Conversely, Into the Spider-Verse uses the concept less as an excuse to push its audiences’ nostalgia buttons and more as an opportunity to get weird. This is intended to be a meta-textual celebration of why the character is so beloved, and the party rages at both a macro level where various versions of Spider-Man can comment on the recurring, foundational themes (or tropes) of their personalities, as well as at an intimate scale where new characters can catch audiences by surprise.
This includes the lead protagonist of Miles Morales, wonderfully voiced by Shameik Moore. A popular creation among comic fans, Miles seemed immediately destined for the big screen treatment after he was introduced in 2011. Nevertheless, the character was still a pretty big surprise to general film audiences in 2018 if their only point of reference for the webslinger is Maguire, Garfield, and Holland. Hence why Into the Spider-Verse works so hard to make you fall in love with Miles for almost half an hour, well before he really gets to use his spider power. It succeeds beautifully.
Even so, directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, plus screenwriters Rothman and Phil Lord, refuse to use the Spider-Verse only as a means to introducing the general audiences to Miles. Rather we are likewise introduced to a dizzying array of variances and bizarre flourishes that have been implemented over the decades by comic book artists (and filmmakers) in order to re-contextualize this character. That ranges from a noir superhero fighting Nazi saboteurs in the 1930s to a literal talking Porky Pig styled cartoon.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse plays with your nostalgia by mimicking literal moments from the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man trilogy—we see a Spidey kiss Mary Jane upside down in the rain (and in another universe vice versa), a la Maguire’s first movie, and we see the same Spidey stop a runaway train like the showcase sequence in Spider-Man 2. Producers Lord and Chris Miller even initially mused that one of the Peter Parkers whom Miles looks up to could be Maguire’s Parker all grown up and middle aged.
However, they eventually went a different direction because the point wasn’t just to show you something you’ve seen, but to show you something so different that when it did feel familiar, it reveals the elemental values of the character on a fundamental level. In this way, it would expose the quintessence of Spider-Man, as opposed to just make you happy to see an old favorite actor go THWIPP! one last time.
Why the Adventure Matters to Our Spider-Man
Both films also attempt to take their hero on a transformational journey. Although in one case, the Spider-Verse is the pivotal turning point in the road for the movie’s plot—and in the other, it’s almost a detour.
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