Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse is Genre Busting Fun

Wow. Just Wow. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an engaging, genre-busting movie, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (ISPV) delivers. And I’m not a huge fan of superhero movies. I think I’ve seen only one Spider-Man movie prior to this one (and it wasn’t Spider-Man: Homecoming). Go ahead, judge me. =)

ISPV gripped me from the beginning. The story starts off pretty ho-hum: Miles is a young kid whose parents (a cop) try to give him a better opportunity by sending him to nearby private school. Miles (Shameik Moore), a gifted artist, is like most kids enamored with the superhero. But his dad (Brian Tyree Henry) doesn’t have any of it.

Dad doesn’t like vigilantes, and Spider-Man is worse than a nuisance. This even further alienates Miles from his loving but overbearing father.  The distance opens up the door for his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) to give Miles an encouraging and creative outlet. This is when Miles unknowingly gets bitten by a radioactive spider. You can connect the dots about what happens to Miles. 

But what follows is inventive and transcending. The movie’s creative use of animation to blend comic imagery with more fluid and dynamic CGI (computer generated imagery) lifts the film aesthetically and in terms of story. Miles discovers a bad guy, Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), trying to use a particle accelerator to access parallel universes even though it risks destroying the city. When the Spider-Man in Miles’s universe (Chris Pine) is dispatched, he has to learn how to develop and use his newly found spider powers to save the city. Fortunately, he has the help of spider-heroes from other universes to help, even though they risk their own deaths as they degenerate outside their own universe.

Somehow, I was able to keep them all apart, testimony to the two writers and three directors (!!!) somehow managing to work as a team to create distinctive personalities and roles despite a sprawling ensemble cast of characters. Here’s a shout out to just a few more: Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), Sp//dr (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage). 

Sound complicated? Well, the movie is a whole lot more complicated than what I can summarize here. More importantly, it works: as a movie, as storytelling, as action, as morality play.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a fast-paced engaging spin with important lessons for what it means to be a hero, a superhero, and our responsibilities to protect the vulnerable. So, the movie’s got a great message, too (which warms my heart as a teacher of social entrepreneurship at Florida State University).  

I generally don’t see animated movies, largely because my time is highly limited by my day job and my preferred genres are live-action drama, action, and adventure. Several friends and family, however, urged me to see and review ISV, and I’m glad they did. Without a doubt, this movie would be a contender for the Best Picture Oscar if the academy didn’t have a separate category for animated films.

Author: SR Staley
SR Staley has one more than 11 literary awards for his fiction and nonfiction writing. He is on the full-time faculty of the College and Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University as well as a film critic and research fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California. His award-winning Pirate of Panther Bay series (syppublishing.com) has won awards in historical fiction, mainstream & literary fiction, young adult fiction, and reached the finals in women's fiction. His most recent book is "The Beatles and Economics: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and the Making of a Cultural Revolution" due out in April 2020 (Routledge).