What it about? Awkward teen Miles Morale is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops unwieldy arachnid powers. This occurs just as the more famous Spiderman (who in a one-minute origin story we recognise as the 90s Maguire/Raimi version) is killed whilst trying to shut down a dimension-warping super-collider. Unbeknownst to Miles, this machine has also sucked in alternative versions of the web-spinning hero from different dimensions.
The Best Bit:
New York reels from the death of their Friendly Neighbourhood superhero. On the Brooklyn Bridge, or as they walk down subways steps, people stop and look at their phones; the light from their screens illuminate faces of shock, sadness, distress. In voiceover, Parker’s wife, MJ begins her eulogy, and we see Miles join a line of others buying Spiderman masks and costume. “My husband was an ordinary man…” says MJ, and we see her speech it is to a huge crowd of mourners, most dressed in ill-fitting, baggy Spidey costumes. Miles tugs on the costume in a public bathroom - but instead of leaping into action, he joins the crowd, listening to the final words of MJ’s address: “We all have powers. In some ways, we are all Spiderman. And we are counting on you.”
Miles repeats her words. “They’re all counting on me.” Another kid, also wearing the costume, leans over and comments: “Probably not you specifically. I think it’s a metaphor.”
What could have been a throwaway gag is actually a perfectly pitched end to a moving sequence. It underlines Miles’ floundering attempts to “wear the mask” and step up to the hero’s role; and the fact that if he does, then he will be anonymous. It also foreshadows the film’s main concept: that there are an almost infinite number of Spideys (not all men, not all even human) in an infinite number of universes.
In the following scene, Miles bumps into ‘Peter B Parker’. We run through a repeat of the earlier ‘awesome’ Spidey’s origin story, with notable differences: Peter B is still a superhero, but he’s past his prime. He's middle-aged and overweight, disillusioned and lazy. His one-minute origin story sees him turning into a kind of spider-schlub: he went bankrupt from bad investments, and endied up divorcing MJ. He's also a wonderful ‘real-world’ iteration of Spidey, and the perfect mentor for Miles.
John McTiernan, director of Predator and Die Hard, recently explained his dislike of current superhero films. The problem, he said, is a lack of ‘moral feasibility’. The heroes of McTiernan’s films are ordinary humans (beat cop, soldier, CIA analyst) pushed into heroic actions by extraordinary circumstances. These are ‘moral role-models’, McTiernan said. Characters we can look up to because, if put in their dangerous situations, pushed to our extremes the way they are, we could be them - and that is incredibly empowering. Superheroes, by contrast, are gods - even the more ‘human’ (Batman, Iron Man) are multi-billionaires controlling resources and technology none of us will ever possess. Aided by photo-realistic CGI - instead of in-camera stunts - superheroes suspend our disbelief… but only until the lights come up.
Spiderman has always been a more relatable superhero, a geeky kid forever thrilled by his own powers, but Spiderverse takes this idea to heart. It provides us with an array of alternative Spideys, but most importantly with a recognisable ‘street’ Spidey in Miles (he's an aspiring graf artist), and a ‘morally feasible’ role model in Peter B Parker that I think McTiernan would approve of.
Those who liked it said… "...exuberant, inventive, and thrilled by heroism in a way that many of these films forget to be." - David Sims, The Atlantic
Those who didn’t like it said… *contact me if you find a negative review!*
If you like it, check out… Spiderman: Homecoming