Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Besides a chance trailer and a friend’s hearty recommendation, I began Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with very few expectations and little info.  I came out of it quite satisfied, with many pros and only a few cons.

Positives

One of the best bits of this reboot is that it is a fun celebration of the character Spider-man and the comic world.  The film provides an entertaining exploration of parallel universes and how many ways the Peter Parker Spider-Man we all know could have turned out differently.  In fact, I noticed that the film created an unstated Spider-Man formula.  The hero is not one person.  Peter Parker doesn’t equal Spider-Man.  Instead, power from a radioactive spider + a desire to help others + personal loss + a leap of faith = Spider-Man.  This creates an “everyman” theme, reminding the audience that a hero can be anyone.

Spider-Man poster

In fact, this formula ties directly into some of the movie’s other key themes.  When Miles Morales attempts to quote “with great power comes great responsibility” to a disillusioned Spider-Man, Peter Parker abruptly cuts him off.  Previous Spider-Man movies, especially the Tobey Maguire trilogy, emphasized this theme, but Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse instead focuses on “leaps of faith,” perseverance, and second chances.  While those may sound cheesy, I found the themes more broadly applicable to real life than the original heroic themes.  After all, we constantly take risks and choose to be vulnerable.  Being determined enough to try in the first place and try again when something doesn’t work out the way you want it to is critical in life.  Yet, as the movie shows, fear often paralyzes us from taking the leap.  Pride stops us from asking for second chances or trying again.  And our relationships and lives suffer, even as we attempt to protect ourselves.

Another aspect of the movie I enjoyed was the style and artwork.  Into the Spider-Verse introduced me to a fresh perspective on Spider-Man movies as it incorporated comic-style animation in an impressive, creative, and entertaining way.  I especially like the way the movie uses comic panels and textboxes to make the movie appear to be a literal comic book come to life.

Negatives

I only have a few minor criticisms.  First, if you have a tendency to experience ocular migraines, you may not want to watch this movie, or at least parts of it.  Several scenes are headache-inducing with their psychedelic palettes and flashing lights.  Also, I occasionally found the soundtrack very jarring, and the grating moments in the music seemed disconnected from the rest of the movie and its overall style.  And a final tiny criticism I have is that the final fight scene felt really long, and the action was hard to follow during it.

Wrapping It Up

Until my friend recommended Into the Spider-Verse, I hadn’t seriously considered watching it.  The trailers and other ads hadn’t really piqued my interest, and I was becoming more and more burnt out on superheroes in general and Spider-Man in particular.  But I ended up having a blast watching the 2018 animated reboot.  I hadn’t expected that moviemakers would be able to add anything worthwhile to the current Spider-Man film portfolio.  With its creative aesthetic, thoughtful themes, fun characters, and freshened up storyline, though, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a pleasant surprise.

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-ARRIETTY-

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Unlikely Heroes

Not every hero fights with weapons on a battlefield, wields superpowers against a villain, or saves the world once a week.  Though these are the heroes who make the pages of comic books, newspapers, and history, they are uncommon.  More often, other, quieter heroes overcome fear and fight adversity unnoticed, or are soon forgotten.  They are the unlikely heroes, and from them one can learn much about courage and heroism.  To read some of the stories of the best of their company, one has only to turn to the Bible.

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Genesis 8:11 (Illustration by Arrietty)

Surprising examples of these humble heroes fill the pages of God’s Word.  Noah rejected the sinful society about him, obeyed God, built the ark, and thus saved a remnant of mankind.  The midwives in Egypt saved the Israelite children and defied Pharaoh in order to obey God (Exodus 1:17).  Rahab – a prostitute and an inhabitant of Jericho – protected the Israelite spies at the risk of her own life (Joshua 2:3-4).  Who would have foreseen Gideon, who hid from the Midianites and doubted God, delivering Israel from Midian with only three hundred men?  Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth left her home to stay with Naomi after Naomi had lost the rest of her family (Ruth 1:16-17).  Though threatened with death in a fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol (Daniel 3:16-18).  Risking her life, Queen Esther entered King Ahasuerus’ throne room unbidden to intercede for the Jews (Esther 4:11).  Few of these men and women appear valorous.  Some were young, some weak, some lowly.  All were sinners.  In spite of this, they sacrificed their safety, homes, and lives to help those in need and honor God.   They were unlikely heroes who came when most needed and least expected.

Why, though, does the Bible include so many examples of God using fallen men and women to work his will?  The LORD of all the earth is mighty.  He could have accomplished all these events without raising up people and enabling them to be heroes.  Yet – or perhaps as a testimony to his power – God uses weak, sin-broken men and women to accomplish his purposes.  He can turn what is meant for evil into good (Genesis 50:20).  He can make strong the weak, embolden the meek, and give faith to the faithless.  Paul writes,

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).

Knowing that God can use them for his great purposes, in all that God calls Christians to do, let them work as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23).  No matter who people are or what talents they have, anyone can unexpectedly be a hero, for heroism encompasses the ordinary, as well as the extraordinary, acts of bravery.

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Judges 7 (Illustration by Arrietty)

At the same time, however, Christians need to realize a truth of even greater importance.  As my pastor once said, “In our story, the hero is never us:  it is Christ in us.”  Only by the faith God gave them did Noah build the ark, Rahab protect the spies, and Gideon rout Midian (Hebrews 11:7, 31-34).  Esther understood she relied on a power greater than hers for success, and for this reason she asked the Jews to fast three days for her before she visited the king (Esther 4:16).  People cannot be heroes on their own.  To be heroes, they need the most unlikely hero of all.  He was “despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5).

Jesus Christ is more than a hero, though.  He is the Savior of the world.  He is not someone people need only on an occasional basis when they’re in danger or when life’s hard – not someone merely to admire or esteem.  Without him, all men and women are doomed.  With him, they have victory.  When the world was lost in sin and mankind’s hearts were hardened against God, an unexpected champion came, and he died that those who put their trust in him might live.

Heroes are not always what people expect them to be.  The Messiah God had told Israel to expect and whom they had long awaited came, but many did not recognize him.  He was not what they expected – not a conquering king of royalty and power.  Or at least, he didn’t appear to be.  Yet because of Christ, those who believe in him now have the power to conquer sin in their lives.  Because of Christ, they can get up again after falling.  Because of Christ, they now desire to be more like him.  And sometimes in their life’s race, following and imitating Christ will require them to be unlikely heroes when most needed and least expected.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Oxford Edition: 1769; King James Bible

Online, 2008. http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/.

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-ARRIETTY-