Since 2011, Marvel created a person of color with spider powers inspired by President Barack Obama and singer/writer/actor Donald Glover. This character of discussion is Miles Morales. Ever since The Amazing Spider-Man was announced, fans of the character campaigned for Glover to be cast in the role as Morales. Unfortunately, this never came to fruition. Fast-forward several years later: Sony joined forces with creative storytellers and artists to make one of the best comic book films to date. Never before have we seen a comic book adaptation in the form of an animated feature, at least not quite like this.
In this article, we review in depth the masterpiece that is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which places Miles Morales front and center stage as the focus character. We have a non-spoiler review if you want to come into the theater with a fresh minds, but as the title suggests, we will have spoilers. If you have seen the film or do not mind spoilers, please proceed. Otherwise, watch the movie first, then return to this article.
The film begins with an introduction by this universe’s Peter Parker as Spider-Man. He has saved his city countless times and is revered by many.
We cut to Miles Morales in his bedroom singing along to Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower”. He is rushing to pack for his boarding school in New York. While walking to school, he is almost hit by a car, which turns out to be driven by his father Jefferson Davis-Morales. His father decides to drive him to school in his police car. During the car ride to the school, Jefferson and his son discuss making choices. Jefferson says, “We all make choices in life.”
At school, Miles struggles to keep up with his classes. He arrives late for his Physics class, where a female scientist in a documentary shown to the class speaks about different universes and the Fisk Family Foundation. Miles attempts to fail in order to be kicked out and brought back to his old school, but his teacher finds him out and assigns him a personal essay on “Great Expectations”.
Miles then sneaks out of school late in the afternoon and arrives at his uncle Aaron Davis’s apartment complex once night hits. They discuss Miles’s life and how he met a girl in his Physics class, to which Davis says Miles should give her the “shoulder touch” next time he sees her. Miles gets a text from his father about his homework as Davis sees his notebook, which is filled with artwork. The two head into the underground tunnels of the city, where Davis knows a spot in a restricted area he once had an “engineering job” at. While there, he allows his nephew to graffiti the walls where no one will catch them. Unbeknownst to them, a genetically enhanced spider labeled “Alchemax 42” drops down from the ceiling and crawls its way to Miles. Before leaving the tunnels, Miles takes a picture of his art with his phone. The spider bites his hand, and Miles slaps it off without blinking an eye.
Miles heads back to his boarding school dorm room, where he sleeps well through the night. He wakes up having physically changed, inside and out. He starts to blame these changes on puberty. Walking through the halls of the school, Miles begins sweating through his pores and hearing his voice out loud. He runs into the girl from his Physics class, who introduces herself as Wanda. Miles executes the “shoulder touch” his uncle taught him the night before on her. His hand gets stuck to her hair and before long, Wanda ends up in the nurse’s room.
A security guard confronts Miles with the knowledge he has snuck out of school at night. Miles runs away, and the guard chases after him. Miles hides in a room, which turns out to be the security guard’s office. Miles sneaks out the window and finds out he can stick to the walls of the building. Outside the building, Wanda sees him stick walking to the walls of the school. Miles makes it to his dorm room, where he lands on the floor. A Spider-Man comic book lands on his face and he discovers this hero has been through strikingly similar circumstances. He opens his phone to call his uncle, but gives up and chooses to return to the underground tunnels instead. He is almost hit by a taxi cab but he flips over it at the last second, receiving applause from bystanders.
Down at the tunnels, Miles finds the spider. He touches it and receives an electrical sting. Following his newfound senses, he journeys through the halls of the tunnel, where he discovers Spider-Man fighting a giant green goblin-like figure named “Norman” in a spacious room and saving “Brooklyn from a black hole.” Miles runs from the fight. Spider-Man seemingly takes down the Green Goblin and begins to swing away, but Miles drops from a tall height. Fortunately, the web-slinger catches and saves him. The hero takes the teenager to safety and realizes he is not the only person in the city with powers. Miles says he does not want his new abilities to which Spider-Man says, “I don’t think you have a choice.” Spider-Man leaves to stop a giant machine before “space-time continuum collapses.” Another villain in a purple outfit attacks him as a big man in a black suit, Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin, orders his scientists to activate the Collider.
Down at safety, Miles tells himself, “I should go up there and help [Spider-Man],” but chooses not to do so.
