Spider-Man swings back into theaters


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Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse was released on December 14, 2018.

John Bishop, North Managing Editor

With now over eight theatrical movies and over four different iterations of the web-slinging hero, it’s easy to see how the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse could be met with some skepticism. However, through Sony Animation’s beautifully stylized animation and storytelling, Spiderverse brings one of, if not the best version of the Spider-Man character to the big screen.

The animated adventure centers around Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino teenager living in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. As a comic book character, Morales has had a significantly positive impact on the comic book community, a fact that is further expounded by his involvement in this film.

The stylized animation of the film was at times almost breathtaking. Never before has the silver screen portrayed a comic book page so accurately. The entire movie seemed like it was ripped from the pages of a comic book, from the slightly jagged and yet oddly smooth animation, to the fine-tuned character designs. The beautifully crafted animation alone was a perfect tribute to such a beloved character.

The biggest message of this film is that anyone can be a hero. Though sometimes presented in a (Spider) ham-fisted manner with characters flat out stating the theme, Morales’ transition to a hero is one the major ways this theme is delivered. For most of the movie, his superhero suit consists of a cheap, poorly-fitting classic Spider-Man Halloween costume. His reliance on a cheap costume speaks to how a hero doesn’t need to be flashy, they just have to be helping others. Another integral facet of the delivery of this comes from the first of Stan Lee’s postmortem film cameos. As Lee puts it, the costume “always fits, eventually.” While played off for laughs as the camera pans to a “no refunds” sign, this line signifies how anyone can grow to be a hero, just by helping others.

Despite the positives of this film, it really falls flat in developing some of the cast, specifically Spider-Ham, Peni Parker, and Spider-Man Noir. The animated flick tends to keep the spotlight on Miles Morales, Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy, and while this leads to great character development, other characters are hardly used to their full potential. As Peter learns how to be a mentor, Gwen learns how to be a friend and Miles learns how to be a hero, the other three members of the team remain static.

Since his inception in 1962, one of Spider-Man’s biggest appeals is his mask. Unlike other heros of the time, who proudly displayed their faces for all to see, Spider-Man’s head-to-toe coverage was an outlier. The character appealed to so many because of this. When Spider-Man puts on his mask, the hero becomes anonymous. His ethnicity, his sexuality and his beliefs are all hidden by the mask. Readers of the comics can see themselves in his shoes and connect with the character in a whole new way.

It’s this train of thought, that Spider-Man could be anyone under the mask, that lead to the creation of Miles Morales in 2011. It’s the same thought as to why the inclusion of the character is such a landmark in comic book history. Characters such as Morales and Gwen being brought to the mainstream media not as side characters, but as heroes in their own right, are perfect reflections of this sentiment. Their inclusion in the mainstream media sum up exactly what the concept of Spider-Man has always been trying to teach readers and viewers: It’s not the mask that makes a hero, it’s the character of the person underneath.

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