By Devan Coggan
July 13, 2018 at 09:30 AM EDT
Credit: Sony Pictures Animation

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There’s a new friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in town… well, technically several.

After a whole pack of Peter Parker movies, beloved comics character Miles Morales is getting his own turn in the Spider-Man spotlight. Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse follows the young Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore), a black and Latino teenager in an alternate universe. When he’s bitten by a radioactive spider, he suddenly gains superpowers — and must learn how he fits into a world where there are already multiple Spider-People swinging around, including Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and a very jaded Peter Parker (Jake Johnson).

“This power is kind of handed to [Miles] when he’s not really looking for more responsibility,” Moore explains. “That phrase — ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ — it means the same thing, but it comes from a different place with this Spider-Man.”

Lord and Miller invited Moore to audition after seeing his breakout role in the 2015 Sundance smash Dope, and he headlines a star-studded cast that includes Brian Tyree Henry as Miles’ father, Mahershala Ali as his uncle Aaron, and Liev Schreiber as the villainous Kingpin. Miles has been a fan favorite in Marvel comics ever since he made his debut in 2011, and Into the Spider-Verse marks his first starring appearance in a major film. It’s a story that Moore is thrilled to bring to the big screen, especially because Miles’ perspective as a half-black, half-Latino teenager introduces a kind of Spider-Man audiences have never seen before.

“Everybody has a purpose and a reason and a place,” Moore says. “I think that’s what [Miles’s] conflict is — finding his place. He’s like, ‘If there’s Peter, then how do I be Spider-Man? Can you teach me? How do I do this?'”

The film follows Miles as he tries to learn how to put his new powers to use — with a little guidance from Peter Parker himself. And although the two may share web-slinging abilities, they’re still radically different: Miles grew up in Brooklyn, not Queens, and he’s only 13 years old. “And he’s got both his parents alive,” Miller quips. “Which doesn’t sound like much, but that’s very unique to Spider-People.”

For Lord and Miller, the most intriguing thing about Spider-Verse was how to put a new twist on a superhero origin story that’s been told so many times in the last 15 years.

“Everything good we’ve ever done has started with a bad idea,” Lord says with a laugh. “And then we slowly figure out a way that seems like it would be surprising. An animated Spider-Man movie, on the surface it felt like, well, do we really need that? But you start to think about the opportunities that it gives you. Because it’s like the 19th Spider-Man movie, it forces you to make different choices than everybody else.”

Another key to setting Spider-Verse apart from previous Spidey movies was to give the film a distinct comic-book style, including visual twists like text bubbles and halftone dots.

“The idea was: Let’s make a movie that feels like you’re walking into an immersive comic book,” Miller says.

“We were just really intrigued with the possibility of making an animated movie in a completely different way with a completely different set of characters that didn’t have to abide by the normal rules,” Lord adds. “A big franchise can either back you into safe choices or it can give you the opportunity to take huge risks. And that risk version was what was intriguing to us.”

Spider-Verse will swing into theaters Dec. 14. See exclusive concept art from the film above.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018 Movie)

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