'Into the Spider-Verse' Shows Off Spider-Man's True Potential

The film is taking a page from its source material in a way that's more direct than almost any movie before it.

Everyone’s favorite wall-crawler has returned to animation, but this time Peter Parker will be sidelined as a new Spider-Man shoots into the spotlight. Wednesday morning, Sony Animation released the first full trailer for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The film, from writer Phil Lord (The Lego Movie), will introduce audiences to Miles Morales on the big screen. 

Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, and introduced in Marvel’s now-defunct Ultimate comics line in 2011, Miles gained global attention and has since been brought into the main Marvel Universe. The Afro-Latino teenager’s webhead adventures have been well-received in terms of both representation and long-form storytelling, quickly growing him a following. Many fans of the character were hoping that when Spider-Man was initiated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after Marvel Studios’ deal with Sony, that it would be the Miles Morales version of the character. Ultimately, Marvel went with Peter Parker (Tom Holland), a decision that has worked very well, while Miles' existence was hinted at through the brief appearance by his uncle Aaron Davis (Donald Glover) in 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming.

While moviegoers will have to wait awhile until they see Miles in live action, the character has a big year ahead of him with Into the Spider-Verse as well as an appearance in Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man for the PlayStation 4. But as the latest trailer shows, Miles isn’t the only web-slinger putting a new spin on Marvel’s beloved property. Co-directed by the team of Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, Into the Spider-Verse follows Miles, his supporting cast, and struggles with power and responsibility, and depicts New York through his perspective — quite distinct from Peter Parker’s.

The biggest difference between Peter and Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore) is the latter doesn’t have the familial tragedy that prompts him to become Spider-Man. Of course, dealing with his parents adds new pressures to his secret identity, especially since his dad is a cop. Miles' parents, Jefferson (Brain Tyree Henry) and Rio (Luna Lauren Velez) are significant parts of the boy’s life and the trailer plays up this aspect. While Jefferson will seemingly be a source of humor as a loving and devoted father, he carries a deep mistrust of costumed heroes and their lack of accountability, something we get a sense of very early on in the trailer. In the comics, Miles is forced to hide his powers from his father out of shame, which creates a complex relationship between the two. While things seem a bit more relaxed between them here, Jefferson, the brother of criminal mastermind The Prowler, and a once and future SHIELD agent, may be challenged by his own secrets over the course of the film.

A large part of Miles' existence comes down to Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, and his efforts to create a super-soldier serum. In the Ultimate Marvel Universe, where Miles originated, Norman created genetically engineered spiders that resulted in Peter Parker gaining the powers of Spider-Man — much like in the events of Sam Raimi's 2002 film. But he didn’t create just one spider, and through happenstance or fate, Miles was later bitten and also received powers. He didn’t become Spider-Man right away, as there was already one in existence. After witnessing Peter’s showdown with Norman Osborn, which left both characters dead, Miles took up Spider-Man’s mantle. It looks like events may play out similarly here, with the Green Goblin we see in the trailer looking very similar to his Ultimate counterpart. Peter will definitely play a major role in the film, given the existence of multiple universes, but with a previous teaser trailer showing Peter's grave, it seems that at least a version of him will die. 

Into the Spider-Verse looks like it’ll take a very direct approach to its comic book influences, perhaps more direct than in the dozens of comic films that have proceeded it, save for Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City (2005). Text boxes appear onscreen as Miles discovers his powers, creating a new visual style for the animated film. But in addition to taking a direct approach with comic book visuals, the film also sticks close to comic book concepts. The Spider-Verse is a fairly recent addition to Marvel’s canon, though the existence of a multiverse has been a staple almost since the beginning of its publication. The Spider-Verse concept, which came from the event of the same name by Dan Slott and Oliver Coipel in 2014, saw Spider-Men and Spider-Women from across the multiverse unite to defeat Morlun and the Inheritors, a group that feeds on Totems, individuals like Spider-Man, who are connected to the animal kingdom. We see alternate costumes in the trailer, but it’s unknown whether they are ones belonging to Peter (Jake Johnson) or memorials to the heroes who have fallen.

Johnson’s Peter certainly looks a little worse for the wear. Strapped for cash and looking a little homeless, it’s clear by the graying hair at his temples that this version has been doing the Spider-Man thing for a while. While there’s no telling whether this version is the Spider-Man that Miles is familiar with from his world or one from another universe, it’s clear he’s intent on training Miles to be Spider-Man, which suggests a major battle down the line. In the comics, Miles' training was largely left up to a female clone of Peter, Jessica Drew, who served as the Ultimate Universe’s Spider-Woman. He didn’t meet Peter until the machinations of Mysterio brought them together in the 2012 crossover Spider-Men. Here, it looks like Miles will meet his hero a lot earlier in his journey, but Peter may not be what he was expecting.

The trailer gives us a brief glimpse at The Prowler, Miles’ Uncle Aaron, who will be voiced by Mahershala Ali. Undoubtedly, Miles and his uncle will come to blows, but with the Green Goblin already showcased and the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) quickly glimpsed from behind, we’re left wondering how these adversaries connect, if at all. If the film is taking the time to establish multiple spider-people, there may just be a larger adversary at play, perhaps Morlun.

Not one to be kept behind the scenes is Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld). Spider-Gwen is another recent addition to the Marvel Universe that has enjoyed its own success and solo series. Hailing from an alternate reality where high-schooler Gwen was bitten by a radioactive spider instead of Peter, Gwen becomes Spider-Woman with her own version of Spidey’s foes given new twists. Just as Gwen came to a tragic end in the central Marvel Universe, Peter is her source of tragedy in this alternate reality. It will be very interesting to see how these versions of Gwen and Peter interact with each other and how much of their comic book history remains intact. In the comics, Miles also enjoyed a brief romance with Gwen, which may be something picked up on in this film as well. Spider-Gwen’s appearance in Into the Spider-Verse comes as a surprise, and given the minds behind this project, and the source material from which it borrows, it seems likely that it’s the first of many surprises when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swings into theaters in December.