Spider-Man is one of the most well-known superheroes. He’s the driving force behind several films and thousands of comics; his face is a symbol for Marvel Comics. Now the web-slinging hero is back on the stage thanks to Tom Holland’s portrayal of the character in SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.
Now, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, opening on December 14, shows a whole new side of Spider-Man. In fact, it shows many sides, thanks to a brilliant approach to all those decades of comic book storytelling — and to a willingness to shine the spotlight on a new hero.
Meet Miles Morales
Everyone knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, right? Well, that’s not always the case. There’s more than one Spider-Man; thanks to decades of comic book storytelling, there are many versions. The main reason INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE highlights a different side of the web-slinging hero is that it doesn’t actually center on Peter Parker.
Miles Morales is the star of this film. The character debuted in 2011 as part of Marvel’s “Ultimate” comics line, which explored alternate and streamlined versions of Marvel’s central characters. The Ultimate comics made long-running characters accessible to new readers by simplifying decades of comic book history. They also introduced great new concepts and characters.
Like Peter Parker, Miles Morales is a high school kid from a working-class New York family. Unlike Peter, his parents are alive — his dad’s a cop — and he’s from a mixed Puerto Rican and African American heritage.
A Hero Of Many Dimensions
The expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe has certainly primed audiences to be ready for twists and turns, even with classic characters. But that doesn’t mean a movie about a new version of a familiar character — especially one who is currently so popular in Marvel’s movies — is an easy task.
INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE co-director Rodney Rothman talked about the challenges of introducing Morales to an audience that’s largely unfamiliar with him:
“The way we approached it was to draw from the comics. The character on the page is very distinctive, very sweet, with a warm, loving, complicated family – a mom and dad, which many comic book characters do not have. He’s very three-dimensional on the page, and that was our guiding star throughout.”
The cool thing about comics is that they can take big swings with wild stories. We’ve seen a few of these play out surprisingly well in Spider-Man comics over the last few years. Doctor Octopus switched bodies with the hero, and that arc turned into a method for examining a lot of what makes Spidey a hero in the first place. And the Spider-Verse storyline was a wildly entertaining way to combine all the different versions of Spidey that have existed over the years, from comics to TV animation to advertising.
This movie is based on that concept. So Miles Morales isn’t the only new guy. There are plenty of other Spider-Men and -Women in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE. One is another version of Peter Parker. Together, these characters all explore the appeal of Spidey in different ways.
Hopefully everyone will be able to find a hero they can relate with. Director Peter Ramsey said:
“By definition, our movie is about the idea of Spider-Man and how strong it is, how it transcends the idea of just a person wearing a mask. Once you start talking about a whole universe of different versions, you have to ask – if anyone can be Spider-Man, what is it that makes YOU Spider-Man? It’s not just the powers. It’s the person underneath.”
A Daring Story
Superhero movies often have huge world-saving plots. While INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE does have a whiff of that, as the characters are concerned for the very stability of their universe(s). But the stakes here are really about Miles and his own fairly small life — and his ability to come to terms with changes in his world.
Which sounds pretty simple. But with a set of characters that include a black and white film noir Spidey (voiced by Nicolas Cage) and the “yes, he’s actually a pig” Spider-Ham, voiced by John Mulaney, there’s some really weird stuff going on. Producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (THE LEGO MOVIE, 21 JUMP STREET) and co-directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman keep the action on track, however.
The result is like no Spider-Man adventure we’ve seen before, with a unique animation style that stands apart from anything else on the big screen. And even with a variety of new and alternate characters, INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is the most vibrant Spider-Man story we’ve seen in a movie.
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE hits theaters on December 14.