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Movie Review: ‘A Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story’

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Shameik Moore as Miles Morales / Spider-Man in 'The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story.'

Shameik Moore as Miles Morales / Spider-Man in ‘The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story.’ Photo: Sony Pictures.

A Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story’ originally premiered at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival last June and was made widely available by Sony Animation Pictures on March 28th, 2024. The short film takes a closer look at the superhero Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as he struggles to balance his life as a teenager, a friend, and the responsibilities of being Spider-man. As the pressure continues to build on Miles, he experiences a panic attack that forces him to face the manifestation of his anxiety in this thriller short film.

Initial Thoughts

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.'

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.’

Fans of the ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ animated franchise will be excited to see another chapter of the story, no matter how short it is. Especially when it carries an important message – that everyone, even superheroes, struggles with mental health.

While there are no explosive action scenes, this 7-minute and 14-second short still packs a punch. It’s eerie and unsettling, and as Miles’ anxiety kicks in, his world warp into chaotic visuals that represent how anxiety or a panic attack can feel like. Going the horror route definitely feels like the right choice for this story.

Aside from creepy optics, the short did a good job of communicating the feeling of being overwhelmed and when anxiety takes over your body. Small details like Miles’ heavy breathing as he tries to calm his nerves, the sleep paralysis, and his shaky hand on the doorknob made it feel even more real and relatable.

‘A Spider Within’: Story and Direction

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation's 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.'

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation’s ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.’

‘A Spider Within’ is directed by Jarelle Dampier, who took a horror angle for this story. In an interview with The Wrap, Dampier says the inspiration came from his own experience with sleep paralysis. Aside from the performance from Shamiek Moore, what really sold the horror aspect was the sound effects and music. It wasn’t anything we heard in pervious films. For example, when Miles’ anxiety shifts from a large spider into millions of smaller spiders crawling all over his body is paired with the rapid plucking of strings, much like we often hear in horror films. The sound will have your hairs standing on ends and feel like there are spiders crawling all over you too.

As a juxtaposition to the jump scares and loud sounds are the quiet moments. This comes right after Miles’ mind is plagued with overlapping dialogue from the day – “These grades are unacceptable. You need to apply yourself. You always seem so distracted.” These conversations grows so loud, which makes the following silent moment standout even more.

‘A Spider Within’: Performances

Shameik Moore as Miles Morales / Spider-Man in 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.'

Shameik Moore as Miles Morales / Spider-Man in ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.’ Photo: Sony Pictures.

Returning to the role of Miles Morales is Shameik Moore. Aside from a quick exchange with his father Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) before heading into his room, Miles is alone for most of the short. This means it was solely up to Moore to deliver all the emotion Miles was feeling. With two ‘Spider-Verse’ movies under his belt, Moore delivered on all fronts, perfectly portraying the panic in Miles’ voice, as well as the tone of frustration as he shoulders the pressure of living a double life.

‘A Spider Within’: Final Thoughts

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.'

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.’

Spider-man has always struggled with the pressure of living the double life, and the sense of doing too much and not enough is well conveyed in this short film. The moments of Miles feeling overwhelmed, and his struggle to open up about it is so relatable. By putting this story into the ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ world is great way to deliver the message of the importance of mental health and reaching out for help.

Horror and jump scares aside, the final moment when Miles opens up to his dad will surely drum up some emotions in the audience.

‘A Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story’ receives 8 out of 10 stars.

“Everyone is going through something.”

After a particularly challenging day, Miles experiences a panic attack that forces him to confront the manifestations of his anxiety and learn that reaching out… Read the Plot

What’s the Plot of ‘A Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story’?

Miles Morales is feeling the pressure of being both Spider-man and a teenager. As he struggles to juggle everything in his life, anxiety and panic kicks in and inevitably manifests itself, forcing Miles to come face-to-face with it.

Sony Pictures Animation has teamed up with the Kevin Love Fund to digitally release the animated short film, ‘The Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story’, that will be incorporated into the Kevin Love Fund’s new mental health focused lesson plan, “The Hero Within”. The lesson plan invites students to tell their own story through the lens of mental health awareness via an interactive curriculum including a creative storyboard activity. Visit kevinlovefund.org for additional information.

‘A Spider Within’ was developed and produced by Sony’s LENS (Leading and Empowering New Storytellers) program, a 9-month leadership training program that provide candidates from underrepresented groups with an opportunity to gain valuable leadership experience in animation.

Who is in the cast of  ‘A Spider Within: A Spider-Verse Story’?

Returning to reprise his roles as Miles Morales is Shameik Moore. Brian Tyree also returns as the voice of Jefferson Davis.

‘A Spider Within’ is written by Khailia Amazan and produced by LENS program creators Michelle Raimo-Kouyate and David Schulengurg. Clara Chan served as VFX supervisor ad Joe Darko served as animation supervisor.

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.'

Spider-Man/Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animations’ ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.’

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