REVIEW: ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ is all about family ... and fighting
December 14th, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments
Miles Morales is a teenage boy who simply wants to fit in at his new high school and find his place in the world.
It hasn’t been easy. He misses his old friends, his old classes and his old neighborhood. His parents moved him to the new school -- which is across town and academically superior -- after he passed the entrance exam and won an application lottery.
Miles, though, hates it. In fact, he’s trying to fail. Thankfully, his teachers refuse to flunk him. They want him to be prepared for life.
But nothing can prepare Miles for what is about to happen. It all started when he got a seemingly innocent spider bite. Then his hands started sticking to objects. Then he started walking on walls.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think Miles was, well, Spider-Man. Yet that role is taken.
“How could there be two Spider-Men?” he asks.
The animated Sony movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG) opens this weekend, following the story of Miles Morales as he steps into the role of Spider-Man and discovers that there are multiple “Spider People” in this “Spider Verse.” That’s because the evil villain Kingpin is creating a machine that permits travel into multiple universes so he can resurrect his wife and child. He also wants to kill every Spider-Man.
It stars Shameik Moore (The Get Down) as Miles Morales/Spider-Man; Luna Lauren Velez (MacGyver, 2017) as his mom, Rio; Hailee Steinfeld (Pitch Perfect 2) as Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman; and Jake Johnson (Jurassic World) as Peter B. Parker.
The plot sounds complicated in print but works well on the animated big screen. At one point, there are six different Spider characters, including Spider-Ham, a pig who doubles as Peter Porker.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has plenty of animated violence but otherwise stays mostly in the family-friendly realm. It has plenty of funny moments, too. I’m not the target audience but I did enjoy it.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Moderate. It has the bloodless punching and fighting found in most live-action superhero films (that is, a lot), but it seems tamer in cartoon format. We also see someone get shot and killed. Major characters die. The movie ends -- not surprisingly -- with a big fight. Parents uncomfortable with the violence in Marvel and DC movies likely will find this film uncomfortable, too. It’s more violent than -- for example -- the Incredibles film series. It also has some scary moments, led by the shadowy villain Prowler, who looks like a masked creature from a horror flick and is accompanied by eery music.
None. We see one brief kiss.
Minimal. One coarse word (h-ll, said by a villain) and two or so instances of “oh my gosh.” Also, one “geez.”
Other Positive Elements
Miles’s parents are good role models. His father is a police officer who isn’t afraid to express affection and tell Miles he loves him -- although Miles rarely returns the favor. Miles’ teacher refuses to give up on him. When he makes a “0” on a lengthy true/false test, she gives him a 100; it’s impossible, she says, to get every answer wrong unless you already knew the right answer.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
We learn that Peter B. Parker -- who is from another dimension -- split from his wife because she wanted to have children.
We learn lessons on courage (Miles), self-sacrifice (several characters, including Miles) and love for family (several characters, more on that below),
Who knew that a superhero cartoon could provide such a family-centric message? Sometimes it’s even funny, as when Miles’ policeman father drops him off at school and tells him he loves him. When Miles refuses to say “I love you” back, his father gets on the police car loudspeaker and makes Miles say “I love you” -- in front of all his friends. Embarrassing? Of course. Hilarious? Yes.
Yet this family theme extends to the villains, too. Kingpin is driven by a desire to see his family, even if he wants to kill everyone in the process. Later, one of Kingpin’s henchman refuses to kill someone during a fight because they are related. Kingpin subsequently shoots the villain.
Families, of course, are one of God’s greatest gifts, created before the Fall. And long after Adam and Eve sinned, God repeated his desire to see the Earth be filled with -- you guessed it -- families (Genesis 9:1).
Hollywood films often include a family-centric theme. It’s nice to see it, though, in a film our kids will want to watch.
Get ready for Happy Meals with a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse theme, because McDonald’s is a sponsor. General Mills also is a partner.
What I Liked
The story. The jokes. The family bond between Miles and his parents.
The film incorporates elements from comic books -- such as speech balloons -- to give it a unique feel. It works.
What I Didn’t Like
I saw the 2D version. But it sure looked like it had 3D elements in it -- as if I were in the wrong theater. I wasn’t; that’s just the way it looks. (Other moviegoers on Twitter reported the same issue.) Some fans will love this form of animation. I found it a bit distracting.
- Was Miles’ father overbearing? Describe his parenting style in three different words.
- Why didn’t Miles want to say “I love you”? Why are we sometimes hesitant to say those words to family members? What would God want us to do?
- What did you think about the movie’s violence? Was it just the right amount … or too much? How does violence in the media impact us?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language.