Warning: SPOILERS for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse may be a fun adventure, but the movie also asks the question: what would have happened if Peter Parker's life didn't work out the way he hoped? But the answer is darker than fans expect... once they realize which Peter Parker the "washed-up" Spider-Man actually is.
While Into the Spider-Verse makes Miles Morales the star, that doesn't mean fans of Peter Parker will leave disappointed. After all, it's the perfect version of Spider-Man (played by Chris Pine) who shows Miles what a superhero looks like. That's before an older Peter B. Parker arrives to show Miles that superheroes don't always get a happy ending. The saddest part? Fans may miss the moment that proves this tragic Spider-Man is the 'original' Peter Parker Marvel fans know and love from the comics.
- This Page: The Old Spider-Man is The REAL Version
- Page 2: What Does That Make Chris Pine's Spider-Man?
Old Peter Parker Isn't an 'Alternate' Spider-Man
Since most people who rush out to see the origin story of Miles Morales won’t know the details about his “Ultimate” universe, an alternate-reality from the main universe in which all of Marvel’s heroes were born and exist. But even those who do will be faced with one simple fact: that given his origin, his personality, his life, and his popularity, the Spider-Man Miles knows is the same one that WE know. At least, he’s the version of Peter Parker that we’re most familiar with. He got the girl, he protected New York, and he gave his life fighting to protect the innocent, the way the ‘true’ Peter Parker ultimately would.
Which makes Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) seem like the inverse - the version of Spider-Man that ‘could’ have come to be, if everything had gone wrong. Or perhaps for older viewers and comic fans, what would have happened if Spider-Man got old like the rest of us. He and MJ split up. Aunt May died. He put on weight, and stopped being a hero. If Pine’s Parker is the Spider-Man we all know and love, Johnson’s Parker is the depressing one fans were lucky to never see.
Which makes it even more crushing when you realize which version of Spider-Man the older, washed-up hero actually is...
Old Peter Parker is The 'True' Spider-Man
Yes, as much of a bummer as it will be to accept, Jake Johnson’s version of Spider-Man is the hero of Marvel’s main, canonical universe. Some viewers will obviously be skeptical, and refuse to believe that such a cautionary tale of love and loss is what awaits their beloved, Peter in his future, but the movie states it outright. But to catch the confirmation, fans will need to keep their eyes peeled on just which dimensions these Spider-heroes are arriving from, courtesy of Kingpin and Doc Ock’s collider-teleporter-Kirby-cannon.
We'll get to the details in a moment, but we won't bury the lede: the washed-up Peter Parker is shown to hail from Earth-616. And make no mistake, Spider-Man fans, the Earth designated "616" has always referred to the "true" Marvel Comic reality. Meaning it isn’t some alternate reality Peter Parker whose story turns out bad, but the Peter Benjamin Parker the world knows as the first, and forever Spider-Man. Which is going to raise some serious questions.
Page 2 of 2: What Does This Make Chris Pine's Spider-Man?
Old Spider-Man Comes From Marvel's Main Universe
To make sure that readers know we’re not simply making this up, or claiming a ‘theory’ as fact, Into the Spider-Verse makes this fact clear. As Spider-Man does battle with Green Goblin in the test chamber, the film also shows Kingpin’s scientists working to analyze the reaction. The experiment is being monitored on-site by both Kingpin and Dr. Olivia Octavius, with the latter heard shouting over the dimensional earthquakes that she sees "multiple dimensions opening... four… five different dimensions. It’s unstable!" As the line is delivered, Kingpin looks to a nearby monitor for an illustration of the dimensions collapsing into their own. Fortunately for fans, the realities in question are clearly labeled.
The central reality or dimension in the web schematic is E-1610, the “Ultimate” Universe, in which Miles and this version of the world exist (and to which the other heroes are being transported). The others are as follows:
- E-14211: Home of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Woman
- E-90214: Marvel Noir, Home of Spider-Noir
- E-8311: Larval Earth, Home of Spider-Ham
- E-14512: Future Earth, Home of SP//der
- E-616: The Marvel Universe, Home of Spider-Man
The movie and its creators stick as close to the comic book source material as possible, whenever possible, so it should come as no surprise to find that these are the real alternate dimensions to which each of these heroes ‘officially’ belong in Marvel canon. The science confirms that Peter B. Parker - the superhero who lost his money, his love, and his drive to be a hero as he moved into middle age - is the Spider-Man plucked out of Marvel’s main universe.
Chris Pine’s Spider-Man is The Brand, Not The Man
Since the movie’s realities and the identity of a ‘true’ Spider-Man are only meaningful within the movie’s fiction (you won’t see Marvel Comics making the movie’s future canon) the true purpose or meaning of Chris Pine’s Spider-Man is worth some discussion. After all, if he’s the younger version of the same physical person as the ‘real’ Spider-Man, but has already lived a different life, what version is he supposed to be? And to those who would say he’s simply the “Ultimate” version, as in the comics, there’s a problem. The version of Spider-Man who inspired Miles Morales was killed at the age of sixteen, not twenty-six. A small detail, but a clear choice to avoid canon.
The best, or at least most interesting thing to consider is that Chris Pine’s Spider-Man isn’t just ‘perfect,’ but seems to have lived through… well, just about every facet of the Spider-Man mythology. The suits and memorabilia in his Spider-Man lair pull from decades of Spider-Man lore, right up to the costume seen in the new Spider-Man video game for the PlayStation 4. Based on his life and legacy, it wouldn’t be exaggeration to say that Pine’s Spider-Man is an embodiment of Spider-Man as an icon, a product, and a legacy. He isn’t the real Spider-Man, he’s what the world thinks of when they think of Spider-Man… whether or not it would all be possible for a man barely through his thirties. He also doesn’t have a middle name, since... who knew Peter Parker has a middle name?
It may be a more philosophical exercise than some viewers will be interested in, but it’s sure to feel truer and truer with each new Marvel movie installment, reboot, and franchise. The original Peter suffered the loss of Aunt May... which was inevitable given her original age. The original Peter lost his wife over fears of being a father... which makes sense, given Peter’s own childhood. But in the end, the original Peter still got the chance to grow with age, and give things a second chance. Even if he was a far cry from the youthful, baby-faced, and leading-man blond version of himself he saw plastered on billboards upon arrival in Miles' world.
Compare that to the famous, beloved Spider-Man of Miles’ reality, and the hero's fate says more about him as an icon than as a regular human being. He never had to worry about growing old, because he never got to. His collection of gadgets and products from a lifetime of past adventures far exceeds that of the original Peter, even though it defies the limitations or logic of time. Still, he was a hero the world loved without knowing personally, and inspired Miles to believing that the person beneath the Spider-Man mask mattered less than the mask itself.
We hope readers will enjoy considering this distinction as much as we have, down to the fact that the ‘real’ version spends most of the film with his mask off, showing Miles and the audience what truly became of Peter Parker. What became of Spider-Man? Look no further than the man/idea that helped make Miles Morales the next successor to the name.