Martinez: Why “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is my Best Picture

Marissa Martinez, Opinion Editor

Anyone who knows me knows I can’t shut up about “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Yes, I have seen it three times in theaters. Yes, I have cried all three times.

It’s hard to explain why the movie touches me so much. I mean, on a surface level, the stunning animation styles that referenced different Spider-Man artists cause my jaw to drop. The way the artists seamlessly blended several visual effects in 2D and 3D gave the movie depth a live version could never touch. The soundtrack (that I listen to more frequently than should be allowed) is one of the best movie albums I’ve ever heard — save for “Black Panther” — because of how easily I can picture individual scenes when a new song plays and feel the emotional rush of watching the movie all over again. Even the script was amazing, its one-liners making me chuckle way too loud every time. Technically, everything was perfect.

But my love for it goes a lot deeper than that. Miles Morales, a middle schooler who assumes the new position of Spider-Man, is black and Puerto Rican. My dad grew up reading comics voraciously and passed that love and knowledge on to me, and that connection will always be there for me. I got to see a black and Latino boy, who is just like my dad, portrayed as a normal pre-teen who’s trying to figure life out.

As the Best Animated Feature Film category came up on the screen during the Academy Awards, everyone in the room’s eyes turned toward me. I knew it was an almost guaranteed win, but a grin still spread across my face when the production team and cast crowded the stage to receive the prize. That smile dropped when my eyes teared up during Phil Lord’s acceptance speech: “When we hear that somebody’s kid was watching the movie and turned to them and said, ‘He looks like me,’ or ‘They speak Spanish like us,’ we feel like we already won.”

“Somebody’s kid” is me. Spider-Man’s narrative is about being an awkward young adult thrust into an impossible scenario but being forced to do good in spite of, and because of, his tough circumstances. Even though he wasn’t the strongest or most confident or most popular person, Peter Parker put on the mask and went to work every day to save the city he loved, dropping sarcastic remarks the whole time. That’s something so many of us can relate to already — making him an Afro-Latino boy-next-door only makes it that much easier.

Watching this film isn’t just personally meaningful; it’s pure fun. I love watching Miles grow up. I love seeing him interact with the other iterations of Spider-men and Spider-women. I love seeing him work through his fears of having all this newfound power — and yes, responsibility — thrust at him all at once. His powerful leap off a building toward the end makes my heart literally skip beats every time as I unconsciously lean forward, amazed by the scene unfolding in front of me. The pure orgullo, pride, I feel radiates through my body from start to finish.

So that’s why I can’t — and won’t — stop talking about “Into the Spider-Verse.” It was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen from a storytelling, animation and creativity perspective. It was also the most relatable and diverse superhero movie I’ve ever seen. And the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The diversity of the producers and directors and their care and attention to telling Miles’ story correctly shone through the whole film, which made Peter Ramsey the first African-American director to win Best Animated Feature Film.

Most people who tell me they haven’t seen the film yet claim it’s because they hate superhero movies, or animated ones, or both. But their resistance doesn’t really matter — the people who needed to see it did. Hopefully, multiple times like me.

And you best believe that after all those viewings, I’m still buying the DVD.

Marissa Martinez is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.