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NYCC 2018: Deep Dive “Into the Spider-Verse” Panel

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

(l to r in the splash image above: panel moderator Josh Horowitz; Producers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord; actors Jake Johnson (Peter Parker), Shameik Moore (Miles Morales), Luna Lauren Velez (Rio Morales, Miles’ mother), and Brian Tyree Henry (Jefferson Davis, Miles’ father); and co-directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseThe New York Comic-Con 2018 panel for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse filled the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The main attraction was an extended preview of the first 35-minutes of the movie, after taking an amusingly specific oath not to reveal spoilers, led by producers Phil Lord and Christoper Miller. The preview still had some unfinished animation in it, but most of it looked like it was in its finished form.

That finished form is pretty spectacular. Phil Lord and Christoper Miller stated in the panel afterwards that while they were excited by the proposal of doing an animated Spider-Man movie, since it was going to be “something like the seventh Spider-Man movie” they didn’t want to do it without doing something fresh, and to them that meant it had to be Miles Morales Spider-Man or nothing. They also felt that the prior Spider-Man movies gave them license to do “the most different Spider-Man movie we could.” Part of that was carried by the animation style, which very explicitly evokes comic book sensibilities as much as possible. Although the movie is animated in full CGI, character models and spaces seem to feel a little flatter than they would in something like a Disney, Pixar, or DreamWorks CGI movie. There are also multiple points where comic books are evoked explicitly, from screen shots that are divided up into panels to sound effects that get written out in big, bold, hand-drawn letters in the background (though the latter happens in a way that makes them distinct from the Batman ’66 “Biff! Pow!” effects). I also think the way the movie evokes Spider-Sense brings it to the screen better than any other version that’s come before, simply because it lifts the original Steve Ditko wavy lines emanating from Spider-Man’s head. The preview also revealed a number of moments when the color palette will shift radically to communicate something strange happening, ranging from the Spider-Sense tingling to some of the inter-dimensional weirdness that drives the movie.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
(l to r) Christopher Miller, Phil Lord, Jake Johnson, Shameik Moore, Luna Lauren Velez, and Brian Tyree Henry at New York Comic Con 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” panel

I won’t reveal much more plot details than that — I did take the amusingly specific oath, after all, even if Shameik Moore accidentally revealed a pretty big spoiler from the preview during the Internet live-stream of the panel. I can say that the movie definitely seems to be working overtime to keep you off your guard, no matter how familiar you happen to be with Spider-Man in any of his incarnations. Familiarity will definitely help, though, since there are a number of jokes that are a lot funnier if you’re more familiar with other Spider-Man movies or comics. I can also say that I love the family dynamic between Miles and his parents, where his mother and father are sharp, distinct presences in his life despite a relatively low amount of screen time (especially in the case of his mother). There are also a number of “meet cute” moments between Miles and a new girl at his school, where Miles trying to ask what her name is becomes central to an amusing scene that also incorporates the emergence of his super-powers. If you’ve seen the trailers, though, it’s pretty clear who she is supposed to be (and who her alternate universe counterpart is), and their brief moments together are quite charming. The audience reacted incredibly positively to the preview, and the movie has definitely rocketed to the top of the list of things I want to see at the end of the year.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
(l to r) Jake Johnson, Shameik Moore, and Luna Lauren Velez at New York Comic Con 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse panel

The panel was composed of producers Phil Lord and Christoper Miller; actors Jake Johnson (Peter Parker), Shameik Moore (Miles Morales), Luna Lauren Velez (Rio Morales, Miles’ mother), and Brian Tyree Henry (Jefferson Davis, Miles’ father); and co-directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey. Everyone on stage said that allowing different audiences to identify with Spider-Man was an explicit goal of this movie (“even if you’re a freaking pig, you can identify with Spider-Man”), with Shameik Moore saying that he had written his desire to play Miles Morales Spider-Man years ago, making the movie a real dream come true for him. He was also apparently Phil Lord and Christoper Miller’s first choice to play the character from the beginning, ever since they had auditioned him for a role in a different project. Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez also talked about how much these characters meant to them, since it’s an atypical depiction of black and Latino family dynamics on screen where both parents are professionals and active participants in their son’s life. Brian Tyree Henry said he would have been “spitting in his popcorn” as a 14- or 15-year-old to see a black Spider-Man on screen. He also joked that “our son is about to be BOMB!” when he found out he’d be playing opposite Luna Lauren Velez as Rio (at least in principle; the two didn’t record anything together). Luna Lauren Velez added that her own father was a police officer, so Miles’ household held strong echoes for her personally, drawing cheers for describing herself as “Newyorican” and being able to bring her own experiences to the screen.

The panel closed out as co-directors Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey described the three-year timeline to produce the movie as “crazy,” and expressed their genuine appreciation for the movie crew’s hard work over that timespan to make the movie a reality. Christopher Lord and Phil Miller also gave some love to the movie’s soundtrack, since “we thought that a movie that looked weird needed something that sounded original.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

I think the three photos I took above were taken in sequence when the panelists were talking about Brooklyn to the cheers of the audience.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will be hitting theaters on December 14, 2018.