The Collider opens up a web of beams to several other universes. The Green Goblin dips Spider-Man into the Collider’s beam. The disruption causes a destruction in the facility and the debris defeats the Goblin. Miles finds Spider-Man amongst the rubble. Miles asks the masked hero if he can get up, to which Spider-Man replies, “I always get up.” He then gives Miles an override key, urging the teenager to stop the Collider by using his powers and keeping his identity a secret because the Kingpin has “people in his pocket.” While hidden, Miles witnesses the Kingpin unmask his hero. As Peter Parker, Spider-Man realizes Fisk’s plans and says that “it won’t work.” The Kingpin crushes the hero to death with his fists.
Miles trips over rubble, and Kingpin orders Prowler to chase the boy, who fearfully runs for his life. He runs to his home, where his parents find him. He asks his father if he really hates Spider-Man, to which Jefferson implies having a complicated opinion on the hero. Miles tries to sleep over through the night as his parents watch the news media report power outages throughout the city and reveal Spider-Man’s civilian identity as Peter Parker and reported dead at the age of 26 years old. The city learns of this and groups of people are saddened by the loss of their hero.
Saddened by the loss, Miles buys himself a Spider-Man costume from an elderly man, worrying he might have to return it if the costume does not fit. The man says who insists that by wearing the suit, “it always fits…eventually.” Miles attends Peter Parker’s funeral, where his girlfriend Mary Jane Watson speaks during his eulogy. She tells the Spider-Man fans, “In our own way, we are all Spider-Man, and we are all counting on you.”
Inspired by his hero, Miles chooses to take Peter’s place as the hero of the city. He walks up to the rooftop of a building and tries to jump to the rooftop of another but backs out. Instead, he attempts to jump off the rooftop of a smaller building but trips over his shoelace, consequently falling and breaking the override key upon impact on the sidewalk.
He visits Peter’s grave to apologizes for failing to keep the override key safe, then a man in a trenchcoat approaches him. Miles accidentally knocks him unconscious with an electric touch. The man turns out to be a darker haired Peter B. Parker. (In a flashback showing how he arrived in this universe, Peter B. was revealed to have been watching Mary Jane speak at the deceased Peter’s eulogy.) Miles, webbed to this new Peter, is chased by the police. The teenager and Peter Parker make it to the streets, where they web themselves to a subway train above.
Away from authorities, Peter B. comes to and reveals he has come from a different universe through the Collider. He and Miles discuss that they need to use the override key (which alternate Peter refers to as a “Goober”). They eat burgers and fries at a C-graded fast-food joint, where Peter explains quantum theory and Miles begs to be trained into a hero.
Miles and Peter take a bus to Kingpin’s research facility to retrieve some data to override the Collider. Peter hacks into a computer but is caught by its female owner, a scientist at the facility. Miles turns invisible, which he discovers to be another one of his powers. Peter distracts the scientist as Miles continues trying to collect the data. The scientist reveals herself as “Olivia ‘Liv’ Octavius”, the female Doc Ock. She fights Peter and Miles, and they run off with her desktop tower. During the chase, Miles runs into a blonde woman. Peter and Miles enter the facility’s cafeteria, where they are chased out by scientists.
Liv chases them into a forest, where Peter shows Miles how to properly “thwip and release”. Liv takes the tower back from them, but another Spider-person arrives in the area to defend the two from the mad scientist. The Spider-person reveals themselves as Gwen Stacy or “Wanda” from Miles’s class, who Spider-Gwen from a different universe. Miles asks, “How many Spider [individuals] are there?” to which Peter replies, “Save it for Comic-Con.”
Kingpin watches from a distance. Finding out Peter Parker is alive (but not knowing he is from a different universe), he is triggered by a memory of his wife and son Vanessa and Richard Fisk. After finding out of his life as a crime lord, Vanessa and Richard flee in a car but are killed in an accident. Liv Octavius pleas for a second chance. Kingpin spares her life by ordering his right-hand man Tombstone to put his guns down.
Miles, Peter, and Gwen travel to Peter Parker’s Queens home, where they speak to this universe’s Aunt May Parker. She takes them to a backyard shed, down to the deceased Peter Parker’s headquarters, which the other universe’s Peter calls “pretentious.” While there, they find other Spider individuals from other universes: Peni Parker, Spider-Man Noir, and Peter Porker/Spider-Ham. They, too, have come from the Collider, looking for a way back to their homes. Peni repairs the override key as Peter tries to help Miles control his powers.
The alternate universe Spider people try to train Miles, but this does not work out. Due to the pressure of the group, Miles leaves the shed. Meanwhile, Jefferson and his wife Rio Morales are worried about Miles. Jefferson calls his brother Aaron and tells him to be on the lookout for his son. Miles retreats to his uncle’s apartment but discovers Aaron Davis is the Prowler.
