Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Zoom-In Beat Sheet Analysis
The web of Spider-Man’s origin story has been spun many times on the big screen. Fans and non-fans alike are familiar with the maxim, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
When a story is so familiar, how can a writer breathe new life into it?
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse accomplishes such a feat, not only by adding several different incarnations of the web-swinging hero, but also by carefully planting multiple set-ups and payoffs.
By examining the beat sheet for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, you can become a master of weaving a web of set-ups and payoffs, as we highlight those set-ups and pay-offs in our first specially focused—”Zoom-In”—Beat Sheet Analysis.
Written by: Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman
Story by: Phil Lord
Directed by: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman
Genre: Rites of Passage (Adolescent)
Opening Image: A comic book cover asks, “Who is Spider-Man?” A brief montage features Spider-Man retelling his origin story and how his crime-fighting heroics have led to his massive popularity. “No matter how many hits I take, I always find a way to come back,” he says (set-up: survivor). As he winks, showing how cool he is, he says, “There’s only one Spider-Man. And you’re looking at him.”
Set-Up: In Brooklyn, teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) delays getting ready for his week at preparatory school until he is hustled out the door by his parents. He opts to walk to school, slapping homemade graffiti stickers on street signs until a police car stops him.
As he takes a ride in the police car, we learn that the officer is his father, Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry). In one of the many things that need fixing, there is tension between Miles and his dad. The radio reports on a seismic event the night before (set-up: earthquake), which Spider-Man is looking into, prompting Jefferson to reveal his distaste for the superhero.
Theme Stated: When Miles questions why he needs to go to a different school, Jefferson tells him that he might end up like Miles’s Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) (set-up: Uncle Aaron). When Miles asks what is wrong with his Uncle, Jefferson says, “We all make choices in life.” In his thesis world, Miles must question what he will do with his life. It’s his life problem: he needs to know where he fits in and what he will do with the gifts he’s been given.
Set-Up (continued): As Miles gets out of the cruiser, his father uses the P.A. to demand that Miles say, “I love you” back (set-up: I love you). Humiliated, Miles enters the school, trying to fit in with the crowd. Arriving late to science class, he stumbles in, interrupting a video in which a female physicist describes the possibility of a multiverse (set-up: physicist).
In class, he meets a new girl whom he begins to flirt with. When the teacher privately confronts Miles about not doing his best, she assigns him an essay to force him to think about his life choices. That night, Miles sneaks out to visit his Uncle Aaron.
At Uncle Aaron’s apartment, it’s clear that the two have a special bond. Miles looks up to his uncle, who teaches him how to “put the moves” on a girl by using a technique called the “shoulder touch” (set-up: shoulder touch). When Uncle Aaron discovers Miles’s drawing notebook, he leads his nephew to an abandoned section of the subway to create some graffiti art. As they do so, a spider descends. When Aaron gets a phone call, he suddenly becomes serious and says they need to leave (set-up: secret life).
Catalyst: As they depart, the spider bites Miles, and he nonchalantly flicks it to the ground.
Debate: The next morning, Miles finds that his clothes have gotten smaller. He sees the new girl and tries to talk to her, attempting the “shoulder touch,” only to have it backfire as his hand sticks to her hair. When the two are freed, he is confronted by the security guard for sneaking out the night before.
In his effort to flee, Miles’s powers begin to manifest themselves, causing him to stick to the walls and ceiling, ultimately propelling him out the window where he finds himself stuck to pigeons. The new girl (Hailee Steinfeld) notices, and when Miles ends up in his own room, he discovers his roommate’s Spider-Man comic book, in which the hero faced the exact same situation. Does Miles have Spider powers now? “There can’t be two Spider-Men. Can there?” he asks himself.
That night, he visits the subway to find the spider that bit him. As he touches the arachnid, it glitches. Hearing a rumble in the distance, he goes to investigate, his new Spider-sense affecting him. He finds himself in the middle of a fight between Spider-Man (Chris Pine) and Green Goblin.
