How do you solve a problem like Spider-Man?
That is the conundrum that Sony Pictures has had on its hands for the past couple of years. Since 2002, the studio has been pumping out Spider-Man movies with careless abandon, resulting in a collection of unconnected Spidey stories that, to the average audience member, is starting to cause a little confusion.
For those who need a reminder, Sony has produced (or co-produced) the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man series, the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films, the Tom Holland/MCU Spider-Man stories and a Tom Hardy Venom movie. OK, so Venom doesn’t feature Spider-Man but it is (sort of) related to the wall-crawler and however way you look at it, there are a lot of Spider-Men running around out there and it’s difficult to keep track!
So, how do you make things a little more cohesive?
Well, it’s simple – you create an animated movie called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which opens up the idea that all of these different Spidey projects co-exist in a multiverse. You also anchor the movie around Miles Morales – a Spider-Man who isn’t Peter Parker.
For all intents and purposes, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is Sony Pictures’ way of stitching all of its Spider-Man movies together, without actually having to get out the needle and thread and make it explicit. It’s a film which wants audiences to understand that moving forward, multiple Spider-Men (and Spider-Women) exist, providing the starting point for an expansive Spider-world.
By producing this film, Sony Pictures is 100% (no going back) actively pushing for its own Spider-Man Universe. Many Marvel fans will hate this idea – I suspect from Venom‘s box office success alone the general audience won’t really care – but it’s happening regardless.
But does it actually work?
Heck, yeah and that maybe the kicker for those who desperately want Spider-Man to revert back to the control of Disney/Marvel. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse works very well.
So, why does the picture succeed? Well, it is largely due to two things:
One: Miles Morales – the lead character in Into the Spider-Verse – is incredibly likeable. As with Peter Parker, Morales is a relatable, every man and by movie’s end you will be sold on him as the rightful heir to the Spidey suit.
Morales establishes the idea that other Spider-Men can exist (outside of Peter Parker) and this also means that anyone can be Spidey. This is such a great, empowering message and one which makes this film an important entry in the entire comic book movie genre.
Two: Former Lego Movie directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have done for Spidey what they did for LEGO – made a movie which is filled with heart but is also incredibly fun and quirky. These guys know how to take a well-worn property and inject it with life and Into the Spider-Verse is another fine example.
At times the animation is a heap of fun – particularly during the final act; the characters are likeable and well written; and Stan Lee’s obligatory cameo is humorous and heartfelt in equal measure – you will get a lump in your throat when he pops up on screen. Speaking of Lee, stick around through the credits to see a little thank you to both Lee and Steve Ditko, the creators of Spider-Man – it’ll hit you right in the feels.
The combination of these two elements (Morales & Lord/Miller) results in a very strong Spider-Man film and, in my opinion, one of the best Spidey flicks to grace the big screen. It’s not perfect, it is slow in places – largely because of the multiple origin stories – but it works very well nonetheless.
Are all the origin stories (there’s one for each Spider-character) necessary? Yes.
Are they slightly cumbersome? Also, yes – but I guess that’s the problem when you introduce a new protagonist AND a multiverse. You have a lot to explain.
The origin problem has dogged Spider-Man movies previously and it’s still something that needs to be addressed. But that is my only criticism with Into the Spider-Verse – on the whole, I really, really enjoyed this movie.
Should you go see it?
Yep – and take the kids. Those below the age of ten will find it a bit slow, but the rest will love it. Long time Spidey fans will see it as a treat.
Because this movie is an animated Spider-Man film it may not attract the same audience that a live-action Spidey movie would, but it should. This is a strong, adult story and a very important piece in Sony’s Spider-Man puzzle.
Oh and STAY for the end credit scene – it’s great little nod to an even wider universe. Hopefully another Spider-Verse story is to come.