The multiverse is not an unfamiliar concept to science-fiction, and certainly not to comic books. When your characters become stagnant – reboot them! Filmgoers know how that is, especially Spider-Man fans. Within the last batch of years, we’ve watched Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland swing around New York City as the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. We treat them like James Bonds; happily comparing one Spidey against the other and always ready to roll emo Peter Parker from Spider-Man 3 under the bus.
Do you ever consider Garfield’s Spider-Man taking a spin around the Empire State Building and bumping into Tom Holland’s Spider-Man? That is the type of fantasy that keeps me up at night, and eventually sends me off to dreamland with a great big smile on my face. It will never happen, but…
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is prepping audiences for that miraculous day. The new animated film posits that there are dozens (maybe hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe infinite numbers) of Peter Parkers hurtling through as many New York Citys. They all think they’re original, but they’re only separated by the thinnest layer of dimensional space. All it takes is the right supervillain to bust down that wall.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.’
Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) cannot bear to be alone. His wife and son walked in on a violent confrontation between himself and Spider-Man (Chris Pine), and in their horror raced away in a speeding vehicle. There was an accident and mother and child died. His rage was uncontrollable before, but now it compels him to shatter the laws of nature.
Throwing every criminal cent into the enterprise, Kingpin and his team of mad scientists constructs a supercollider that allows them to penetrate space and time. Spider-Man attempts to stop him; there’s an awkward, ugly appearance from The Green Goblin (Jorma Taccone), lots of smashing, and the experiment is disrupted. Peter Parker is mortally wounded.
Unbeknownst to the battling costumed characters, a young Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) witnesses the scuffle. The Brooklyn teen just had his hand munched on by a radioactive spider that escaped from the same lab that produced Paker’s insectoid friend. He arrives just in time to usher Parker off to the afterlife and experience a freakout.
In desperate need of a mentor, Miles attends a memorial service held for the fallen hero. Mary Jane (Zoë Kravitz) champions Uncle Ben’s philosophy of “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” to the crowd, and the kid takes it to heart. He doesn’t know how he’s going to carry in Parker’s footsteps, but he makes the decision right then and there to do so. Thankfully, all that business with the Kingpin’s supercollider causes various New York Citys to topple upon each other.
Suddenly, Miles is overflowing with Spider-Man gurus. The first new Peter Parker he encounters is of an older, schlubbier sadsack variety (Jake Johnson). He gives him a few pointers on how to Thwip, but mostly he’s here to escape his romantic misery back home and eat his fill of bagels. Then comes badass punk rocker Gwen Stacy, the Spectacular Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) to inject serious purpose into their dynamic. Followed quickly by the mech-warrior Penni Parker (Kimiko Glenn), the black and white noir heavy (Nicolas Cage), and the cartoon Porker (John Mulaney).
The majority of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a wild assault of hilarious fringe-personalities. You may have been sick and tired of the Parker origin story after Andrew Garfield took another round with it but in the hands of directors Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman you’ll find yourself eagerly anticipating the next dimensional twist. By the time they get to Spider-Ham you’re already squealing.
Each version of the Spider-Man concept carries the tragedy of an Uncle Ben with them and drives them to pursue virtue. Together the Spider-Men, Women, and Pig storm Fisk Enterprises to jam an electronic “goober” into the supercollider that will destroy the device for good and send each hero back to their reality. Unsure of his abilities, Miles hangs back at first allowing Schlubby Peter Parker to do a job that will prevent him from returning to his relationship woes back home. Oh yeah, and kill him. The Schlub would rather embrace death than say “I’m sorry.”
Of course, Miles finds the courage inside himself, manages to master his new venom blast and cloaking abilities, and saves the day. All Spider-Folks are returned to their timeline where they’ll have to face their adversaries in their own unique way. Except when the going gets too tough, and Spider-Gwen returns at the last moment to call Miles in for backup on her side of the block. Sequels, rev your engines.
Cut to black and let’s sit for fifteen minutes while we watch an endless army of names scroll down the credits. As Schlubby Peter Parker’s Christmas album jingle concludes the soundtrack, a title card appears featuring a quote from the late, great Stan Lee:
“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero.”
That card is followed by another one sending love towards both Spider-Man co-creators who passed away this year:
“Thanks to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, for showing us we’re not the only ones.”
Not a dry eye in the house. That would have been enough to satisfy each and every one of the Marvel Zombies in the crowd, but Sony has one last trick up their sleeve. Similar to what happened in the post-credits scene of Venom, a caption appears reading “Meanwhile, in Nueva New York.” All the 90s kids in the audience lose their minds for a second.
Lighting the darkness, we spot a female hologram. As she offers a brief explanation of the events that transpired in the film, suddenly an arm raises into view and attaches a high-tech web-shooter to their wrist. We see the world from the point of view of Miguel O’Hara, Spider-Man 2099 and he’s voiced by none other than Oscar Isaac.
The Marvel 2099 universe was just one of many attempts to revitalize character concepts in the 1990s. Jumping a hundred years into the future, the mantles of Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, The Punisher, the X-Men, and Doctor Doom were passed onto new extraordinary individuals. For the most part, the comics were lackluster, but the designs were top-notch in that radical, extreme kinda way. When it came time for writer Dan Slott to unleash every Spider-Man creation into his “Spider-Verse Crossover” comic event in 2015, he leaned hard into Spider-Man 2099. The character was reinvigorated and returned to a monthly, solo title.
Miguel click-clacks a few buttons on his web-shooter, and this allows him to travel freely between the multiverse. He states that he wants to go “back to the beginning, 1967.” A pang of the 60s cartoon theme song sounds off, “Does whatever a spider can” and the CGI Miguel crosses over into the 2D universe. Here we are gifted a savage send-up of the classic meme in which two Spider-Men point accusingly at each other. Miguel exclaims that he doesn’t understand why he can’t stop jabbing his finger outwards, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse concludes with Spider-Man 2099 failing to recruit the O.G. Peter Parker.
Fanservice has never been serviced so hard. The multiverse possibilities are endless, and if the audience shows up for this film, then the future will only get wilder and weirder. Spider-Ham was merely the begging. Calling Captain AmeriDuck.