Spider-Man rescues Miles and puts him in a safe place, discovering that Miles is like him. When Miles says he doesn’t want to be, Spider-Man echoes the theme, replying, “I don’t think you have a choice, kiddo.”
Miles finds himself rejecting the gifts he’s been given, a wrong way of addressing his life problem. Kingpin soon arrives with Prowler (set-up: Prowler) and turns on the collider, the source of the tremors (payoff: earthquake). In the struggle, Goblin forces Spider-Man into the beam before it explodes. Miles rushes over to the injured Spider-Man, who gives him an override key.
As Miles hides, Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) confronts Spider-Man, dealing a death blow (payoff: survivor). Terrified, Miles runs away, pursued by Prowler, and accidentally breaks the override key. He makes it home, comforted by his parents. The news soon reveals that Spider-Man has been discovered dead.
Break into Two: The next day, a public funeral is held with many in attendance dressed up as the webslinger, Miles included. As Peter’s wife Mary Jane (Zoe Kravitz) states that her late husband believed anyone could be a hero, Miles realizes that Brooklyn is counting on him. In his antithesis world, Miles must choose what to do with the powers that have been given to him. Still, he has a long way to go if he is to discover who he is deep down.
B Story: When Miles visits the grave site of Peter Parker, a figure approaches him in the dark. Miles somehow zaps him with electricity (set-up: venom strike) and is hit by webbing. He investigates the person, who is also wearing a Spider-Man suit under his plainclothes. The “spiritual story” will focus on Miles’s relationship with this Peter Parker from an alternate universe, one who has lived with the consequences of his choice to be Spider-Man.
Fun and Games: The police arrive to find Miles with the unconscious Peter, and he accidentally uses Peter’s webbing to latch onto an elevated train as it speeds away (set-up: webbed train). He finds himself trying to safely navigate the two of them through the city’s traffic until the webbing lets them loose.
Miles takes Peter to Uncle Aaron’s apartment and ties him up to interrogate him, discovering that Peter is from another dimension. While Peter initially refuses to join Miles in becoming his mentor, he finally gives in, his body glitching and causing him pain.
Miles knows that Peter can’t stay in his universe, and the two travel to Alchemax Labs to get a new overdrive key. Suiting up, Peter goes in alone. When Kingpin arrives, however, Miles joins Peter.
Midpoint: Inside the ventilation, Peter is at first frustrated at Miles, but soon softens as he realizes that Miles is choosing to help him while risking his own life. A and B Stories cross as Peter decides to actively become Miles’s mentor while they try to save Brooklyn. The two overhear Kingpin talk to the physicist from the video, and he sets the time clocks ticking by giving her 24 hours, raising the stakes.
In a false victory, Peter and Miles infiltrate the office as Peter teaches Miles how to control his powers. Miles also learns that he can make himself invisible as a fight or flight response (set-up: invisibility).
Bad Guys Close In: Realizing they don’t have much time, Peter decides they must steal the computer. The woman physicist (Kathryn Hahn) bursts in, shocked to see a living Spider-Man. She takes off Peter’s mask and straps him to a chair, soon revealing herself to be Olivia Octavius, Doc Ock (payoff: physicist).
The Spider-Men escape her clutches and are pursued in the woods, Miles learning how to web-swing under pressure. During the fight, they’re joined by another Spider-person, the girl from Miles’s school. Gwen Stacy reveals how she, like Peter, had been brought to this universe due to the collider.
Kingpin confronts Octavius on the appearance of new Spider-Men. A flashback reveals his motive for building the collider: his wife and son had walked in on him as he was about to kill Spider-Man once, and as his family fled, they were killed in a car accident (set-up: Kingpin).
