I talked about why I loved Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, but there’s another film starring the webhead that deserves a mention. Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse released in December 2018 and fans and critics have sung its praises and it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It’s a uniquely animated film starring Miles Morales as Spider-Man that delivers an experience full of heart, action, and laughter. But this isn’t an editorial on how great this film is, because there’s plenty of things like that out there. But the following piece will focus on how this film is simultaneously a landmark achievement in animation and comic book films.
The Price of Adaptation
Comic book adaptations have been happening for a long time now. Like any adaption of print, some elements have to be sacrificed in order for the story to work in a visual medium. Comic books rely on images and text to tell a story. Comic book adaptations lately have a done a good job of bringing that certain aesthetic to life, but there’s still something lost in that translation to another medium.
Comic book art is vital in displaying the mood of the characters and the story going on. Artists can literally get as creative as possible with their drawings, colors, and style and their limits should only be their imagination.
Most live-action adaptations lose a lot of that visual flair from the art because real-life people are in the roles. Not that that’s a bad thing, because a lot of live-action comic book films are great and they pay their respect to the source material. There are films like Sin City and 300 that are probably the best examples of properly adapting comic book visuals in a live-action film due to heavy visual effects and green screen usage.
Animation as well has to sacrifice certain things in order to get the movement right. In my editorial for DC Animation, I mentioned that the animators had to find their own style so the heroes can have that fluid motion. If the animators try to just try to copy the art with no original style than you end up with the laughably stiff but charming Spider-Man show from the 1960s. That’s why when watching a film like Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, it’s incredible what the filmmakers were able to accomplish.
A Living, Breathing, Comic Book
Into the Spider-Verse is a landmark film in the comic book and animation genre, because its unique animation manages to bring the comic book art style to life without making any sacrifices. The film’s goal was to feel like a moving, breathing comic book, and it more than accomplished that. Every single frame looks like it was hand-drawn from some of the most respected artists in the industry. But the movie took a lot of painstaking precision on the filmmakers’ part to get it to look like that.
There’s been nothing like the style of animation in Spider-Verse and will definitely be an influence on what’s to come. But it won’t be easy. It apparently took the filmmakers about a year to get 10 seconds of footage right. It took the work of 177 animators to finish the film when it would usually require 77.
To create this unique look, the animators mixed CGI animation along with hand-drawn techniques layered over it. Every single frame was meticulously crafted to continuously achieve this look throughout its runtime. Other techniques that were implemented to get their desired look include the usage of halftones and Ben-Day dots, tones and gradient, crisscrossed lines to get texture and shadow effects, Kirby Krackle, and motion smearing, etc.
There’s also the extra touches that give the film even more detail. Before the film begins the Approved By The Comic Code Authority shows up to ensure audiences that this is a pure comic book experience. You can see the comic book texts and onomatopoeia that pop up on screen to further emulate that look. I personally love how when Miles was going through his transformation it was directly compared to Peter’s in the classic comic.
The way Miles moves as Spider-Man when he starts out is very clumsy and you can see the animators made sure of that. They intentionally mess with the framerate in order to distinguish between the experienced Peter B. Parker and the inexperienced Miles. As the film goes on, he moves more like the hero we all know, but there’s still that bit of clumsiness to show that he’s still young. Each Spider-Man has their own unique visual flair with their colors and movements so it’s clear that they’re from another universe.
The work behind making this film is astounding and it shows while watching it. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a great comic book movie that doesn’t sacrifice any of the source material’s aesthetics making it an important milestone in animation and the comic book film genre. Everyone behind this film deserves credit in making it happen. Hopefully, Sony delivers another film of this style sooner rather than later. Until then watch the movie again to discover new details and enjoy Post Malone and Swae Lee’s Sunflower.