family in into the spider-verse

Without a doubt, the most important part of SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is its exploration of family. The nature of spider heroes usually leaves them pretty isolated in that capacity. After all, the defining moment of Peter Parker’s life is the death of Uncle Ben. What makes Miles Morales’ own foray into becoming a hero unique is how present his parents are in his life. INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE delves into Miles’ relationship with his family. Their influence contributes directly to his journey as the new Spider-man of his universe.

family in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

That’s a Copy

What sets Miles apart from most iterations of Spider-man is how present his family is in his life. INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE introduces viewers to Miles by placing him in a distinctly mundane moment. Quite frankly, there’s nothing more relatable than Miles singing along to “Sunflower,” forgetting every other word while his parents remind him to get ready for school. Simply witnessing Miles’ scattered morning routine tells the viewers all the important things we need to know about Miles’ life and family in just a few minutes. The organized chaos of it all is at once familiar and inviting.

Further, the movie hones in on Miles’ relationship with his father. The car ride to school illustrates the strain between father and son. Jefferson wants to relate to Miles but doesn’t quite know how; Miles is ready to write off his dad’s efforts as an annoyance rather than something genuine. Despite their initial disconnect, though, the movie emphasizes how much the pair love each other anyway. It’s a humorous moment for the audience and incredibly embarrassing for Miles, but the love between them is real. The strength of that love follows Miles throughout the film, even when tensions between him and his parents rise.

family in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Sometimes your dad just has to embarrass you. Image courtesy of Sony PicturesEntertainment.

The scene between Miles and his dad after Aaron’s death is easily one of the most heartbreaking moments in the entire movie. At the moment, Jefferson believes Miles doesn’t want to speak to him, but he still has to tell him the truth about Aaron. Miles, on the other side of the closed door, can’t respond because his mouth is webbed shut. Not to mention that Miles had been there when Aaron died, and blames himself. However, he can’t tell his father that.

Your Parents Believe in You

Jefferson’s speech to his son reaffirms the love he has for his son. Beyond that, it reinforces the importance of having a stable family dynamic. Miles’ entire world has been turned upside down, but he can always count on his parents to be there for and believe in him. This moment sets the groundwork for Miles to open up more to his parents — at the film’s conclusion, Jefferson makes an honest effort to support Miles’ artwork in a manner that doesn’t conflict with his job as a cop. In fact, the effort means so much to Miles that the audience can clearly see him holding back tears. Miles even hugs his father in costume and comedically tries to lower his voice.

family in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

A typical hero story will usually ignore the parents of teenage superheroes. Sometimes they’re just dead or absent, allowing the protagonist to get away with much more than usual. But Miles Morales’ family is present in his life and they care about him. When Miles stops attending school regularly to deal with Kingpin and the other Spider-people, viewers get a scene of Miles’ parents desperately trying to contact him. Another similar scene occurs during the earthquake at the film’s climax, with both Rio and Jefferson trying to contact the school and their son. The story never makes Miles’ parents an afterthought. 

The Shoulder Touch

Would it be a Spider-man story if someone’s uncle didn’t die? No. Uncle Aaron is the complete opposite of Miles’ upstanding, policeman father. Despite being estranged from Miles’ parents, Aaron still has a strong relationship with his nephew. Before Miles finds out about his uncle’s alter ego is the Prowler, his uncle represents everything about his life that Miles feels like his parents don’t understand. Jefferson discourages tagging from a legal standpoint, whereas Aaron finds obscure and hidden spots for Miles to work on his art, encouraging his development. Aaron listens to Miles’ complaints about his new school; Jefferson expresses frustration that his son can’t see the opportunities Brooklyn Visions Academy presents him.

family in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

After getting his powers, Miles uses Aaron’s apartment as a home base of sorts while he’s trying to keep New York from disappearing into a black hole. It’s a complicated web of family dynamics to navigate, one that can’t be divided so easily into what’s “good” and what’s “bad.”

A Change in the Prowler

Miles’ relationship with his uncle is integral to his development as a hero. It’s actually an interesting change from comic book to movie. In ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN, Miles’ relationship with his uncle is much more sinister. Despite an early and easy camaraderie, Aaron finds out about his nephew’s power and tries to use Miles as a weapon. The subsequent fallout results in Uncle Aaron’s death. The circumstances surrounding Aaron’s death are muddled enough that Miles worries he’s at fault.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

However, Uncle Aaron as a member of the family in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE is a man who’s in over his head. His last words to his nephew — that he just wanted Miles to look up to him — are tragic. This version of Uncle Aaron did everything he could for his nephew. It just wasn’t enough to keep him alive. Uncle Aaron’s loss continues to influence Miles throughout the rest of movie. Most notably, Miles’ finishing move against Kingpin is a callback to an earlier, lighthearted moment between uncle and nephew. After all, no one can resist the Shoulder Touch.

Oh My God, Do I Want Kids?

Peter B. Parker of an alternate universe (who may or may not be the Tobey Maguire Ghost of Movies Passed) tells the audience right from the beginning that his marriage failed because he couldn’t fathom the additional commitment of having children. As a result, Peter’s mentor/mentee relationship with Miles is a wake-up call. It not only helps Miles embrace his new future but helps Peter realize he might be ready for a kid. It makes sense that Peter would be hesitant about having kids. He was a kid himself when he got his powers — he has no idea what being a normal kid is like. Plus, having a kid of his own presents a million new ways for villains to try and ruin Peter’s life. It’s even more responsibility.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

In just a few days, Peter runs the gamut of emotions that come with being responsible for a reckless teenager. Once Peter takes his own leap of faith back into his own dimension, Peter attempts to mend things with MJ. I, for one, hope it works out.

Family in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE

Of course, it would be a mistake to leave out Kingpin. After the villain loses his wife and son in a car accident, he is quite literally willing to tear the world apart in order to get them back. In his efforts, Kingpin single-handedly brings together the multi-verse spider-people.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

In addition to the family in INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, loneliness and loss are also brought up as a running theme throughout the film. Every new spider character has lost someone important to them and thinks of themselves as the sole bearer of the Spider-man or Spider-woman mantle. The rag-tag group of heroes bond over their shared identity. Despite the fact that they’re all from different universes, the camaraderie of their make-shift family is important to them. As Miles ends INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, he tells the audience that though he may be the only Spider-man in his universe, he is definitely not alone.

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