus, Ohio ever since. She is currently querying her first novel ORCHESTRATION under the name Bracken Beveridge. She is the founder and organizer for the first Steven Universe exclusive fan convention, Beach City Con.

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