There’s a dividing school of thought among a lot of Spider-Man fans. Those old enough to have lived through the Tobey Maguire version of the red-suited superhero will often argue that he is the best version. As the first superhero to make a modern appearance on the big screen, it is easy to argue for his supremacy. The original Spider-Man trilogy was fun and colorful, with characters that felt like they had stepped out of the comics and into the movie.
Tom Holland on the other hand (we’re gonna pretend like Andrew Garfield never happened) represents Spider-Man’s entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much darker, more realistic and tenser than the older movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming saw toned down villains, and comic book influence restrained to fit into the tone of the MCU. Without nostalgia, and only one stand-alone movie to his name, its difficult to make a case for Tom Holland as the definitive Spider-Man, even if Stan Lee himself weighed in to give Holland his approval.
As it turns out, neither camp is correct here. Tobey will always be the first Spider-Man, and Tom may be the physically closest to what Stan Lee had imagined, but 2018 gave us what is definitively the best Spider-Man movie to have ever been made: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
As an animated film, it may perhaps have some advantages its real-life counterparts do not. The film is not restrained by casting concerns, digital effects or acting skill. Its ability to take those advantages and use them to their fullest extent treats us to a Spider-Man movie that can replace all others.
Miles Morales, a young boy living in New York City, is bitten by a spider in a pretty famous origin story. Soon enough he finds himself transforming into Spider-Man and trying to make sense of what is happening to him. This eventually leads him to find Wilson Fisk, also known as Kingpin, building a giant Supercollider in order to try and rip a hole into other dimensions. Fisk succeeds (kind of), but instead of achieving his goal, he manages to reach out to other universes, pulling their respective versions of Spider-Man into the one inhabited by Fisk and Morales.
From there it’s up to Miles, Peter Parker and various other versions of Spider-Men to stop Fisk, return to their original universes and save the city. A pretty boilerplate plot for a comic book movie, especially an animated one, but what makes this movie different is the cast.
Peter Parker is not the only Spider-Man to have existed, especially not in the comics. Ben Reilly, Mac Gargan, Mattie Franklin and Otto Octavius have all at some point taken on the mantle of Spider-Man, and those names are just in the main continuity of the Spider-Man comics. Branch out into the Alternate Universe storylines, and the list grows even further.
So while Peter Parker still dominates as the Spider-Man everybody knows and loves, a major movie featuring different versions of the hero is important. Miles Morales is a black/latino teenager. Gwen Stacy (Spider-Gwen) is a woman. Featuring characters like this in a major Spider-Man production not only offers viewers diversity and positive role models of color and gender, but it also helps push the narrative forward in interesting ways.
Beyond that, it acts as a small nod to Spider-Man fans around the world, offering them a look at some lesser known but still beloved characters they may not have ever thought would make it to cinemas.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a risk taken when Marvel had no reason to take one. Peter Parker is synonymous with the role and seeing someone else fill that role could have backfired. So far, though, the Miles Morales version has seen great success and fantastic critical reception, proving that there is life after a white male Spider-Man.
Tobey Maguire and Tom Holland fans can debate over which version is the best live-action interpretation of Spider-Man, but in the long term, neither one of them comes close to being the best. Neither series of Spider-Man movies can hold the title of the definitive version. Not anymore. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is by far the best Spider-Man movie to ever hit theatrical release, and the gap isn’t even close.
Caleb Edwards is a junior studying professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing. When he isn’t working or writing you can find him tending his fish, taking care of his cats or trying to find free time that he can waste (there never is any). You can follow him on Twitter @CEdwardsSam