After watching Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (ATSV) for the fifth time in theaters today, I finally realized why I adore this movie. In fact, this simple realization made me understand why I wasn't so big on the Tom Holland or Andrew Garfield films: New York City and the spirit the city brings to the hero. Batman has Gotham City, Superman has Metropolis, and Spider-Man has New York—the Big Apple. Talk to any New Yorker, and you will get a consensus: Spider-Man is one of our most significant symbols. And, it goes without saying: Spider-man is a New Yorker. Simple as that. Thus, a simple extension to this idea is that if you want to get Spider-Man right, you must capture New York right, or it won't work. Imagine Spider-Man swinging in a rural town --- it's silly. It just can't work; unless you intend to power down a hero. Now, with all this said and done, I want to highlight why some Spider-Man films are so beloved among die-hard fans and why some failed to impact the public through an analysis of New York's Music, Culture, and People in these films.
Ever since I gained consciousness, I only remembered one place: New York City. My sweet, dirty, and magnificent home. While I'm personally from the best borough--Brooklyn, I take pride in all of New York City and my fellow New Yorkers. This is why, I believe, I'm qualified to talk shit and praise the city when it is needed and why I notice when there is something fundamentally odd about establishing the city in an adaption. With that as a preface, let's get started!
"Stand clear of the closing doors please.", When I first heard this phrase in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (ITSV), as Miles was trying to escape the Prowler, I knew the film's creators truly understood how to make New York City culture shine. After a beaming introduction to Miles's neighborhood filled with teenagers playing basketball, walking, and trying to get to school, you are placed at the heart of Brooklyn with all its busyness and liveliness. You are set in a film that happens to focus on our protagonist, Miles, but with how packed the block is, you understand the New York is a city where events occur 24/7. These shots characterize and make the viewer understand why any Spider-man would have difficulty with time management --- it's part of the culture of New York to always hustling. So, when you see and hear the train make that little announcement after nearly crushing Miles, it only furthers the viewer's understanding that the city never stops and the environment that makes shapes Spider-Man's ability to always get up.
Now, moving on to a different movie, Spider-Man 2 (Raimi), we see similar characteristics displayed as we journey through Peter's everyday life. Immediately after Peter tries to jump off a building, fails, and lands on a car injuring his back, we get a slow shot of Peter walking away with no one paying attention. While the scene was definitely included for comedic effect, it illustrates a unique characteristic of New York: everyone is doing their thing. It significantly contributes to why many people consider New Yorkers cold, distant, or unfriendly if they are from somewhere other than the city. Yet, from the perspective of a New Yorker, this is our way of showing kindness: we are aware that everyone has their problems, which is why we give them space unless they ask for our help. Despite all of this, the famous train scene cements my opinion that Spider-Man 2 did New York right. Immediately after Peter stops the train from falling off the bridge, we are shown an incredible scene where New Yorkers, on their own, form a shield to protect Spider-man from Doc Ock. As previously stated, New Yorkers try to leave other New Yorkers alone. Still, when the time comes, you find us protesting and roaming the streets to bring awareness to societal problems. Being released a few months after 9/11, this scene highlighted and condensed another significant quirk of New York: we protect our own even if we aren't strong enough. The action taken by the people on the train supplements that the love between Spider-man and New York goes both ways and that Spider-man is at his best when interacting with his people: New Yorkers.
Even more, Spider-Man Into, Across, and the Raimi trilogy further this claim by combining music and striking visuals. Hip-hop is a genre crucial to New York's nightlife. With songs like "The Empire State Of Mind" by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z or "Big Poppa" by Notorious B.I.G., New York has a reputation for being a center of music and creativity. By hiring specifically Black and Latino artists to create both Spider-verse's soundtracks, we receive songs that describe the culture of the people in New York. For instance, "Familia" by Nicki Minaj, Anuel AA, and Bantu merges Spanish and English to represent the hundreds of Spanish immigrants that grow with both languages. Combined with visuals that include both New Yorkers and Spider-man, viewers are allowed to experience the mass diversity that New York has without it being forced down their throats. Furthermore, the Raimi trilogy instead opts to show the creativity of New York by having an underground Asian violinist sing and perform songs about Spider-Man. Reflecting a common experience in New York, where Musicians try to prompt their selves by performing live in train stations or busy New York streets. Both examples demonstrate how these films lean onto New York experiences to enhance Spider-Man's reputation as a friendly and local superhero -- creating a realistic world that hosts the web-slinger that you can imagine living instead of a pure fantasy world with no ties to the real New York.
As a juxtaposition, we can see why most die-hard Spider-Man fans were not pleased by Tom Holland or Andrew Garfield's editions of our webbed hero as their versions aren't engrained in New York culture. Tom Holland's Spider-Man, in specific, lacks the charm of a local Spider-man in most of his trilogy. With one film completely taking place away from New York. Spider-Man is a tragic hero who understands he can use his powers to help others. At the core of his character is a funny individual who uses his abilities to fight various supervillains and, more importantly, helps the people in his community. Garfield and Holland's Spider-Man only really did the former as both heavily needed more interactions with nonimportant characters, i.e., their local new yorkers. Spider-Man is supposed to be relatable, but how can viewers relate to a character if his environment is highly unrealistic? In a way, these films were cinematic superhero movies but not actual Spider-Man films.
Spider-Man shines when he interacts with his community. Any superhero can have fantastic action scenes that place them in dangerous situations, but not every superhero can be relatable. Spider-Man is supposed to be relatable. Anyone can be Spider-Man with the drive and connection to their environment. If you get the setting right, you enhance Spider-Man. If you get it wrong or a lack his friendliness, then he is just a superhero, but he isn't a true Spider-Man. Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse gets it right, which is why I love it. Simple as that.
Another thing, I want to talk about is how much I relate to Miles and his Mom LOL. I got a full scholarship to a good school, and my mom tried to convince me to rejected it cuz it was too far. She wanted me to go a community college a few miles from my house. See, this is what I mean Spider-Man needs to be relatable.