Who can be a hero? That’s the central question of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” The ideal of the superhero seems so grand, so powerful, especially to a kid. When great power is thrust upon you, can you measure up?
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman and written by Phil Lord and Rothman, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is the story of Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore), a middle-school kid in Brooklyn who is struggling with his father (Brian Tyree Henry) and a new school. When he’s bit by a radioactive spider, he turns into the new Spider-Man just as the original Spider-Man (Chris Pine) is killed by Kingpin (Liev Schreiber). A transdimensional rift opens up from Kingpin’s latest venture, dragging in other Spider-Men and women from other dimensions, including Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), noir Spider-Man (Nicolas Cage) and another Peter Parker (Jake Johnson). For Miles, the responsibility of being a superhero is a tremendous burden, and he’ll need to overcome his fears to save his dimension.
The animation stands out as a highlight of the film. It somehow manages to blend 2D and 3D imagery, evoking comic book panels while also providing some depth. The colors are vibrant, especially the streaks of glossy red and yellow, incorporating a sense of graffiti.
Miles journey is not very original, a pretty typical coming-of-age story, but the film is important in that it features a young African-American becoming a superhero. His race is never made an issue throughout the film. He could be white, black, Latino or any other ethnicity. He’s treated as an equal amongst a very formidable lineup of superheroes. Gwen Stacy is an equal. Even the pig Spider-Man is an equal. For a generation of superhero fans who have been treated to irreversible lines of what is male and female, white and black, seeing all superheroes as equitable is welcome. The message of the film is that anyone can be Spider-Man, anyone can be a superhero. That’s a strong, resonant theme in today’s world.