Yesterday, with a couple of thousand other folk at MCM London Comic Con, I saw what I was reliably told were the first thirty-eight minutes of the upcoming Sony animation Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Indeed it was everything that led up to the scene that was shown after the credits in Venom. So, it told, I’ve probably watched the first 5 minutes or so.
I’m not sure what is spoiler and what isn’t, I’ll try not to spoil any big plot twists, but if you want to go in virgin fresh, then stop reading now. Come back once it’s been shown and you can tell me how many of my assumptions I got wrong.
So much of this is pulled from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics by Brian Bendis and the Spiderverse comics written by Dan Slott. And rather than just lifting the plot and throwing away the comics, comic books play an integral part in this comic. To the extent that the movie begins with the familar label, ‘Approved By The Comics Code’. This is a world in which there is a Spider-Man but also Spider-Man comics, The True Tales Of Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man with very familiar covers telling a further-fictionalised version if the Spider-Man story.
The look of the movie is further along that what you saw at the end of Venom and the trailers, there are added layers of digital painting and texture to this film that suggest the zipatone dots of comic books without being a reproduction of that. There is Kirby Krackle animated for the dimensional portals. And some scenes look painted, there’s a subway tunnel scene with Miles’ criminal uncle Aaron, which looks like it was painted by Kyle Baker. There is also a reduced frame rate during the slower moments of the film to emphasise the static quality of the art, without getting in the way of the flow, or making extreme Tex Avery style poses. That may be what I enjoyed most about what I saw. It is drop dead gorgeous and from these few minutes I am calling this as the closest approximation of what a comic book does in its own medium on the screen.
Oh and yeah, we get Bendis, Sara Pichelli and Slott namedropped on a mobile phone contact list.
And it has new tricks too, only after Miles Morales gains spider powers do the captions kick in, replicating his own thoughts around him, and giving us the sensation that this is connected to his new Spider-Sense – he thinks and perceives the world around him differently now. It’s a brilliant use of the caption rather than just trying to replicate it in film – and everyone should steal this immediately.
Also, when there is a super bright line shining, it strips out the painting and the texture and just leaves the black and white lines, looking straight out for a comic book.
What this film does is simultaneously make you realise that it’s doing comic book tricks but never letting that get in the way of the story it is telling or the momentum that is pulling the audience along, or the characters you care about. And that may be this film’s best trick.
So we have a Miles Morales with a cop for a dad and an equally-busy-working mother, already straggling two worlds. There is the world of his friends, his old school, his uncle, which will keep him down and suppress his potential but it’s an easier, more fun life. And then there are the Great Expectations of his parents and of the new school he has got into partially via a lottery, full of bright kids, where he is having to struggle and toying with self-sabotage to send him back to the second stream. With great ability comes great responsibillity, and this is a Miles who wants neither.
Oh and then he gets spider powers. And sees dimensions open into other Spider-Men. Which further bifurcates his world.
Okay, here it gets a bit more spoilery.
We also get the Ultimate version of Green Goblin being used by a grotesquely caricatured version of the Kingpin to help ensure those dimensions open for what are unknown reasons, and a Peter Parker Spider-Man trying to stop them – and dying in the process.
You saw Peter Parker’s grave in the Venom peek. And, just as in Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales becomes Spider-Man in the wake of that death, and the world’s realisation that Peter Parker is Spider-Man and that he is blonde, married to Mary Jane Watson and who gives his eulogy to a crowd with Miles present. Watch out for all your favourite Spider-Man comics scenes montaged. Twice.
But that portal brought through another Spider-Man from another dimension, closer to the one we know, one who is no longer married to Mary Jane but avoided any Mestophilian deal by just getting a divorce and losing his way. Until he fell into this world. And so we have a jaded brunette Peter Parker Spider-Man on hand to teach an underdeveloped Miles Morales Spider-Man. When he is not shocked into unconsciousness. Cue the rest of the film on the 14th December.
But for now, here are the trailers…