At the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse panel at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller treated con-goers to a surprise: the first 35 minutes of the film, despite not being set for wide release until December 14.
I will NOT get into spoiler territory, but here are my general impressions:
Lord had warned that some of the animation “still looks like a 90s video game,” and indeed a number of shots were clearly still works in progress, but those shots were brief. Other than that, it’s an aesthetic delight, taking advantage of animation for visuals that simply wouldn’t be possible in live action. The camera is as nimble and kinetic as Spider-Man himself, with a color scheme unlike any I’ve ever seen in animation, much less for an on-screen Spider-Man. Sometimes it goes into psychedelic territory with a neon touch I’d liken to graffiti.
In the discussion that followed, Post Malone was name-checked as one of the artists who contributed an original song, with the promise of more throughout the rest of the film. Hip-hop permeates throughout much of the footage (“Juicy” by the Notorious B.I.G. introduces a supporting character), and it goes a long way towards making Into the Spider-Verse feel more New York-y and modern than previous on-screen iterations.
A lot of that aesthetic stuff had already been established in the trailers, so what surprised me most was how strong the script was. True to Miles Morales’ co-creator Brian Michael Bendis, the dialogue is snappy and even, at times, playfully repetitive. The portrayal of Miles himself strikes a difficult balance of being noticeably similar to Peter Parker, but distinctive enough that you can’t write him off as simply “the Afro-Latino Spider-Man.” It helps that Shameik Moore’s Miles, fueled by nervous energy, sounds so much different from Jake Johnson’s slacker charm as Peter.
Most importantly, Into the Spider-Verse displayed such a strong understanding of who Spider-Man is and what makes him special that I was overwhelmed. In just 35 minutes, I teared up at least twice. Then straight-up sobbed during a monologue that explicitly described, without a trace of subtlety, everything that I like about Spider-Man, as a character and as a concept.
I look forward to talking about Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in greater detail when it’s released in full in December, but these 35 minutes alone brought me more joy than many of the live action iterations ever could.