Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: “The multiverse can easily become a gimmick” [interview]

Meeting with the directors of this sequel at the Annecy animated film festival.

After thrilling the Annecy public with the presentation of the first images of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, directors Justin Thompson, Kemp Powers and Joaquim Dos Santos received the press in a palace near the lake. The trio tell us more about the origin of the film, the place of Miles Morales and the new villain, The Spot.

Did the Oscar won by the previous film give you carte blanche to go even further with Across the Spider-Verse ?
justin thompson
: Oh yeah ! Even if the studio had already given us crazy confidence with New Generation… It was a bit like making an independent film with a budget of 100 million dollars (Laughter.) We didn’t really have any rules, we just wanted to visually translate comics into animation. My favorite moment from the making of the first movie (Editor’s note: on which he worked as a production designer), is when we got everyone in the studio together to show them some finished scenes. And then a guy said: I think I forgot my 3D glasses » (Laughter.) But after a minute, he got caught up in the story and he got over that rejection. Visually, the film was like that, and it ultimately suited him very well. Which, in my opinion, shows just how much a good script can get everything across. That’s why we allowed ourselves to go even further with the sequel, by finding other styles of comics, other forms of drawing, other forms of expression. In short: we wanted to touch the limits of this medium. What could we do with animation that we couldn’t even dream of in live-action ? This is what guides us.

new generation could have exploded all the codes of Hollywood animation, but for now the film remains an exception. Why do studios have such a hard time giving complete freedom to artists, even when they have proof that it can also create a commercially viable object?
Kemp Powers
: Because animation is very expensive, and they are afraid of not making a profit if they don’t speak to as many people as possible. It’s not more complicated than that. People don’t realize that projects like Pixar’s cost as much as a movie Star Wars. And the very process of creating the animation costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time. It’s a marathon, but at the speed of a sprint.

Annecy 2022: everything we learned about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

I have the feeling thatAcross the Spider-Verse think more than new generation what art is, and what comics represent. There is this very nice idea of ​​using watercolor to represent the emotional state of Gwen, or even The Spot, this villain who literally uses inkblots as weapons by making them interdimensional portals.
Joaquin Dos Santos:
Yes, you are certainly right. But it absolutely has to be more than coquetry. The goal is to describe the character as much as possible using as few words as possible. The Spot, for example, obviously brings to mind the artist who stains his page with ink. OK, so what? The image is pretty, but beyond that, what are we talking about? In fact, we use that to show the chaos that this character sows. Seeing him use his powers is already describing his nature.

Kemp Powers : And there is the whole physical side of the character that comes into play. I played a lot of video games in the past, and I was a big fan of Portal. I thought about it a lot when we created The Spot. How would these portals generate momentum? What could they really allow him to do? The potential of the character seemed infinite to us. And yet, if you were to take a poll of Spider-Man villains, The Spot would surely be at the very bottom of the list! The really great thing is that we have the freedom to tell exactly the story that makes us vibrate.

What were the initial discussions with Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the producers and screenwriters, when you arrived as directors? Should the formula be shaken up a bit?
justin thompson
: Yes and no. From the very beginning, we collectively liked the idea that after having invited these “Spider people” into Miles’ universe, Miles would himself visit their universe. Then, from this tiny synopsis, we wondered what we could build around and what could motivate Miles to take this trip.

Kemp Powers : In the first film, we see small bits of these universes, and I remember that I had a crazy desire to explore them. It’s fascinating to think about the visual language of these worlds, and what these characters look like when they’re there. We see that a bit in the teaser: when Miles changes universe, his physique also changes. And at the beginning, we had NO idea how we were going to achieve this type of result! The real kiff is to seek. Here: my favorite superhero is surely Robin. And what makes him so special is that when he jumps off a building, he finds a way to save his life while he’s falling. Animation is exactly that (Laughter.) That’s why it’s so intense, and that’s how you find the essence of a character.

Joaquim Dos Santos : Sometimes artists were asked to do simulations of totally abstract stuff, animation techniques that shouldn’t go together. We were playing sorcerer’s apprenticesLaughter.) And then you look at the results, and wow. It works.

justin thompson : But it absolutely had to remain a film centered on Miles and his family. Because it was to him that the public clung during the first film, to this somewhat lost kid who is now 15 years old and needs to explore in order to understand himself. And we absolutely must not lose sight of that.

And the concept of the multiverse can easily grab all the attention…
Joaquin Dos Santos:
Exactly. Me first by the way. As an artist, I tend to get carried away by the possibilities of such a concept. But one thing was obvious yesterday, during the presentation of the film in Annecy: the public got carried away when we showed Miles with his family. Let’s be clear: the big action scenes are great, but Miles is the link with the audience. Without it, no identification. And so we could make ultra-spectacular scenes as much as we wanted, it wouldn’t have the same effect.

Kemp Powers : The multiverse can easily become a gimmick. But for us, it’s a tool that allows us to get back to the heart of this story. In the first film, there is this sentence: “ Anyone can wear the mask. “Very well, but concretely, what does it mean when a lot of extremely different people wear the mask? I think that’s what it’s about Across the Spider-Verse.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, May 31, 2023 at the cinema.

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