“It’s head-spinning. Nobody took a job on this movie thinking, ‘I’m going to win an award,'” says Rodney Rothman, who directed “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” along with Bob Persichetti and Peter Ramsey. The film has become an unlikely critics’ darling, winning Best Animated Film from Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York film critics groups, along with nominations at the Critics’ Choice, Golden Globe and Annie Awards — all before the film was even released on December 14. Watch our exclusive video interview with Rothman and Ramsey above.
“Spider-Verse” is based on the same Marvel Comics that have been adapted by Disney into the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, but this Sony film tells a story independent from that. It follows a different Spider-Man, namely Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a Brooklyn teen who unexpectedly finds himself following in the heroic footsteps of web-slinger Peter Parker. Then an experiment gone wrong unites him with his counterparts from other dimensions.
With so many different characters representing different visual styles and tones — from the hard-boiled Spider-Man Noir to the cartoon Spider-Ham — they key for the filmmakers was to focus on “how does this help us tell Miles’s story,” Ramsey explains. They used all those contrasting elements as a way of “folding it back into one of the themes of our story which is that anyone can wear the mask. There’s an inherent message of diversity and acceptance, and finding strength and commonality in your difference that’s baked into the fabric of the movie.”
Another goal of the film was to not only represent the characters from the comics but to convey “how it feels to read comics,” Rothman adds. And the unique visual style — or rather, styles — helped them do that. “Animation allowed us to access the expressive side of comics,” says Ramsey, though figuring out how to actually pull off that animation was no mean feat. Figuring out how to execute their visual ideas “pretty much took us our first year-and-a-half of production.”
But it seems to have paid off if the reviews are any indication. As of this writing it has an 86 score on MetaCritic and a 98% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Those are comparable numbers to “Black Panther,” which itself might be on its way to an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Rothman says about the animation avengers who assembled “Spider-Verse,” “There was a lot of real artistic conviction behind the movie and not just about the visuals, but about the story we were telling.”
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