Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the producers behind Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, brought an extended look at their new animated web-slinger jaunt to New York Comic Con on Saturday. But there was a problem. According to Lord, they couldn’t show random clips from the film because then the audience wouldn’t understand the context. So, instead, they decided to screen the first 35 minutes.
“It’s a work in progress” with “some unfinished animation and sound,” the duo clarified. But even still the ripped-from-the-comics style of animation came through and confirmed what Spidey buffs, Miles Morales fans, and cinephiles have been predicting: the hype is real.
Before screening the footage, Lord and Miller made the audience promise something: don’t reveal spoilers. The crowd at Madison Square Garden stood up and repeated the words from the filmmakers behind 22 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie: “I promise not to tell any Sony executives that I saw this.”
While we can’t go into too many details — again, we’re bound by a good-faith oath to Lord and Miller — we can talk about one thing because Shameik Moore, the voice of Miles in the film, accidentally spoiled it on stage (and it was referenced in a post-credits scene from the just-released Venom). [Stop here if you don’t want to know more.] The Peter Parker of Miles Morales’ universe isn’t the Peter Parker voiced by Jake Johnson, like many fans thought. Instead, the Peter of Miles’ New York is killed in action. It’s only when, after Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, that he’s visited by the Johnson-voiced Peter in the cemetery.
“It’s Peter Parker at 40, it’s a Peter Parker who’s a little chubby and a Peter Parker who’s a little depressed,” Johnson teased. This Peter and Miles then “become partners in crime. They become unlikely friends and it’s a little bit Karate Kid.”
“They end up meeting each other to get out of their situation,” he adds, while Moore mentioned this Peter is “just trying to get back to his universe” — at least, at first. [More details follow below.]
Why are there so many Peter Parkers and Spider-Men? The title has “Spider-Verse” in it. Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber) is playing around with a Super Collider that, after something happens, opens up Miles’ world to parallel universes and each has its own iteration of Spider-Man. That’s how Peter (voiced by Johnson), Spider-Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), and more are uprooted from their worlds and flung into Miles’.
Again, keeping things as surface level as possible, the comedic styling of Lord and Miller are there, though directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey have been working tirelessly — “three years out,” they say — putting this unique animation style together. The comic book feel is there. As Miles is reading The True Tales of Spider-Man comics in the frame, the animation of his world is almost indecipherable from the comic resting in his hand. His internal thoughts are rendered in pop-up comic thought panels, and the “Boom!” “Pow!” onomatopoeia of the action scenes are very much present as Miles falls off a roof, or slams into a building, or accidentally getting stuck to pigeons.
Hey, training to become your world’s successor to Spider-Man is harder than puberty.
“Flash frames and visuals that are reminiscent of drawing” are rampant, Persichetti noted, “but we had to figure out a way to do it with a computer.”
And there’s humor, glorious humor. Lord and Miller can’t walk away from a film without leaving their signature comedic stylings and impressions on the material. Expect various references to all forms of Spider-Man-based entertainment… including Spider-Man 3. You can probably guess which scene the powers that be have decided to play with.
“We wouldn’t want to do [the film] unless it was Miles Morales’ story,” Miller said of joining the project.
“We’ve seen the Peter Parker story. We know it,” Persichetti added. “We haven’t seen the Miles Morales story.”
Miles is an Afro-Latino Spider-Man — the first comic book superhero of his kind — who lives in Brooklyn but goes to a private school where he feels more like a fish out of water. Brian Tyree Henry voices Miles’ policeman father , and Luna Lauren Velez plays his more nurturing mother. Though, the cast, as the Spider-Verse title suggests, is immense. Lily Tomlin (as Aunt May) and Mahershala Ali (as Miles’ uncle Aaron) are a couple other noteworthy names lending their voices to the talent pool.
Lord laughed to himself when he thought about how bad it seemed Sony wanted him and Miller on board this film. “Maybe we could make some demands,” he said. “Maybe we could use the fact that [the Spider-Man] story hs been told a lot of times to our advantage.” He added, “We just set out to make the most different Spider-Man movie we could.”
“We didn’t tell [Sony] how bold of a take until it was too late to change it,” Miller laughed.
The cast and crew seem genuinely thrilled to be bringing more representation to the screen with this origin story for Miles’ Spider-Man. “When I was younger and I first saw Miles Morales I was like, ‘Dude, it’s a black Spider-Man. I def want to play the black Spider-Man one day,” Moore said. He wrote as much in his journal while making the film Dope, and two years later, he got his opportunity.
Henry noted how significant it is to see to see a kid of Afro-Latino descent from Brooklyn on the big screen with both of his parents, both of whom want the best for their son. “We made a good man and I think for me it was very important to see that and that everybody could see that Miles is from that,” Henry said. “I think about my 14, 15-year-old self, I would’ve choked on my popcorn.”
Now there’s another problem for Lord and Miller. “The movie just does this,” Lord said as widened the gap between his hands. If the fans come out to see this one, “we’re gonna be stuck making 38 Spider-Verse movies because there are so many possibilities.”