In Sony Pictures Animations’ 2018 superhero film Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse, we find teenager Miles Morales growing up in a New York that was watched over by Peter Parker, the current spiderman. On top of the fact that he feels out of place at Visions Academy Normal High, his problems get much more complicated when he's bitten by a radioactive spider and left as the city's only hero. After the original Peter Parker’s death, Miles suddenly became the only Spider-Man but finds help in several different ‘Spider-People” who have been pulled into his dimension.
Most importantly, the mentorship from the slightly-over-the-hill Spider-Man Peter B Parker and the friendship from the young Spider-Woman Gwen Stacy. With their help, Miles learned to become his own hero; through his newfound identity he defeated Kingpin and allowed the other ‘Spider-People’ to go back to their dimensions safely. By consciously embracing his identity, Miles gains agency and influences the world back.
Miles’ bi-racial black and Puerto Rican culture and figures within influences his world view and style. His identity as Spider-Man is multi-dimensional, taking inspiration and strength from heroes from different universes to form his own. Even without all the interdimensional threats and super heroics, Miles is already a man of many worlds. For example, switching on the way to school and speaking multiple languages, both at home and in the streets. Miles bi-racial identity already has him balancing several different selves. Additionally, this identity is also influenced by his uncle, someone who doesn’t always follow the law. While he was watching his niece paint graffiti, Uncle Aaron proudly said “The real Miles, comin’ out of hiding”.
While on the surface one could interpret the quote as just saying Miles painting expresses himself, I think the deeper meaning lies in Uncle Aaron trying to teach Miles to be his own man. Bold, confident, artistic, even if that means breaking the law. This is later shown in the plot when Miles tests his control over his powers: jumping off skyscrapers, becoming invisible on command, all the while his uncle’s theme plays--signifying the ‘remix’ of the Uncle’s suave characteristics into his own identity. The most important instance of this, though, is when Miles tributes his Uncle by touches Kingpin’s shoulder after being struck numerous times, saying “Hey” like he was taught, and then shocking the villain in a defeating blow.
Learning to be Spider-Man means taking a great responsibility and figuring out how to carry it in your own unique way. As Miles Journey exposes him to many different inspirations, we see our burgeoning hero intersect in ways that spark change and growth. Miles takes inspiration from each character and makes them his own remixing and reworking until they're equally his. On the spider-side, Peter B Parker has the greatest influence when he became the reluctant mentor he never wanted to be. While escaping from the evil scientists, Peter B Parker tries to give a brief lesson in overcoming fear to learn abilities claiming that 'It's a leap of faith. That's all it is, Miles. A leap of faith.'
In doing so, Miles learns important techniques in web swinging, fighting, and anticipating his enemies moves. Although they are more like peers, Gwen gives Miles grace and determination in ways the worn out Peter couldn't. While Penny, Noir and Spider Ham have less time to bond with Miles, they show him that he's not alone in his fight. The learned ideas from the collective group of ‘Spider-People’ likewise get ‘remixed’ into Miles’ identity. These influences culminate in two critical moments where Miles fully embraces who he truly is. One is the assertion of his identity, the other saving the day by being himself by courageously defeating the villain, Kingpin.
Lastly, Miles’ evolving relationship with his dad changes him emotionally to where he feels completely determined. In perhaps one of the most important quotes of the movie, Miles’ dad says to him from outside his room “Look, I know I don't always do what you need me to do, or say what you need me to say, but I see this spark in you. It's amazing. It's why I push you. But it's yours, and whatever you choose to do with it, you'll be great'. It’s at this exact point in the movie where Miles realizes his worth such that he gains full control of his spider-abilities because he embraces that he is appreciated. Especially after he has been left behind before the final fight because he may be a liability, understanding his worth allows him to go into the final scenes to not only save the ‘Spider-people’ by letting them go back to their dimensions before they die but also by saving his own Brooklyn from destruction.
Throughout the course of the movie, Miles Morales learned that to be Spider-Man is to struggle and shoulder burdens that few can understand, but to rise up and inspire others because of your fight. In the end we see a Miles in full control of his identity and powers, who saves the day by stopping the collider and kingpin, sending his fellow heroes home, and inspiring them to reaffirm their own identities as spider men and women. It's all done with grace, wit, style and a finish that tributes his Uncle Aaron, cheered on by his father. Allinall, Miles is able to find his identity in the midst of several character conflicts, and in the end utilizes them to become the best hero he can be.
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