An infinite number of Spider-Men and Miles Morales is the only hero among them. Spoilers ahead.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” Uncle Ben’s last words continue to resonate years since Cliff Robertson first uttered the iconic line in the web-slinger’s initial appearance on the big screen. And now all across and throughout an infinite number of realities, these words remain true.
These words of wisdom are the hero’s guiding light – a reminder of their duty. As a hero, if tragedy were to occur under your watch—no matter the reason, it was your fault. Such is the responsibility that comes with it. “He believed that if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things! That’s what’s at stake here. Not choice. Responsibility,” says Martin Sheen as Ben Parker from The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse shows what happens when the belief in this moral compass is taken to the extreme. And on the other hand, Miles Morales, despite there being an infinite number of Spider-Men, is the only hero among them.
Spider-Man 2099 aka Miguel O’Hara, revealed to Morales that certain things need to happen to all Spidermen. These so-called “canon events” cannot and should not be avoided, and disrupting them could result in the complete annihilation of entire universes. Unfortunately for Morales, one such event is the inevitable death of his father, Jefferson Davis. To make things worse, despite revealing the coming tragedy, O’Hara was adamant that they do nothing as it could possibly result in the death of billions. Morales, on the other hand, was not having it.
Spider-Man 2099 (O’Hara) exhibits taking it to the extreme – carrying so much responsibility that he has forgotten what being a hero meant. To be fair, he is correct. It would be unwise to risk billions of lives to save one – even if that one life belonged to your father. As Doctor Strange said in Spider-Man: No Way Home, “In the grand calculus of the multiverse, their sacrifice means far more than their deaths.”
But we don’t ask heroes to do the math; we already have scientists and politicians for that. And that’s why we constantly keep on getting bad decisions from them. Remember the first Avengers film? Remember when the higher-ups at S.H.I.E.L.D. decided to nuke New York City to prevent the spread of the invasion? It was a logical decision but it was shortsighted. They stop at seeking the route toward minimal losses. They try at first but when things take a turn for the worse, they run with their tails tucked between their legs.
Heroes? No, they don’t do that. They stop at nothing until the day is saved, no matter how dire things get. Lost limbs, fallen comrades, overwhelming odds – these mean nothing. They’re prepared to make what Captain America would call “the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.” And as we all remember, Tony Stark not only did it once, but twice. That goes beyond calculation or rational reasoning.
What would we do if our heroes stopped just because someone told them it was impossible?
It always goes back to the very simple concept of saving lives. That’s the mission. It may sound reckless and irresponsible but heroes don’t sweat the details and the specifics – they just do it. That’s why we idolize the fireman running headfirst into the burning building. Because what would have happened to the people trapped inside had they taken a minute to come up with a plan?
Spider-Man 2099 (O’Hara), the other Spider-Men, and Doctor Strange until the Multiverse of Madness film had become swallowed up by the responsibility they carry. They’ve become too realistic, engrossed with the facts and figures, the big picture. And as beings with immense power, that is a wonderful trait to have – a little bit of maturity is necessary after all.
But the very concept of the hero goes beyond realism. Super-human. Beyond what is normal. Heroes lie at an entirely different plane of existence where calculations, risk prevention, and self-preservation do not matter—they leave that responsibility to those who can’t do any better. Heroes shouldn’t be thinking like us, limited to what can be done, obscured to what should be done. Not only does it go against our differing natures, but it’s also a damn waste of their gifts.
And an infinite number of Spider-Men and surprisingly, Miles Morales is the only hero among them. Until the end that is. I’ll leave it at that. You have to watch Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse first.
Images courtesy of IMDB and Sony Pictures Releasing