Sony’s Venom is cruising toward the best box office opening ever for October and at New York Comic Con the fan-favorite cosplay option is Spider-Man thanks in large part to the wildly imaginative trailers for Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse, which will have a jam-packed preview panel tomorrow morning.
Put the two barometer readings together and it suddenly becomes clear that Sony Pictures Entertainment’s off-the-wall approach to its comic book movies looks like one that will stick. The gamble of Venom and the upcoming Spider-Verse is looking for hit films that rely on Spider-Man fans but don’t give them the hero that they know and love. The creative team of Spider-Verse will be grateful for the reassurance — their experimental spirit and off-kilter story ambitions have made for plenty of sleepless nights.
The film hits theaters December 14 and shows alternate-universe versions of the wall-crawler instead of the familiar Peter Parker character that has been on the screen in five Sony films as well as, more recently, three Marvel Studios releases. The movie is the brainchild of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the tandem behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The Lego Movie.
Spider-Verse also has three directors — Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman — and Deadline caught up for Persichetti for a quick conversation leading up to his flight to New York to join the Saturday morning panel at Comic Con. He was giddy abut the fan feedback in recent weeks as more and more of the film’s animation has hit the Internet, including a trailer earlier this week.
“I was hoping the reaction would be positive but it’s been beyond my expectations, really,” Perischetti said. “I can’t overstate how amazing it has been to watch things come together in a wonderful way that even I didn’t expect.”
Superhero animation on the silver screen has a long history, dating back to the Fleischer Brothers and their groundbreaking Superman cartoons of the early 1940s. But no costumed character offers more creative challenges or more creative opportunities that Spider-Man, due to his spindly physique and unique movement. Perischetti said that has been the mind-set since day one on the project.
“When this project originally came my way I thought Sony has made Spider-Man films so we all know what this is, what it looks like, but now with this we can go beyond that and do something with a character that takes advantage of the animation medium to its fullest,” he said. “This is a medium that allows Spider-Man — in his mask even — to emote and allows him to move in a really stylized way in support of the source material with the comics. That was the exciting thing right from the start to separate this from everything that’s been done before both in live action and animated [with the television cartoons over the decades].”
In recent years, the CG revolution of film animation has settled into a flattened era of predictable choices and common-ground expectations. Spider-Verse pushes back against that, Perischetti says, which early in the project “scared away” some people who considered joining the team but now has stirred up excitement as the finish line comes into view.
“There’s been a standardized look as everything has been run through the same conduit of what big-studio animation is supposed to look like in a feature film,” Perischetti said. “We were allowed to push back really hard against that standard pipeline look and it was, uh, painful at times. But it seems like people are really happy with it and I know I am. Everything we were asking for flew in the face of what people in the industry were used to and scared away some people, especially younger animators and effects artists.”
Reruns of the Spider-Man television cartoons of the 1960s were a beloved childhood fixation for Perischetti, so they are “baked into the DNA” of the new animated film as are many other iterations of the character both on the screen and on the page. The film presents a youngster named Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) trying to live up to the expectations of being Spider-Man; in many ways the movie has the same scrappy mind-set of attempting to match the legacy of an iconic character who’s pop culture success now spans six different decades.
Is the American public ready for a Spider-Man film where different versions of the hero from alternate universes mix and mingle? Perischetti laughed when he was asked the question.
“Our hope is they would keep up but a big fear was they wouldn’t,” Perischetti said. “These characters are well-known to the comics fanbase but are completely unknown to the majority of moviegoers. We were worried we would have the equivalent of a still-birth and hurting ourselves by that delivery. It was a fine-line between over-explaining and under-explaining. But we feel like we have found the magic middle ground.”
The cast of Spider-Verse includes Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Kimiko Glenn, Nicolas Cage and Liev Schreiber. The film is produced by Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Christina Steinberg. Stan Lee, Brian Michael Bendis and Will Allegra serve as executive producers.