Why “Spider-Man” will once again revolutionize animated cinema

Fifteen minutes of the film Across the Spider-Versethe highly anticipated sequel to Spider-Man: Next Generation, was screened at the Annecy festival on Monday. Its directors tell BFMTV about the challenge of this new adventure.

No other film was as eagerly awaited at the Annecy animation festival as the sequel to Spider-Man: Next Generation, Oscar-winning masterpiece of contemporary animation, where several versions of the spider-man coexist. The fifteen minutes shown on Monday conquered the public beyond all their expectations.

This is the beginning of a story that will be divided into two parts, Across the Spider-Verse (2023) and Beyond the Spider-Verse (2024). Either an impressive action sequence where three versions of the weaver (Spider-Man 2099, Spider-Woman and Spider-Gwen) face off against The Vulture at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

An epic fight, where the camera twirls in a multicolored universe, demonstrating the mastery of the Sony Animation teams. The sequence ends with a confrontation between Spider-Gwen/Gwen Stacy and her father George Stacy, a police officer on the heels of this masked vigilante, whom he accuses of having killed the Spider-Man of their universe…

In another excerpt, Miles Morales, the hero of the first film, struggles with the hassles of everyday life. He has to deal with pressure from his parents and his guidance counsellor. Since the first film, released in 2018, the character has grown a lot. The scene ends as his “spider-sense” makes him aware of impending danger.

“Be careful”

To find out more, we will have to wait until next year, since the story of this new opus is jealously kept secret by directors Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson and Joaquim dos Santos, who succeed Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney. Rothman.

It must be said that the trio is under pressure. By agreeing to embark on such an adventure, it must offer a sequel worthy of a first part, now considered a decisive step in the history of animated cinema. Mission successful according to the first images: Across the Spider-Verse should look as good visually – or even a bit better – than New-Generation.

The question nevertheless arises: how do you make the sequel to a film that revolutionized animation? “By being careful,” smiles Kemp Powers, also known to have co-signed Drunk with Pete Docter. “Thinking about the characters and their destiny, and especially the relationship between Miles Morales and his family, which supports this whole adventure,” adds Justin K. Thompson.

“This element was for us a beacon in the night, so as not to lose sight of our objective”, adds the one who was chief decorator on the first film. “When you add all this information about parallel universes and these incredible and abundant visual graphics, we must not lose sight of what we are telling this story.”

240 characters and six different universes

Because the challenge of Across the Spider-Verse and Beyond the Spider-Verse is to follow Miles Morales in a story that features 240 characters in six different universes! “We stick to his point of view precisely so as not to tangle our brushes”, insists Joaquim dos Santos. “And most of those 240 characters will be in the background!”

“It will be a fairly complex film. The first was already complex, but this one will go even further,” warns Kemp Powers. “We obviously try to make it as understandable as possible for the public and I think we succeeded. That’s why we chose to show longer extracts in Annecy, in order to emphasize the story. and not on the visual…”

One year before the release, everything is actually done to dodge the questions that could reveal the story and the different multiverses that Miles Morales is about to visit. Based on the images shown on Monday, Gwen Stacy’s world will be pink, white and ethereal, with watercolor effects, just like on the comic book covers. The other universes should also each have their own graphic style.

a comic book
A “Spider-Gwen” comic © Marve

We will learn, however, that the graphic atmosphere of each universe will correspond to Miles’ state of mind, reveals Joaquim dos Santos: “We wondered about how we could visually represent the different stages of his journey. . If Miles is sad, we adopt a dark style. If he is happy, our style will be more cheerful.”

“I love, like everyone else, slightly crazy universes, but it really has to be at the service of our story, and that it can make Miles evolve”, insists his accomplice Justin K. Thompson.

A titanic project

They will have room to explore these parallel universes: Miles’ story will be told over two films. An idea which imposed itself quite naturally, says Kemp Powers: “We quickly realized that our story was far too important for a single film and that the only way to tell it well was to spread it over two films. We didn’t take the decision lightly, because each part had to be able to exist independently of one another.”

The productions of Across the Spider-Verse/Beyond the Spider-Verse is a colossal undertaking and the creation of the two films is taking place in parallel. “As the two films are released a year apart, we have no choice,” says Justin K. Thompson. They are helped by a gigantic team, the largest ever formed for an animated film. More than 1,000 people around the world are working on the project. “It’s double what we had for the first film.”

A board of
A page from “Spider-Man 2099” © Marvel

How to supervise such a construction site? “You call on a lot of people you trust,” Joaquim dos Santos understates. “We leave free rein to our production designers, our animators. We called on them, because their instincts are very good and they are fully invested in the story of Miles.”

We will not know, however, where the three men are in the progress of the project. “We can’t say anything about that,” laughs Kemp Powers. “But we’ll be done in time for release on May 31, 2023. We’re moving as fast as we can.”

“A Love Letter to Comics”

For an even more faithful rendering to the comics, the trio collaborates with certain designers of Spider-Man, like Rick Leonardi, co-creator of Spider-Man 2099. This futuristic version of the spider-man, a specialist in nanotechnology is dubbed by Oscar Isaac in original version.

“The first film was a real love letter to comics and there we had the opportunity to go even further”, enthuses Joaquim dos Santos. “We’re lucky that several creators of these characters are still alive, and we were able to inject Rick Leonardi’s graphic style and inking into the film. The result is striking.”

A new super-villain is also entering, La Tâche (The Spot), whose body is covered with black dots that hide portals to parallel universes. “We knew from the start that he would be the villain of our story,” says Kemp Powers. “He’s not famous, but he has endless potential. And he’s a character that can only exist in an animated film.”

A concept art of
A concept art of “Spider-Man Across The Spider-Verse” © Sony

And to add: “A good story always relies on a good villain. The problem is that a lot of enemies were used to death. What struck me in the first film was that the villain didn’t come from the Spider-Man universe, but from the Daredevil: Kingpin universe. And he didn’t have any superpowers! It was very unexpected. We wanted to surprise the same way here.”

We do not know for the moment the identity of the other characters present in Across the Spider-Verse/Beyond the Spider-Verse. Phil Lord announced the Japanese Spider-Man in 2019, but Kemp Powers remains discreet today on the subject: “No comment”, he specifies. “But I can tell you one thing: if The Task is any indication, we haven’t limited ourselves and gone far into the Spider-Man universe. We can’t wait to show you more.”

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