He turns invisible and escapes. He returns to May Parker’s home, where he tells the group his uncle is the Prowler, to which Spider-Ham calls “a pretty hardcore origin story.” Unbeknownst to them, Miles had been followed, and before long, the group gets into a brawl with Liv Octavius, Scorpion, Tombstone, and Prowler. Miles is given the override key and is chased to the corner of the Parker home’s rooftop by Prowler. The villain unmasks his nephew as the new Spider-Man, which makes him refuse to kill Miles. For failing to fulfill this task, Kingpin shoots Aaron. With his uncle’s body in his arms, Miles is told, “You’re the best of all of us; just keep going.”
Miles takes the body a distance away to an alleyway and cries deeply for his loss. Jefferson finds Miles and a deceased Aaron there, but Miles turns invisible before he could get caught. Mistaking his son for Spider-Man, the police officer puts out an APB on a masked individual dressed as Spider-Man.
Miles goes to his dorm room, where the Spider group tells him that “you can’t save everybody” as these tragedies are inevitable. (For Peni, it was her father. For Spider-Man Noir and Peter B., is was their uncle. For Gwen, it was Peter.) They tell him “not everything works out” before departing to Kingpin’s New York building. Because of his lack of experience, they choose to leave him behind. Peter B. tells him it all takes “a leap of faith” before webbing Miles to his chair. At the Fisk estate, the waiters are dressed as Spider-Men, so the Spider group blends in. Peter B. runs into this universe’s Mary Jane Watson, and he apologizes for not being there for her. (She confusingly thinks her “waiter” is talking about not giving her a refill on bread.)
Jefferson arrives outside the dorm room to tell his son about Aaron’s death and apologizes for the distance between them. Jefferson leaves, and Miles uses his words as an inspiration to use his powers to break from his restraints. He visits May, who gives him a uniform that he makes into his own. He then briefly trains himself out on the buildings of New York before joining the group to fight off Kingpin and his men–and Liv Octavius.
With the Collider activated, Liv is hit by a floating 18-wheeler. Miles sends everyone (i.e. Peni, then Spider-Man Noir with a Rubik’s Cube, Peter Porker, Gwen Stacy, then Peter B. Parker) back to their universes, then fights off Kingpin on the side of a floating building. Fisk gets the upper hand as Jefferson arrives on the scene, realizing that Spider-Man is not the enemy.
Jefferson encourages a masked Miles to get up. Miles tells the Kingpin, “I’ll always have my family” before giving him an electrified shoulder touch. Fisk flies over to a green button for the Collider, where restores New York back to its normal physical state. The Collider explodes, and a masked Miles gives Jefferson his thanks outside the Fisk estate before leaving the scene.
In an epilogue, Peter B. Parker cleans up and returns to his universe’s Mary Jane Watson with a bouquet of roses, implying he asks for a second chance. A supposedly color-blind Spider-Man Noir solves the Rubik’s Cube. Miles–finally in narration of his own origin–tells the audience “you can wear the mask.” He finishes his personal essay on “Great Expectations” and continues to excel in school and as a hero to his city.
In a mid-credits scene, Marvel leaves behind an inspirational tribute to Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, the men who sired the Spider-Man character.
In a post-credits scene, Miguel O’Hara in Nueva York of the year 2099 learns of the crisis and creates his own dimension-hopping device to intervene. He returns to “the beginning,” where he winds up in Earth-67 and gets into an argument with that universe’s Spider-Man.
- Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore)
- The film’s main protagonist. An African-Latino American whose hero is his uncle Aaron Davis.
- Peter Parker
- The Spider-Man of Miles’s universe (voiced by Chris Pine) is “as competent a Spider-Man as possible.” In this universe, he is a “26-year-old grad student” according to the news broadcasts reporting his death.
- Earth-616’s Spider-Man is Peter B. Parker (voiced by Jake Johnson), a disheveled and jaded older version of the character. He has been a hero of the city for the past 22 years. His Aunt May had died and Mary Jane Watson had divorced from him because she wanted children but he was afraid of this commitment. Peter B. mentors Miles during the entirety of the film.
- Gwen Stacy/ Spider-Woman/ Spider-Gwen
- The Gwen Stacy of Earth-65 (voiced by Hailee Stanfield) who saved her father but failed to save her universe’s Peter Parker. Due to this loss, she preferred not to have any friendships.
- Aaron Davis/ Prowler (voiced by Mahershala Ali)
- Miles Morales’s role model and uncle as well as Jefferson Davis-Morales’s brother. A criminal secretly working for Wilson Fisk
- Jefferson Davis (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry)
- Miles’s father and Aaron Davis’s brother. A police officer of New York who distrusts Spider-Man. (Fun fact: Brian Tyree Henry’s Atlanta castmate Donald Glover is the inspiration behind Miles Morales.)
