Honestly, when I first heard about Spiderman: Into The Spider-Verse, it wasn’t a movie I was particularly interested in. And that was simply because it was yet another Spiderman film, and frankly, I’ve had more of those in my life than I have had sex partners. What I’m saying is: I really did not need another Peter Parker escapade in my life.
But the film coaxed me around when I realized that it actually wasn’t about Peter Parker (exclusively), but rather explored the other people who have worn the mask over the course of the comics’ long-running history by bringing in the various Spider-People from adjacent universes to our own. Following a young Miles Morales after he is bitten by a radioactive spider and yadda yadda you know the rest, the film soon transforms the traditional origin story into a genre-bending, universe-crashing masterpiece that might just be the best Spiderman movie to date.
The simple act of opening up the Spiderman mantle to so many different characters (including Spiderman Noir, Spider-Gwen, and Miles Morales, amongst others) is a quick fix to answering all the questions of repetition that come with constant reboots and re-imaginings – but it’s more than that, too. The inter-universe premise allows for some magical visuals, explored with a singular and unique animation style that underlines the goofy comic-book origins of everything we’re watching, and the razor-sharp script (oh Lord, the edgy gags at the expense of Spider-Noir) deftly and energetically explores the mind-bending clash of Spider-People. Hell, it even pokes some gloriously meta fun at the cinematic history of Peter Parker in the process.
But I think what really pulls this movie together above all else is the throughline of loss that runs through the whole story. Spiderman, as a character, like so many superheroes, is someone whose story fundamentally revolves around loss and grief, and that’s true for all the Spider-People we meet over the course of this movie. With the idea of universality so central to the premise of Spider-Verse, it makes sense that they would choose something as universal as loss as their central theme, and it really works to pull the whole film together, stopping it spiralling out into wild comic book shenanigans even at its weirdest and wildest. Hell, even the villain is driven by loss – his motivation is bringing back some version of his late wife and son. It’s a really bold throughline for a family movie, but it also credits the audience with more than just the ability to translate bright colours and visual gags.
While I have a great soft spot for other Spiderman movies (especially Homecoming), this was the first one that really felt as though it was trying to relate to its audience with meaty, real-world themes and a more universal attitude to who could, and should, be a superhero. Moving away from the traditional Peter Parker story has opened up a whole new chance for the universe to explore something expansive, fresh, and totally original, and, nearly twenty years after Spiderman first made it to our screens, I think it’s about time for that.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Gizmodo)