If you haven’t seen Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) yet, you might want to treat yourself and your kids to a viewing over the holidays. It’s a fun, action-packed, visually stunning film for all ages, and one that should appeal to old-school and new Spider-fans alike. A few of our Comics Studies Reading Group regulars offered some reflections on the film below. There are no strong spoilers here, but feel free to hold off until you’ve seen it and join the conversation in the comments below!
“After a night to reflect, I realize why I loved this film so much. Because it addresses one of the oldest and deepest themes in Spider-Man: his loneliness. From the start, he is the awkward nerdy kid who’s sensitive, shy, and self-conscious. He’s also an orphan who loses several people close to him–his parents, his Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy–before he even graduates from high school. He feels guilty for failing to save them. He has few friends (one of whom becomes his greatest enemy), awkward and brief relationships, is never a regular member of any “super-team,” and it’s never quite clear what he is: a mutant, an experiment, an accident? All of this leaves him very much the solitary hero and, at his core, a lonely kid. And yet, his whole purpose in life is protecting his community–the “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”–even though he’s frequently attacked for it. This iteration of Spider-Man offers a really interesting variation on the theme: Miles Morales, while sometimes lonely, isn’t alone. He has a loving family, both parents, friends at school, mentors who want to help him. And in this story, he gets to meet other people like him: his “Spider-family”. Of course, he still faces the challenges of being a young Afro-Latino man in America, which is its own kind of loneliness, especially when he’s sent off to an elite charter school. But he also remains entrenched in the life of his own multi-ethnic neighborhood, which suggests that for all his lonely struggles as a young black man with extraordinary abilities, he’s still not alone. He’s part of a community, a culture, and a family. I feel like this is an significant development for the Spider-Man mythos and one that’s critically important for those who identify with both Peter and Miles.”
–Dr. John Edward Martin, UNT Libraries
“Of the countless things I loved about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one aspect that had the biggest impact on me was how much the movie emulated a comic book. And not in the back-handed-compliment way that many live action movies get painted with the comic book brush because of their bombastic action and outsized personalities, although those are present here too. No, for me, the film captured the expansive universe that typifies the super-hero comics I grew up reading. The movie is able to convey a sense of history for the characters without falling into the trap of over-explaining or over-simplifying the characters relationships, origins, powers, etc. The filmmakers respected the audience’s ability to read between the lines. Freed from the impulse to ground the film in a so-called reality that has so often undone live-action adaptations, they made a film that feels like a glimpse at a larger world that I can’t wait to explore even further.”
–Todd Enoch, UNT Libraries
“One thing that’s stuck with me from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the way the filmmakers made a conscious choice to not subtitle the Spanish dialogue. Miles Morales’ identity is firmly Brooklyn, which is to say his Afro-Latino identity is unquestioned and naturalized in a way that would make subtitling egregious. The banter between Miles and his family, and with his neighbors as he strolls to school, is quick, clever, and polyglot. While my Spanish is non-existent, rather than kicking me out of the film, the absence of subtitles made me feel part of Miles’ milieu and compelled me to watch more closely for context clues to help me parse the sparkling dialogue. I’m curious how this will be handled when the film is close-captioned. I’d love to see the captioning done bilingually to make it as seamless as possible, and stay true to the spirit of the film. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a glorious transmedia text, and the Spanish dialogue is integral to the immersive experience it offers.”
–Dr. Spencer D. C. Keralis, Department of English, UNT