- Peni Parker
- A young Japanese girl from an anime-like universe called Earth-14512 who chose to look after her world after failing to save her father. She teams up with a radioactive spider to co-pilot a biochemical suit called SP//dr.
- Peter Porker/ Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney)
- A cartoon-like joke-cracking animal version of Spider-Man from Earth-8311.
- Spider-Noir (voiced by Nicholas Cage)
- A dark version of Spider-Man from a 1930s universe called Earth-90214.
- Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber)
- The main antagonist of the film. A crime lord in Miles’s universe and creator of the Collider. (Fun fact: Schreiber portrayed Sabretooth in an X-Men film.)
- Olivia “Liv” Octavius (voiced by Kathryn Hahn)
- A scientist who works under Fisk. A female version of Doc Ock living in Miles’s universe.
- Mary Jane Watson (voiced by Zoë Kravitz)
- Peter Parker’s girlfriend of Miles’s universe. (Fun fact: Kravitz played Angel in X-Men: First Class and Leta Lestrange in last month’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Her stepfather Jason Mamoa stars in Aquaman later this month!)
- Miguel O’Hara/ Spider-Man 2099 (voiced by Oscar Isaac)
- A Spider-Man of a futuristic universe. The character plays a key role in the Spider-Verse comic book arc. (Fun fact: Isaac portrayed Apocalypse in an X-Men film.)
The main themes found in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse are faith and family. Throughout the film, Miles finds himself unable to live up to the Spider-Man mantle. It is not until he is given a suit of his own that he is invigorated with the motivation to be the hero his universe needs.
You also learn that Miles is all about his family from the get-go. He has a close relationship with his parents and more so with his uncle. Losing his loved ones because of his Spider-Man persona is something he did not want to face, and so he chose not to tell his father about his secret identity. In addition to this, loss becomes another theme played throughout the film, and an appearance by Stan Lee weighs in on this.
The film gives us a version of Spider-Man (i.e. Miles Morales) and a similar arc to that of Peter Parker albeit with different results. We hope we get future installments featuring stories as great as this.
The animation styles are truly something worth seeing, and this has been addressed in an earlier Geek Motivation article. The film has “a unique near-tantalizing animation style by combining Sony Pictures’ in-house computer animation with traditional hand-drawn comic book techniques inspired by the work of Miles Morales’s co-creator Sara Pichelli.”
The animation also adds to Miles’s love for art/graffiti. It is a mind-blowing sight that makes fans come back for more. Some may even refer to it as “trippy.”
This film has a wonderfully diverse cast of voice actors and balances its heroes with its villains. Usually, you would worry about a number this big, but Sony perfected this feat with a well-done execution on its story. The Spider-Men and Kingpin taught us that loss is something that we must face somewhere down the line, and there is nothing we can do to bring them back, even with quantum mechanics involved.
The film showed that Miles Morales did not need a love interest to keep him moving forward as a hero. He and Gwen Stacy shared some moments together but agreed to be friends by the end of the film.
The reveal of a female Doc Ock proves that an Octavius will have great development in a film, television show, or video game whereas the character had lacked depth in the original comic that was Amazing Spider-Man.
Other characters showed some depth such as the implication that Spider-Man Noir colorblind, Peni Parker’s close relationship to the SP//dr suit, or Peter B. Parker’s backstory.
May Parker’s involvement in the film is different from her character in previous films that featured the character. In Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, you see her as the character that had to be saved or defended herself. May in the Amazing Spider-Man movies was able to support her nephew financially by working, and May in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is often found giving Peter advice. In Spider-Verse, May Parker in Miles’s universe is more of a hardcore badass who continues to support her nephew’s allies even after his death, and I think that is the type of person we need in this world, but that is not to say that we do not need other versions of the character either.
Into the Spider-Verse has the greatest film soundtrack this year since Black Panther and perhaps Creed II, and it is really something you can keep on your playlist. Aside from the story and animation, the music adds to the essence of the Miles Morales character. With musicians such as Post Malone, Swae Lee, Lil Wayne, and Aminé, this is something you can add to your playlists.
Overall, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse breathes new life into versions of characters we have seen before in live-adaptation films and television series as well as in the comic book pages. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did a great job in combining its story and characters with its animation and musical score. The film gave Stan Lee more than just a cameo; it gave a heartwarming reason for our protagonist and the audience (most especially the True Believers) to be the best versions of ourselves that we could be. He showed that no matter our color, age, race, or size, the suit we place ourselves in “always fits.” As early reactions said, this is “the best comic book film yet and one of the best this year has to offer,” and this is not something to take lightly. It has a lot of heart and tons of action. For that, Spider-Verse gets a 9.5 out of 10.
