There are so many reasons that I love Spiderman Into the Spider-verse, from the beautiful art style that looks that a moving comic book, to the incredible soundtrack that I still listen to even now. When I think about Spiderman Into the Spider-verse though, and I’m sure that this is the case with many other people too, the first thing I think of is the Leap of Faith scene where Miles leaps off the side of a building, breaking the glass behind him and he transforms into Spiderman.
There’s just something about this scene that makes me feel so good, in a way that no other individual scene has made me feel, well that is other than the Test Drive scene from How To Train Your Dragon, more on that scene later. Why is that though? What is it that’s so unique about these scenes, so that they’re standout scenes that have stuck with me ever since I saw the scene for the first time in cinemas?
Coming Of Age
I promise we’ll get to the answer, but first let’s talk about coming of age films and why I feel like they’re the perfect genre for this type of scene. In case you don’t know what coming of age films are, at their core they’re the transformation of a young character from childhood to adulthood, but in the context of a film this isn’t always the case.
In many films the transformation of a character is one where they move from being in a naive, in a sense lower state, to being at an elevated, more aware state. I won’t go into spoilers but if you think about many of the Disney films out there, or other films that have young protagonists as they have to be young for it to be coming of age, many of them fit under coming of age. In the case of Rapunzel, from Tangled, she doesn’t get older for example (technically she has her birthday, but you know what I mean), and even with Miles from Into the Spider-verse, they don’t actually physically grow to be that much older but they definitely grow mentally.
While I love these stories for usually being mushy and emotional, I also find it so satisfying to see stories that focus heavily on character and allow us to see them get from being one person at the beginning of the film to being an entirely different, better one at the end. Most good stories have an element of this, but I love the focus that coming of ages stories have on character while others focus a lot more on other aspects of the film.
How to Train Your Dragon and Spiderman Into the Spider-verse are both very much coming of age stories, which deal with a character going through the usual coming of age struggles. The characters have goals, which they struggle to reach at first, and most of the film is just like any other coming of age film, but when the Leap of Faith scene and the Test Drive scene come at some of the emotional peaks of the film, they do something very special and really exciting. These scenes are actually made up of entirely new stories within the story that take the tension that had been building up to the emotional peak in the story, and put it through an entirely new story with its own tension, and then pay off all the tension at once.
Ok I’ve made what I think is a very big statement there so let’s step back once more and understand what exactly I’m talking about when I say that it’s a story within a story. Most stories out there use a framework called A Hero’s Journey. If you already know about this framework you can skip forward a bit, but for everyone else you can either give my video on this topic a quick watch where I go over some examples for each stage or look at the Hero’s Journey stages below:
- Normal: This is right at the start of the story where we see what normal life is like for the main character and the stage is set for the audience to know the starting point for the protagonist.
- Call to Adventure: Something takes the hero out of their normal life and pushes them on an adventure.
- Refusal of the Call: This isn’t always a necessary step, but this is when the protagonist refuses to go on the adventure or is when someone tries to stop them going on the adventure.
- Meeting the Mentor: Pretty self explanatory, this is when a hero well… meets a mentor whether they be a person, a voice, a spirit or whatever else the writer dreams up.
- Crossing the Threshold: The hero’s journey is made up of two “worlds” a known and special world, this can be a physical place or mental state that is unknown to the main character. Once they cross the threshold, they can’t return and must keep going!
- Tests, Allies and Enemies: While in the special world the protagonist meets their allies and enemies within this world and also sees new obstacles and tests that they must overcome.
- Approach the innermost cave: This is where the danger really starts to get real! The protagonist gets awfully close to whatever the big danger or obstacle of the story is. They might have been having fun up until that point, but this is where things start to get a lot more serious. Again, this can be happening mentally or physically.
- Ordeal: Here the protagonist meets the obstacle head on for the first time and we get a boss battle or a big uproar or a mental breakdown where they usually must overcome their fears to come out victorious. It’s sometimes the climax of the film.
- Reward: The protagonist has gotten through the ordeal and gets some form of reward in the process for completing the stage, this can be in the form of something physical or something mental.
- The Road Back: The protagonist heads back to the normal world in which they once lived as a new, changed person. They often must overcome even more obstacles on their way back.
- Resurrection: The protagonist is back in the normal world, but they now must go through what is usually the main climax of the film. The evil boss could make their way into the normal world for revenge or something else could pop up that not only puts the hero in danger, but also has the potential to impact people around them.
- Return with the Elixir: The final battle is won, and the protagonist is now ready to start their new normal with the new skills and/or knowledge that they developed within the story.
Hero’s Journey is a framework that can, and does, work in every form of media out there and in every genre out there, but it has so much potential and is often hidden within stories so well that you probably don’t even notice the similarities between stories, well other than the fact that they all seem to have happy endings (this framework is why). What this framework does consistently do though, is that it allows us to relate to the story at a plot level and since we go through similarly structured journeys within our own lives, these stories serve as a media that we can relate to even if the actual events are way more dramatic and sometimes dangerous than what we have in our own lives.
So, getting back to the Leap of Faith scene from Spiderman Into the Spider-verse. What I mean by saying that we’re seeing a story within a story is that we’re seeing this full framework, as well as other aspects of a story, within this one scene. Not only that but this new story directly ties in with the main film’s story to make it feel seamless. This is a big part of what I believe makes this scene, as well as the Test Drive scene, so satisfying to watch. Want to see how it fits in for yourself, try to work it out for yourself, after you’ve done that you can see both scenes set to the framework down below:
The Hero’s Journey for the Leap of Faith scene
The Hero’s Journey for the Test Drive scene
This is my interpretation of these scenes, but you may put it together in a different way, feel free to comment your version in the comments section! What I don’t think is up for interpretation is that the creators of this scene at least had the hero’s journey in mind when putting together these scenes. I believe that these stories within stories, combined with the incredible music, sound design and visuals are what make these scenes so satisfying to watch and are what make them stand so well on their own. Furthermore, the extra tension that is then resolved alongside the previous tension in the film makes the payoff in the scene that much more satisfying and makes for an even more satisfying scene when seen within the context of the film, especially since these are very much at the emotional peaks of the stories.
If you want to look more in depth into the music for both Spiderman: Into the Spider-verse and How to Train Your Dragon, you can check out the videos below by Sideways. He is way more knowledgeable about the audio side of things than I am! If you want to support me, please consider checking out my videos on YouTube and supporting me on Patreon!
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