By Ethan Rice | Echo
"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."
This quote from late entertainment titan Stan Lee remains on the screen as the final moments of Sony's "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" fade away. Lee died this past November, a month before the film's release and several months after the passing of Steve Ditko, the second half of the writer/artist duo that created the titular hero in 1962. This film could not be a more fitting tribute to their legacy.
There are, in fact, three movies tightly bundled inside of this animated spectacle. Firstly, the primary marketed premise, which revolves around a combination of alternate Spider-Heroes from different dimensions, each with their own distinctive style, teaming up to save the world and find a way home.
This plot is compellingly executed, enhanced by the visual medium and carried by an all-star cast of performers ranging from rising star Hailee Steinfeld to stand-up comic John Mulaney to unpredictable internet icon Nicholas Cage. While all memorable characters, they ultimately serve as window dressing to our main hero. . .
This movie wholly belongs to Miles. The teenaged Afro-Latino hero was created in 2011 and his big-screen debut has lovingly translated his story into one of the most heart-felt superhero origin stories to make it to film. It fully embraces his cultural heritage, something all too few superheroes can claim: a functioning, supportive family.
That familial presence is a refreshing breath of fresh air in a world filled with orphans and evil parental figures. It empowers his journey and makes Miles, voiced by the outstanding Shameik Moore, a protagonist that could not be more easy to root for.
His "leap of faith" moment, a jaw-dropping sequence that makes the most of the distinct animation style, will have even the most cynical viewer cheering - if not vocally, then at least deep down within their heart. It is in that instantly iconic moment, enhanced further by perfect music selection, that Miles seizes the movie for himself and swings away with it.
But there is a final, even deeper layer to the film; a theme that, better than any previous Spider-Man movie, speaks to just why the hero has remained so popular for so long. Perhaps it is best conveyed by the lines uttered by Stan Lee himself in what will prove to be one of his final, beloved cameo appearances. As a sleazy costume salesman Miles purchases a Spider-Man suit from, he informs the nervous teen,"It always fits, eventually."
This is part of a wider sequence that sees Miles, the people of New York City and the audience assured that "Anyone can be Spider-Man." And that is what makes Spider-Verse tick, what has made the wildly diverse takes on the character flourish for over fifty years, what drove Lee, Ditko and their peers to craft the entire Marvel Universe. It is what has made generations of misfits, myself included, fall in love with the character.
In the awards race, the film's primary rival is "The Incredibles 2," a franchise in which the villainous Syndrome famously declared "when everyone is super, no one will be." "Into the Spider-Verse" is the antithesis of that declaration. From the highest roof in Brooklyn, it declares that everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from, can be super. And that is what makes it truly amazing, spectacular and every other spider-adjective you care to use.