Easter Eggs, References, and Trivia Facts:
- Spider-Man 2
- The film has some heavy allusions to the iconic 2004 film such as the cafe incident with Mary Jane and Peter Parker as Spider-Man stopping a speeding train full of some of New York’s citizens.
- Community Season
- B. Bendis
- When Miles returns to his dorm room after discovering the changes to his body, he scrolls through the contacts on his phone. One name he scrolls by is that of Brian Michael Bendis, who created the Ultimate Marvel universe with Mark Millar. Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli birthed the character Miles Morales in 2011, and the rest is history.
- Bendis’s name is also on a building’s sign, but you might miss it!
- Ultimate Marvel Universe – Into the Spider-Verse has tons of references to the Ultimate Marvel Universe
- Peter Parker’s death – In the comics, Peter Parker died at the hands of Green Goblin, and a guilt-ridden Miles Morales wished he could have helped to prevent this. In Spider-Verse, Peter is killed by Fisk’s hands.
- Ultimate Green Goblin – Spider-Man’s archenemy in the film has an almost identical physical appearance to that of his comic book counterpart, albeit the film’s Green Goblin is larger to give that horrific effect.
- Fight at the Parker home – As I watched this film, the Spider-Men’s fight against Kingpin’s goons at May Parker’s home reminded me of Ultimate Peter Parker’s death outside his home.
- Other universes in the film
- Other universes referenced in Spider-Verse are Earth-616 (home to Peter B. Parker), Earth-65 (Spider-Gwen), Earth-14512 (Peni Parker), and Earth-8311 (Peter Porker).
- Stan Lee cameo
- In a heartfelt cameo, Stan Lee appears as the man who sells Miles Morales a Spider-Man costume. Worried that he will not be able to fill in Peter Parker’s shoes, Stan says, “It always fits.”
- Alternate universe product placement
- From Dusk Till Shaun – This is a combination of Robert Rodriguez’s cult classic From Dusk Till Dawn and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead.
- RedEx – This universe’s Fed Ex
- Chance 4 – In our universe, Chance the Rapper has the iconic “Chance 3” hat. In Spider-Verse, you get a glimpse at an alternate hat reading “4”. Looks like the rapper exists in Miles’s world as well!
- PDNY – Spider-Verse has their version of the New York Police Department (NYPD).
- “No on the cape”
- Peter B. Parker tells Miles Morales that a cape is not needed for heroism. This is a rule addressed in the 2004 Pixar film The Incredibles.
- Comic Con
- After Miles Morales discovers there are other Spider-Man aside from him and his universe’s Peter Parker (such as Peter B. Parker and Gwen Stacy), he asks “How many [more] are there?” Peter B. tells him to “save it for Comic-Con.” This is a direct reference to the annual events held throughout the United States of America (popularly in San Diego, California) and other places in the world where fans of popular culture dress up as their favorite characters from television, film, and comic books.
- Peter’s shed – The Peter Parker of Miles’s universe operates under his aunt and uncle’s home. There, you can see some eye-catching items. This is similar to Bruce Wayne’s Batcave. The items include but probably are not limited to:
- The Spider-Buggy/Mobile
- Spider-Man PS4 suits
- Steve Ditko
- One of the names on Jefferson’s contacts list is Steve Ditko. He co-created the characters Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Stan Lee, then left Marvel to work for DC Comics. Ditko passed away in late-June 2018. This film is dedicated to him and Stan Lee.
- Homage to Looney Tunes
- Peter Porker is the most cartoonish character of the individuals with spider powers. During the film’s final act, he drops an anvil on Scorpion and leaves the group with a “That’s all, folks!” before returning to his universe.
- The Spider-Man memes
- The end-credits sequence features a series of psychedelic artwork by the film’s animators. Some frames include the popular “Spider-Man in the office” meme. Also…
- When Miguel O’Hara aka Spider-Man 2099 travels back to “the beginning,” he ends up in Earth-67, a reference to the 1967 Spider-Man animated television series but more specifically the popular meme of Spider-Man pointing at another Spider-Man.
Which moment was your favorite? Do you look forward to more Miles Morales? Which Easter Egg did you love the most? Are there any you found that we have not included on the list? What did you think of the film? Let us know! For more Spider-Man related news and reviews, follow Geek Motivation on Twitter (@GeekMotivation) and Instagram (@geekmotivation).
Written by: John Daniel Tangalin