RATED PG | 5 stars
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse opened this weekend to rave reviews from critics and fans alike. And it isn’t difficult to understand why. Stan Lee’s newest Spider-Man film is an animation triumph that plays deep homage to its comic book roots. The Spider-Verse is sure to thrill Marvel fans and probably lure a new generation of fans into its web…
First, Spider-Verse is fun. The premise is original—a different Spider-Man, or Spider-Person, or Spider-Pig (you get the idea) from multiple universes come together to fight a common villain bent on opening a portal into all the universes, ultimately destroying all the universes. Team that up with truly spectacular animation and rocking soundtrack, and you have the makings of grade-A entertainment.
The film doesn’t stop at the entertainment threshold. The film has a lot heart too. As with all of the Marvel superhero storylines, it’s less about the super powers and more about the human condition that makes the superhero interesting and inspiring to the audience. Spiderman is no different. And while each of the spider-heroes have very similar, almost identical origin stories—each one varies just a bit from the others to account for what each individual bitten by a spider brings to the hero.
And that is exactly the point of the multiple spider characters—anyone can put on the mask. Anyone can be a superhero. And each of us have a uniqueness and gifts that have the potential to make a difference in our own world. Peter Parker advises the young Miles Morales, the newest Spider character, “Don’t do it like me, do it like you.” There isn’t one way to superhero—there are as many ways as there are people.
While the film is not intentionally Christian per se, there is a Christian theme just dying to be pulled out of that line of thinking. Each of us were created as unique individuals (Psalm 139:14) with talents, skills, and gifts (Romans 12:6)—unlike anyone else in the universe. We were placed on this earth at such a time as this for great purposes. (See Esther 4:14, Ephesians 2:10.) We are all different, but it is our very differences that allow us to discover meaning and purpose in our lives.
Spider-Verse is filled with many positive themes. The importance of family is strongly portrayed throughout the film. Families aren’t perfect, and sometimes people we look up to and count on make mistakes or let us down. We show love when we accept our family members for who they are and believe the best in them—even when we discover that one has chosen a dark path. Life is difficult and the love, support, and encouragement of family can mean the difference between sinking and swimming in a tumultuous world.
Another strong theme in the film is that our choices matter. While our choices don’t necessarily have to define us, they do elicit reactions and carry consequences. Early in the film, Miles is confronted by a teacher who has caught him intentionally failing a test so he will be thrown out of a private school he has recently started and where he is finding it difficult to fit in. His teacher not only passes him on the test but assigns him a personal essay based on the book Great Expectations and encourages him to explore and decide the kind of person he wants to be.
We discover too that choices led two brothers down very different paths as they matured into adults. We learn that both brothers were involved in tagging (graffiti art) in their youth. One brother made a choice that led to him to becoming a man of the law with a family, while the other continued down a criminal path that left him lonely, embittered, and a villain.
Another fascinating portrayal of choices was within the different iterations of Peter Parker. In one universe Peter Parker was “practically perfect” with a doting wife, adoring city, and strong physique, while in another universe Peter Parker was divorced, cynical, and more than a bit out of shape for a superhero. After a series of encounters with his Spider-Friends, this Peter Parker hopes to return to his universe where he might just be able to make choices that could alter his path for good.
What’s really refreshing is the theme that anyone and everyone has the choice to be the person they were created to be and to fulfill great destinies. While it is okay to be a good-looking white male with an athletic build—that is not the only way to be a superhero. We can be bi-racial, male or female, have a punk haircut, a little paunchy around the gut, from different backgrounds, with different experiences—heck, we can even be a talking pig! The point is, anyone can be a superhero if they only have a little faith…
Faith in themselves or faith in something else? Well, yes. Miles is instructed that what holds him back from fully using his newly found superpowers is his lack of faith. He is told he needs to take a leap of faith and then, and only then, will he be able to reach his full potential. The film is certainly promoting faith in self, but there is also an underlying faith that the gifts, talents, provision, and purpose given to him are enough to get him through any difficulty that he may encounter—and that is a faith we can all learn from.
Teens and families will thoroughly enjoy Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse for its characters, storyline, animation, and soundtrack. Like many of Stan Lee’s films, the strong themes of family, the choices we make, facing and overcoming adversity, faith in oneself and in the gifts we receive, and the belief that good overcomes evil are sure to inspire a new generation of Spiderman fans—and, perhaps, to inspire us all to seek and realize the great plans and purpose God has in store for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11).
Rhonda is an author, wife, mother, and mentor. She loves studying God’s Word for truth and wisdom and uses it as a compass and roadmap for her own spiritual journey. Rhonda believes in sharing the Good News and the hope found in Biblical truths with others. She uses her writing and mentoring opportunities (often with a pinch of humor) to do just that..