reviewed by: Blake Wilson
|Better than Average
|• Preteens • Teens • Family • Young Adults
|Animation Superhero 3D Adaptation
|1 hr. 57 min.
|Year of Release:
December 14, 2018 (wide—3,813 theaters)
DVD: March 19, 2019
Perseverance / don’t be a quitter / don’t give up
Be a hero, help save others
What is Christian LOVE? Answer
Courage / self-sacrifice
Do the right thing
How can I know what is RIGHT or WRONG? Answer
How can I DISCERN whether a particular activity is wrong? Answer
What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Answer
What is GOODNESS? Answer
What is RIGHTEOUSNESS? Answer
The fantasy sci-fi idea of parallel universes (parallel dimensions)
Shameik Moore … Miles Morales / Spider-Man (voice)
Jake Johnson … Peter B. Parker / Spider-Man (voice)
Nicolas Cage … Spider-Man Noir (voice)
John Mulaney … Spider-Ham (voice)
Chris Pine … Peter Parker (voice)
Hailee Steinfeld … Gwen Stacy / Spider-Gwen (voice)
Liev Schreiber … Wilson Fisk / The Kingpin (voice)
Lake Bell … Vanessa Fisk (voice)
Mahershala Ali … Uncle Aaron Davis / Prowler (voice)
Lily Tomlin … Aunt May Parker (voice)
Kimiko Glenn … Peni Parker (voice)
Brian Tyree Henry … Jefferson Davis (voice)
Luna Lauren Velez … Rio Morales (voice)
Zoë Kravitz (Zoe Kravitz) … Mary Jane (voice)
Kathryn Hahn … Doc Ock (voice)
Oscar Isaac … Interesting Person #1 (voice)
Stan Lee … Stan (voice)
Joaquín Cosio … Scorpion (voice)
See all »
Columbia Pictures Corporation
See all »
|Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Sequel: “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” (2023)
Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) is an ordinary New York teenager. He’s started at a new prep school, he loves music, and he has a loving family who has his back. One day, while out with his Uncle Aaron (voiced by Mahershala Ali), Miles gets bitten by a radioactive spider. Then, as you might expect, things begin to get topsy turvy.
A day or two later, Miles curiously ends up in a reactor plant. Here he encounters another Spider-Man trying to fight off Green Goblin and the Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber). Kingpin ignites a machine that opens up different dimensions, with catastrophic results. At the same time, this machine brings in several different versions of “Spider-Man” from the comics. Upon figuring out his own powers, Miles soon meets these heroes, and now needs to try and figure out how to get them all home.
I did my best to remain spoiler-free in describing the plot, as this new version of “Spider-Man” is full of surprises and is impressive in quite a few ways. First is its animation, which is groundbreaking. The visual style mixes 3D computer animation with hand-drawn expressions on the characters. This is meant to help present the feel of a comic book coming to life, and is (mostly) wildly successful. There are a small handful of moments where out-of-focus characters and elements appear a bit blurry (as if you were watching a 3D movie without the glasses), but these moments are thankfully few and far in between.
Another impressive feat is that the film avoids the trap of becoming unfocused in its story. In the midst of several characters, the filmmakers remain focused on Miles’ story. And, for an origin story, to quote one character from the movie, it is definitely “hardcore.” There are several moments where the film succeeds in pulling the heartstrings, and I felt for Miles and what he’s going through. Shameik Moore’s voice performance here is fantastic, bringing the relatable aspects of insecurity and enthusiasm with sincerity.
The voice cast altogether is very strong. As an older Peter Parker, Jake Johnson delivers some of the film’s best lines. Hailee Steinfeld has great chemistry with Moore’s character, while John Mulaney steals the show a handful of times as the hilarious Spider-Ham. Nicolas Cage is perfectly cast for Spider-Man Noir (a black-and-white version of the character, with a couple of very memorable gags), and Ali and Schreiber are pitch perfect for their roles, too. Speaking of Liev Schreiber, his villain is one of the better-developed ones of recent memory. Through a couple of flashbacks, you come to understand why he’s doing something that would sound insane otherwise. In smaller roles, Zoë Kravitz, Chris Pine, Kathryn Hahn and Lily Tomlin each provide a few strong moments.
The hip-hop/synthetic soundtrack is terrific (and never quite overdone). There are several great jokes that earn their laughs. There are several pop-culture references that warrant multiple viewings to really catch all of them (there’s an obvious stab at an infamously unpopular Spider-Man movie that is absolutely hysterical). The film cleverly and wisely shows all the “Spider-Man” characters’ backstories in a hilarious and fun way. The action scenes are spectacular. And Stan Lee is given his best cameo yet in a Marvel film. That may sound a bit impartial, given his recent passing, but it’s one of the best moments in the movie. Speaking of the comic book legend, he’s given an “in memoriam” in the end credits that generated applause from the audience.
On the downside, there’s very little. As fun as they are, I did find the different Spider-Man characters to be a tad underutilized. That may have been intentional, as the filmmakers wanted to stay focused on Miles. However, I left wanting to hear just a little bit more from them. Besides that, a couple of the action scenes do feel like they go on for a little long (but they are still very impressive, especially from a cinematography standpoint).
