- Run Time
- 1 hour 57 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- 2 / 10
- 1 / 10
- Sex / Nudity
- 1 / 10
- Star Rating
The Lord loves those who hate evil; he guards the lives of his faithful; he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;
This animated tale is for the Marvel fans who cannot get enough of their web-spinning hero. It offers us not one, but six Spider Men! Or should I say four Spider Men and two Spider Women? Or maybe that should be three Spider Men, two Spider Women, and one Spider Pig—yes, there is a half-pint sized pig named Spider-Ham. His civvy name is Peter Porker—what else could it be? All these Spidey heroes exist in alternate universes and are brought together by a giant nuclear super collider controlled by master crime boss Kingpin (Liev Schreiber).
The center of all the chaotic action and plots is a person of color, young Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), new student at Visions Academy boarding school for gifted kids. He’s there not by choice, but sent by his African-American cop father Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) and Puerto Rican mom Rio (Luna Lauren Velez). Miles would much rather go to his neighborhood school, so like Starr in The Hate U Give, he never feels at home anywhere. He’s also at odds with his father because he prefers to hang out with the coolest man he knows, his Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), who does not share the same values as his staid brother.
Uncle Aaron is apparently distrusted by Miles’ father because of some shady dealings, but he appreciates Miles artistic side, and thus is closer to the boy than the father. It is while the two are happily spray-canning graffiti in a Brooklyn tunnel that a radioactive spider crawls up the boy’s leg and bites him. For some time after the boy is puzzled by his hands and feet sticking to surfaces, and most embarrarssingly to the hair of classmate Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld. He attributes this at first to puberty. Miles has looked up to Spider Man, and when he witnesses his hero’s death, he, as well as all the rest of the city, is shaken. He buys a Spidey costume from a shop run by a Stan Lee look-alike (love this touch!), and soon runs into an older disillusioned Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) who is divorced and more interested in eat ng burgers than in fighting villains.
“How can there be two Spider-Men?” the surprised teen asks. This alternate-universe Spider-Man becomes Miles’ mentor, the latter regaining his spirit in the process as surely as Miles gains in understanding and the use of his spider powers. Along the way they are joined by the others– Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), who looks like she belongs in a punk-rock band; Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), sounding like a hard-boiled detective from the 1930s; young Asian Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and her Spider-bot; and the short of stature Spider-Ham, a pig named Peter Porker (John Mulaney)–all of whom have been jarred out of their universes and are eager to return. To do so they must go to war against Kingpin and a female version of Doc Ock (Kathryn Hahn) whose victory would mean the end of all parallel universes.
The story is so complex that the film apparently required three directors– Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman—and two scriptwriters—Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman. They and their army of artists and technicians, plus of course the voice talent, have brought to life a thrilling tale for young and old. (Older viewers will love it when little Spider-Ham says “That’s all folks,” a concluding line to hundreds of Looney Tunes cartoon shorts uttered by Porky Pig once shown between feature films a couple of generations ago. Children will have no clue as to why asks, “Can he say that? Legally?) The film is technically brilliant, combining elements of the comic book—illustrated panels and balloons in which we see Miles’ dialogue with himself—and the lightning speed of animation in which our web spinners are free of restraints of gravity.
The moral lessons of the live action Spider Man films are continued—responsibility must accompany power—and the added insight that any ordinary person, such as the teenage Miles, can become a hero when faced with extraordinary circumstances. (This is practically a homily near the end of the film.) Although there is not enough time to provide depth to such characters as the father and uncle, Jefferson and Aaron, they still add a touch of poignancy to the proceedings—the latter due to his sorrow over his failure to be the worthy role model for his nephew, and the latter because of his desire for a closer relationship with the son whom he does not understand as well as his brother does. It is both a funny and a rather sad scene in which Jefferson, giving Miles a ride to his posh school, demands over the police car’s p.a. system that his son say back to him, “I love you,” thereby embarrassing the boy before his classmates. Believers in a rainbow race in which color no longer matters will appreciate the film raising up a young mixed-race hero. By providing such entertainment fare to our children the filmmakers are helping to bring about this dream, so beautifully described by Martin Luther King, Jr. This animated film is worthy to be placed alongside of the hero Black Panther, both of them evidence that despite the set-backs of the past two years in our society, maybe we are slowly moving toward “the beloved community.”
This review will be in the January issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.