• Vishnu Gupta

The Movie I've Been Waiting For My Whole Life

Updated: Jan 7, 2019

FADE IN: 2007, the bedroom of an 11 year old Vishnu Gupta: Spider-Man bed-sheets, Spider-Man action figures in the corner, Spider-Man comics, Spider-Man trilogy box-set, Spider-Man posters, Spider-Man backpack, the Spider-Man video game (2000), Spider-Man everything. If I ever saw anything even remotely related to Spider-Man, I had to have it. While other kids drew “sceneries” in their art class, I would draw Spider-Man. On long drives my family and I took because of my parents’ work, I’d imagine that Spider-Man was swinging on the trees alongside our car. I even genuinely believed I had the spidey-sense at one point. Let me take you back to how this obsession began.

When the 2002 Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man movie with Tobey Maguire came out, I was 6 years old. Not only was this the only big superhero movie out at the time, Spider-Man is the perfect superhero for a young kid to gush over. Superman is a boring, altruistic alien, Batman is a somber, rich man, and almost every other superhero is either a mutant, alien, rich beyond measure, or smart beyond measure, none of which 6 year old Vishnu was.

Spider-Man, or really Peter Parker was just a regular high school kid. His main motivation was being with Mary Jane (I really don’t believe the name is a coincidence, despite Stan Lee saying so), and even after he realized his superhero capabilities, he tried to used them to make some money and impress her. On a side note, the upside-down Spider-Man and Mary Jane kiss from the movie was definitely my sexual awakening and the beginning of a weird obsession with recreating that scene with my Spider-Man action figure and my sister’s Barbies. I still maintain the kiss is the best on screen kiss of all time (I’ll fight you if you disagree).

He’s more concerned with how his superhero looks than what he does. He’s just a boy that is both scared and excited by his new powers, but once he realizes the importance of his abilities (insert famous Uncle Ben quote here), he tries to do the right thing while balancing life with Aunt May and his love for Mary Jane despite being outmatched by his villains. This is what makes Spider-Man one of the most relatable and inspirational superheroes ever.

One of the major reasons I think kids find Spider-Man attractive is his physicality and sensibility. He’s a wisecracking vigilante, contrasted with other superheros who are usually solemn and composed. His physique resembles that of an average human, while Batman and Superman are built like the archetypical Russian bouncer. And while Spider-Man is somewhat restricted by his webs, his flexibility and finesse more than makes up for it (need I remind you of this scene?), whereas Superman flies around the world like a brick. Spider-Man moves how kids feel, or want to feel—free. I fondly remember playing the final swing of the 2002 Spider-Man film over and over again in my bedroom and desperately wishing to get bit by a radioactive spider.

When Sony released the first trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, I was very excited, but also nervous. The original trilogy held a special place in my heart, although in retrospect I must say that while Tobey Maguire made for a great Peter Parker, his Spider-Man wasn’t nearly as funny and sarcastic as the comic books. The premature reboots with Andrew Garfield weren’t bad movies, but just not good enough. His Spider-Man was great, but his Peter Parker was way too attractive and smooth for the character (or to be relatable 🙃). Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Peter Parker were perfect. Fans across the world thought, THIS IS THE GUY! But I found Spider-Man: Homecoming fairly gimmicky as it was too concerned with interweaving the narrative into the larger MCU timeline and introducing characters for future MCU movies. With, Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse, there was a real potential to give the fans what they wanted. But I’ve learned to be skeptical of Sony in these areas.

However, thankfully, Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse was exactly what the fans wanted, needed, and definitely deserved. The essence of the film is not only in the animation, the story, and the characters, but the approach. It is clear that they wanted to pay tribute to Spiderman fans, young and old alike.

The animation is an absolute delight for comic book fans but also beautiful regardless. The protagonist, Miles Morales, an Afro-Latino kid from Brooklyn, is an ode to the new generation of consumers that don’t look and live like how most superheroes are represented. The story is incredibly well written, has characters and plot points with depth and nuance, and is funny and engaging throughout. But the real cheese is in the details.

Stan Lee isn’t just a two second blimp in the movie, but has a funny and heartwarming cameo as well as a tribute. This makes sense as he used to narrate Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-1983). Interestingly, Spider-Man actually meets Stan Lee in the final episode of Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998) in which the “real” Spider-Man cross into our dimension and meets Stan Lee, the creator of the “fictional" Spider-Man.

The other Spider-People in the movie is a great nod to the comic book history of the character, but also achieves the purpose of introducing characters with potential future spin-off movies or appearances without making it feel forced. The animation of each matches the graphics of their respective comics and this opens up the possibility of playing with different genres (I would love to see a Spider-Man Noir movie). The film is full of split screens representing comic panels, onomatopoeia sound effects, and Ben-Day dots.

Other than the comics, the movie has several references and nods to Spidey’s appearances in past movies and video games. The most important reference is probably the recurring “let’s start from the beginning” joke, referring to Sony’s penchant for rebooting the series, which is how we’ve ended up with three Spider-Men in the last decade. But this reference is also an understanding, and understanding that finally a Spider-Man movie must be made for the people, by keeping the legacy of Spider-Man in media in mind. This results in not a Deadpool-esque self-referential comedy but a truly great movie that both pays respect to previous iterations of Spider-Man and offers a fresh take on the typical superhero story arch.

11 year old Vishnu would have probably given his year’s pocket money to see this movie at the time (mind you, that’s a lot of sacrificed samosas and pepsis at the canteen). I imagine his eyes wide and mouth gaping throughout, absolutely mesmerized by the movie.

22 year old Vishnu didn’t have the same external reaction, but certainly had the same internal one. There was actually a moment during the final battle between Spider-Man and Kingpin that I cried, not because the scene was emotional but because I couldn’t believe how amazing this movie is. I really wish I could go back in time and show 6 year of Vishnu this movie, but honestly, I’m just glad 22 year old Vishnu got to see it.

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© 2018 by Vishnu Gupta