The main recurring theme in this movie is perseverance. There are a few moments where Miles is punched down to the ground, and is encouraged to “get up!” Peter Parker even says a couple of times, “Every time I fall down, I always get back up!” This is a very Biblical theme, as God encourages us to keep on moving and plugging away. Life can bring challenges, even ones that we are tempted to believe that we can’t personally overcome. (That’s what Satan wants us to believe, anyway).
That theme applies to the backstories of all the different versions of ”Spider-Man” present here. They all have challenges to deal with, whether it is social awkwardness or personal loss. Yet, they don’t give up and they persevere to become the heroes they are meant to be. And just like Miles and the rest of the characters, Hebrews 10:36 encourages us to persevere through life’s challenges so God can help us become who He intends us to be:
“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” —Hebrews 10:36
The film also offers the encouragement of taking a “leap of faith” when it comes to being unsure about ourselves. Miles believably struggles with insecurity, like many do during adolescence. And every time he tries to master his powers, he doubts himself and his abilities. The point is, self-doubt is shown to be an implied antagonist here. And according to the Bible, we all know doubt comes from Satan. In the end, Miles gets the extra boost he needs to believe in himself. In Matthew 21, Jesus lets us know how crippling doubt can be, and how faith truly makes a difference:
“And Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen.’” —Matthew 21:21
Of course, there’s a lot of heroism on display here, too. The film encourages the idea that anyone can be a hero. Various characters sacrifice themselves for the good of mankind. Family members make sacrifices for one another. And family members show honest love for each other on multiple occasions. In fact, it is so nice and almost refreshing to have a positive, loving example of a two-parent family in a kids” movie (single parent families and the idea of orphaned kids looking for a family have become pretty much commonplace for family films nowadays).
Violence: This is the only area of real concern for younger kids. I will say this movie is intense at times for a PG film. There are a handful of somewhat long battle scenes involving punches, kicks, body slams, injuries and a few potentially scary villains. A few surprising, loud and bombastic explosions occur, too. A couple characters are seen with gashes and bruises on their face (with little to no blood). There are a few surprising deaths (one is by gunshot, one at the hands of a supervillain, and two are through a car accident). We see a couple of flashbacks to a villain’s emotional and slightly disturbing past. There is also some slapstick Looney Tunes-style violence courtesy of Spider-Ham.
Foul Language: There are no misuses of the Lord’s name in the film. There is one use of “h***”. Besides that, the strongest the dialogue gets besides that are two uses of “gosh,” one unfinished “what the…?” and some very mild name-calling.
Adult Content: Nothing truly inappropriate. Uncle Aaron gives Miles advice on how to flirt with a girl he’s interested in (by putting a hand on her shoulder and saying in a smooth voice, “Hey”). He does use that advice in one moment. It’s clear he has a crush on Gwen (they don’t do anything beyond a friendly handshake). Miles excuses his emerging Spider-sense as “puberty,” without ever going into any real discussion as to what puberty entails (someone even says, “I don’t even think you know what puberty is!”).
Other: Near the beginning of the film, Miles does do a little bit of vandalism with his uncle. He also runs away from school and his parents.
From the visually-striking first trailer to the decision to hold advance screenings a week before release, you can tell Sony has confidence in this picture. However, this film also has quite the uphill battle to face here. It’s true that we’ve seen perhaps one Spider-Man movie too many in recent memory. We’ve seen three different live-action versions of the character (including the current one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), and now we add Miles Morales to the mix. It’s gotten to the point where older audiences may be growing tired of seeing this character on the big screen. However, there’s no doubt that the character remains a popular icon among kids and teens today, mostly because of his relatable backstory and youthful energy.
In a time where originality and creativity are becoming more and more scarce in the film industry, sometimes it takes the right filmmakers to really make a tired franchise feel fresh again. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the talented directorial duo behind “The LEGO Movie” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” have succeeded in doing just that. As producers this time, they helped create a film that feels groundbreaking in its visual style, while creating a story that bravely goes in directions that other animated and live-action superhero films have never dared to go.
Now, will comic book fanatics enjoy this film more than casual moviegoers? Perhaps yes. But, as someone who’s not a reader of comics, this is still one of the most impressive animated efforts I’ve seen in years. In addition to the spectacular visual style, this is also a surprisingly emotional and highly effective character story—one that rivals the best superhero movies. Not to mention it’s also laugh-out-loud funny and clever.
Perhaps the best surprise of this film is that it’s surprisingly clean for a superhero flick. There’s almost no foul language, sexual innuendo or bathroom humor. The only real area of concern here is the action violence. Now, every child is different in what he or she can handle, that is true. But, I wouldn’t recommend this necessarily for ages 8 and under. Some scary villains and surprises could be too much for younger kids. Parents who are unsure if their children are old enough for this should probably watch the movie first themselves before making a decision for the young Spidey fans in the family.
However—for older kids, teens, and movie-loving adults, “Into the Spider-Verse” is a blast and definitely worth watching on the big screen, providing a great, clever story and fantastic animation and strong Biblical messages.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.