The three heroes travel to Aunt May’s (Lily Tomlin) home, whereupon they are taken to the deceased Spider-Man’s underground lab. There, they discover that other Spider-Men have arrived: Peni Parker and the robotic SP//DR (Kimiko Glenn), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), and Spider-Ham (John Mulaney). Peter tries to show off Miles’s abilities, but he is unable to perform.
As the external bad guys close in, Miles feels the full weight of his internal doubts and fears and leaves everyone behind. He goes to his Uncle Aaron’s apartment to seek solace, but is surprised when Prowler shows up instead. He evades the criminal, but is soon shocked to discover the man under the mask: his uncle (payoffs: Uncle Aaron, secret life, Prowler).
Miles runs and is pursued in secret, ultimately arriving back at Aunt May’s house. Moments later, Kingpin’s thugs arrive, and a ten-person fight breaks out. Miles takes the new override key onto the roof, but just as he is about to escape, Prowler corners him.
All Is Lost: As Prowler grabs Miles, Miles unmasks himself. Aaron removes his mask in shock, letting Miles go. When Aaron doesn’t kill Miles, Aaron is shot by Kingpin.
Dark Night of the Soul: Miles takes his uncle to an empty alley. In his last words, Aaron tells Miles that he let his nephew down, encouraging Miles to keep going. When Jefferson Davis arrives on the scene, Miles escapes, hurrying to his room. The other Spider-Men comfort him, sharing in the pain and loss. They know he’s not ready yet, and they plan to use the override key to send themselves home, with Peter staying behind to shut it down although it will mean his death.
He webs Miles to a chair, also webbing his mouth closed. Jefferson soon comes to the door to tell Miles about Aaron, but with Miles unable to speak, he pours out his heart to his son. “I see this… this spark in you,” he tells Miles, echoing the theme. “It’s amazing, it’s why I push you. But it’s yours and whatever you choose to do with it, you’ll be great.”
Break into Three: Hearing his father’s words, A and B Stories meet, and Miles finally uses his powers to break free of the webbing (payoff: venom strike). He steps out, getting web shooters and a suit from Aunt May, and takes a leap of faith, ready to prove himself. In his synthesis world, he has chosen and found acceptance.
Gathering the Team: The Spiders storm the castle as they head to Kingpin’s, discovering that he is holding a banquet in honor of the deceased Spider-Man.
Executing the Plan: Entering the collider chamber, they are soon discovered by the staff before they can use the override key, and Doc Ock grabs hold of Peter. Soon, however, her tentacled arms begin to strike herself. Miles reveals himself, ready to join the battle (payoff: invisibility). The Spiders fight and defeat Ock. Miles takes the override key and uses it, now ready to send the others back home.
High Tower Surprise: Just as Peter is about to go, Kingpin enters the chamber; he plans to kill another Spider-Man.
Dig, Deep Down: Peter wants to stay behind, but Miles knows he can finish the task. He’s proven that he has made a choice.
Execution of the New Plan: Just as Kingpin is about to grab Miles, he uses his webbing to latch onto a speeding subway train (payoff: webbed train). Kingpin breaks into the train, holding Miles up to kill him. Just then, alternate versions of Kingpin’s wife and son flicker into existence, and history repeats itself as they flee (payoff: Kingpin).
Enraged, Kingpin throws Miles onto a platform, about to kill him. Kingpin declares that he will make sure Miles’s family never sees him again. Continuing to dig, deep down, Miles says that he will always have his family with him. He uses what his uncle taught him, sending Kingpin slamming into the shutoff button (payoffs: shoulder touch, venom strike).
Final Image: Outside, Miles-as-Spider-Man confronts Jefferson Davis, saying that he looks forward to working with the officer before embracing him and adding, “I love you”—leaving behind a surprised father (payoff: I love you).
He swings through the city, the new Spider-Man, before coming to rest at his dorm room. As he closes his eyes to rest, a bright light shines, and he hears the familiar voice of Gwen Stacy. He’s discovered who he is, and he is not alone.