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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a funny, original, action-packed animated Marvel adventure that centers on Brooklyn teen Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who becomes a new Spider-Man and ends up meeting other Spider-people from parallel universes. It's sure to appeal to Spidey fans of all ages, and it's more tween friendly than the live-action wall-crawler movies, but it's still pretty intense. And while the violence is mostly cartoonish, there are lots of fights that involve weapons (including guns), injuries, and even death. (Spoiler alert: One version of Spider-Man dies, as does an important supporting character.) There's also large-scale destruction, as well as frequent peril, suspense, and mortal danger. Characters flirt a little and occasionally use words like "crap," "hell," "dang," "fat," "stupid," and "dumb." But kids won't fail to notice the movie's diverse characters and clear messages about friendship, courage, mentoring, perseverance, teamwork, and (of course!) the nature of power and responsibility. Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Nicolas Cage co-star.
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What's the story?
SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE introduces viewers to 14-year-old Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who's reluctantly enrolled in an elite New York City boarding school but would rather hang out with his Brooklyn friends. After he's accidentally bitten by a radioactive spider, Miles starts to experience changes he can't explain. Retracing his steps to a mysterious underground lab, Miles discovers Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) trying to stop greedy crime boss Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) from opening a hole in the space-time continuum, which could destroy New York. (Spoiler alert!) Spider-Man is mortally wounded, but Kingpin's experiment results in another Peter Parker (this one older and more haggard) from a parallel universe showing up and bumping into Miles, who asks him for mentorship and advice. Together they encounter four more "Spider-people," including teenage Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), an anime-style girl from the distant future (Kimiko Glenn), a cartoon pig (John Mulaney), and a black-and-white 1930s noir Spider-Man (Nicolas Cage). After getting over their shock, everyone understands they must work as a team to defeat Kingpin and return to their own universes.
Is it any good?
This rousingly entertaining superhero adventure is everything a great family movie should be: laugh-out-loud funny, filled with teachable moments, and appealing to parents and kids of all ages. The animation in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is impressive, with lots of old-school comic book touches (Spidey-sense zigzags, typed fight sounds, and panels), and the plot is fast-paced and absorbing. Miles' origin story is similar to Peter Parker's, of course, but he's brown, younger, has two living parents, and is from Brooklyn, not Queens. Moore makes Miles charmingly adorkable -- he's nerdy but cool. It's also moving that Miles sees what's good in his Uncle Aaron (the always excellent Mahershala Ali), despite the older man's somewhat shady rep. The rest of the voice actors are equally good in their roles. As the thirtysomething, slightly out-of-shape Spider-Man in crisis, Johnson is hilariously jaded and ambivalent. Of the multiverse Spideys, Cage's stands out for being obviously dated and dark, and Mulaney's Spider-Ham is guffaw-worthy. The filmmakers cleverly introduce each web-slinger with a quick montage explaining their origin story. In lesser hands, the bit would grow old, but here it's funny every time.
Like any "motley crew" comedy worth watching, Into the Spider-Verse shows how the various Spideys get to know one another, share strengths, and become a necessary unit to defeat their enemies. Miles struggles with the steep learning curve of his superpowers and also with his overall place in the world. But there's a lot that has to get done, so he can't let himself wallow in Tobey Maguire levels of angst. Instead, Miles relies on trusted adults -- and his new Spider peeps -- to figure out his powers and his role, not only in the mission but in his community. Fans should be sure to read both the original Miles Morales comics and award-winning author Jason Reynolds' young-adult novel about the Bronx-born young superhero. Meanwhile, this big-screen take on everyone's favorite web-slinger is destined to be a family movie night favorite.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Do you think comic book-style violence impacts viewers differently than live-action violence? Why?
Why does representation matter? How is Miles' cultural background explored in the movie? In what other ways does the movie support the idea of diversity?
Discuss the movie's messages about mentorship and the loneliness of superhero life. How does meeting the other Spider-people impact each of the superheroes? What do they learn from one another?
How does this compare to other Spider-Man stories you're familiar with? How is it similar/different? Which Spidey is your favorite?
- In theaters: December 14, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: March 19, 2019
- Cast: Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld
- Directors: Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti
- Studio: Sony Pictures Releasing
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, and mild language
- Awards/Honors: Academy Award, Common Sense Seal, Golden Globe
- Last updated: December 04, 2019
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