Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hit cinemas earlier this month and it only took one viewing for us to be completely confident in one simple fact: this is the best Spider-Man movie ever made. Is it the best superhero movie ever made? Debatable. But it has an incredibly compelling claim to the title of: “best Spider-Man movie”.
The visuals and soundtrack of Into the Spider-Verse immediately set it apart from any other superhero/comic book flick that has graced the silver screen, but the greatness of the latest Spider-Man film from Sony Pictures goes far beyond the fresh sights and sounds that drew audiences in from the moment the movie was announced. Simply put, Into the Spider-Verse is a far better Spider-Man story than any of the films that have come before it.
But hold up, what makes a good Spider-Man story in the first place?
We all know about the Spider-Man origin story by now – bitten by a radioactive spider, found himself with awesome powers, indirectly caused his Uncle Ben’s death, with great power comes great responsibility and so on and so forth. Spider-Man’s origin story is common knowledge amongst audiences, but the themes that the character embodies as a result of that origin story aren’t discussed all that often.
To put it concisely, Spider-Man stories are all about an ordinary person finding the courage and resilience to perform extraordinary feats for the sake of the greater good. What sets Spider-Man apart from other A-list superheroes such as Superman, Batman and even his Marvel Universe colleagues Iron Man and Captain America is that aside from his powers, he is by all accounts a completely ordinary person.
Superman is near godlike deity from another planet, Iron Man and Batman are billionaires and Captain America had already voluntarily made the decision to dedicate his life to the army before gaining his powers. Spider-Man was just a kid from New York who happened to get bitten by a radioactive spider. As the late great Stan Lee himself said, one of the greatest things about Spider-Man as a character is the fact that he’s more relatable than anyone else.
The crux of Spider-Man stories is that he constantly finds himself in situations where his responsibility as a superhero requires him to make sacrifices that affect his personal life, more so that almost every other superhero. No matter how good of a job he does saving the city, things never go quite right for him once he takes off the mask and returns to his ordinary life. Spider-Man has his share of personal problems the same way we do, all while being faced with sacrifices and challenges that you couldn’t possibly ask an ordinary person to go through. And yet he rises to the occasion for the sake of doing the right thing, every single time.
Notice that throughout that entire section, I referred exclusively to the character known as “Spider-Man”, not Peter Parker, which brings us to another vital aspect of Spider-Man stories, that it could be anyone under the mask. With great power comes great responsibility indeed, but another one of the most crucial themes in Spider-Man is that any ordinary person can find the courage to do the right thing and live up to that responsibility.
“Stan always said that one of the things that was so alluring about Spider-Man for readers was the mask. Anyone could have gotten bitten by the spider, anyone could be under the mask. When you see that character running around you can associate with it. No matter who you are—race, color, creed, gender.” – Dan Slott
This is where we begin to see why “Into the Spider-Verse” stands out among all the other Spider-Man films to date. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 is still considered by many fans as the best Spider-Man movie of all time thanks to the fact that it does an excellent job portraying the deep personal struggle that Peter Parker goes through as a result of trying to live up to his responsibilities as Spider-Man, but “Into the Spider-Verse” takes things one step further by expanding on the themes which Spider-Man embodies – not just the character Peter Parker.
Miles Morales has been around for quite some time in Marvel’s comic book universe and is already a well developed and widely loved character among fans who follow the comics, but this movie marks the very first time that cinema audiences have been introduced to the character
Having an unfamiliar character as a new protagonist in a big budget Spider-Man movie was a huge risk for Sony Pictures, but it proved to be a terrific decision when it came to the movie’s narrative.
The overarching plot of “Into the Spider-Verse” is a well-executed origin story for Miles Morales, but the appearance of Peter Parker alongside this newest Spider-Man allows this movie to explore the true meaning of the Spider-Man character in a whole new dimension that none of the movies before it have had access to.
We can’t say much more here without going into spoilers, but Miles’ character arc is a fresh origin story that captures the essence of what it means to be Spider-Man, while Peter’s character arc gives audiences a fresh take on an otherwise familiar character which also dives a little deeper into the essence of Spider-Man stories. The Peter Parker in this movie is older and wiser than cinema audiences are used to and he’s also much more jaded and exhausted as a result, giving us a look at the toll that over a decade of superhero work has taken on his life and outlook.
Miles’ character arc is about learning how to rise above fear and self-doubt to fulfill your responsibilities, while Peter’s is about coping with loss and rediscovering your passion and drive to take back control of your own life. With these two character arcs masterfully intertwining over the course of the movie’s narrative, we’re treated with a plot that explores all the major themes and facets of the Spider-Man character.
The character of Spider-Man isn’t meant to just be observed and admired from a distance. Rather, Spider-Man shines the most when he’s put into situations that all of us can relate to, which in turn inspires us to rise up to our own responsibilities and fulfill our own potentials. Into the Spider-Verse understand this better than any other Spider-Man movie to date, and the writers clearly made the effort to craft a Spider-Man story which thoroughly explores what it means to Spider-Man, as well as the meaning that Spider-Man has to each individual audience member watching it. As the trailer for the film aptly puts it:
“What makes you different is what makes you Spider-Man.”
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in cinemas now. If you haven’t seen it yet, we urge you to do so. And if you already have, we insist that it’s worth watching again.