How “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” changed the superhero genre

Photo by Cristian Bortes via Wikimedia Commons.

When Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was first announced, many were skeptical. It’s the fourth attempt at a Spider-Man franchise in the past 17 years and the second Spider-Man film to be released in 2018 alone. It risked boring an audience already fed up with the previous film adaptations of their favourite childhood hero.

With the film being animated, and shifting the spotlight away from Peter Parker and onto the newest adaptation of Spider-Man, Miles Morales, it seemed as if the odds were stacked against the film before it had even premiered.

There are so many reasons why Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse shouldn’t have worked. Yet somehow, it does.

Written by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, and directed by Rothman, Bob Persichetti, and Peter Ramsey, the film takes place in a multiverse called the “Spider-verse.” The film’s main premise calls for the Spider-men from various alternate universes to come together. With the sheer amount of characters present, it’d be easy for Miles Morales, the main protagonist, to be overshadowed.

However, as the film progresses, it becomes evident that Miles is the heart of the story, and the film never strays from that.

At its core, the film is your classic Spider-Man origin story. Miles is just a teenager trying to balance the different parts of his life. He has a passion for art that doesn’t quite fit into his parents’ expectations of him, and he struggles to find an effective outlet for his frustrations.

When it’s time for Miles to come to terms with his newfound powers and responsibilities, audiences think they know what to expect. It’s a familiar character arc we’ve seen done with Peter Parker time after time, but what Spider-Verse does well is that it tells Miles’ story in a way that encapsulates you like no other Spider-Man film.

By keeping a generally light-hearted and humorous tone throughout, it allows the several dark scenes of the film to be all the more impactful and heart-wrenching. You can’t help but sympathize when the characters you were laughing with moments ago become distraught. Spider-Verse is able to create a connection between the audience and the characters through its strong writing.  

Also, credit has to be given to the film’s excellent voice cast. With Shameik Moore as Miles, Moore gives an impressive performance in his first ever big screen voice role. Jake Johnson, best-known for his role as Nick Miller on New Girl, brings a distinct laid-back quality to Peter that strays away from any of the character’s previous adaptations. Along with Academy Award nominee Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy and Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali as Miles’ uncle Aaron, the cast are truly able to bring their characters to life.

What Spider-Verse does best

Spider-Verse takes huge risks in both the writing and production. While they may sound overwhelming on paper, they work together brilliantly, and the risks taken are ultimately the film’s best quality.

Take the animation as an example. While it’s not the first animated superhero film to ever be done, it’s the first in this comic book style. The style wasn’t something many were used to, but watching it play out on the big screen created a fully-immersive comic book universe.

Then there’s the risks made in the writing. Peter is such a beloved character in the Marvel universe that it was hard for some to see him take a backseat to Miles. However, Miles is a refreshing character and as an Afro-Latino teenager, he is the representation we so desperately need in a genre where white heroes are the norm.

Though, Peter still plays an integral role in the film as Miles’ mentor, and their on-screen relationship signifies the transition from the first generation to the next. The running theme throughout the film is that “anyone can wear the mask” as long as they have it in them. Watching Miles’ story unfold proved to skeptics that the phrase holds true, and it made sure they knew that their favourite hero is still in good hands.

Big risks, big rewards

With all these factors, it’s no surprise that Spider-Verse has quickly developed a strong following. Many have called it the best film adaptation of Spider-Man, and its 97 per cent approval rate on Rotten Tomatoes is evidence of its success.

The film won Best Animated Feature Film at both the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. On top of that, the film has also landed itself a nomination for the same award at the 91st Academy Awards.

While it’s up against strong competition, Spider-Verse absolutely has what it takes to win.

If the film manages to win at the Academy Awards on Sunday, then it will be a well-deserved accolade gained. However, even if it doesn’t, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will remain as a film that’s paving the future for the superhero genre.