Across the Spider-Verse Is The Perfect Family Blockbuster For One Adorable Reason
Wondering why the latest Spider-Verse is so great for families? Writers Chris Miller and Phil Lord reveal how they continue to make everything awesome.
The latest and greatest Spider-Man movie for the whole family — Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse — has received deservedly ecstatic reviews. It’s just hit theaters and is the long-awaited sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the second part of a trilogy that will conclude in 2024 with Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, AND it’s awesome. But, the reason why the new animated film is so perfect for kids to share with their parents is 100 percent by design. The writers of Across the Spider-Verse are Chris Miller and Phil Lord, perhaps most famous for the 2014 smash-hit The Lego Movie. Speaking to Fatherly just ahead of the debut of Across the Spider-Verse, Miller, and Lord make it clear this experience is designed specifically for co-viewing, and the movie is deeply invested in depicting parents and children alike, as heroes.
At least one part of Miller and Lord's Secret Spidey cocktail is the fact that Miller himself is a dad and actively thinks about his own children when making the Spider-Verse movies.
[Kids] are the best audience to have.”
“I've been trying to impress my kids through our whole career,” Miller says. He’s a dad to a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. So how’s that going? Did Miller’s kids actually like Across the Spider-Verse? “It’s going pretty well! They love it. They loved the first movie. I show them these movies in various stages of production, so they've seen them evolve. They give notes in a way that’s like, ‘OK, alright.’ It's great having honest reactions from kids because you can see when they get bored or you can see when they're excited or engaged. Their bodies don't lie, so they're the best audience to have.”
The enduring success of Spider-Man, as created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, is remarkable. It started decades ago, in 1962, as a comic book and has blossomed into everything from Saturday morning cartoons to a live-action television series, and from a Broadway musical to several blockbuster live-action and animated feature franchises. But why is Spidey so much more beloved by kids than some of his super-peers? Chris Lord thinks he knows why. It’s not just the fact that the various Spideys are sometimes teenagers.
“Spider-People are just like us,” Lord says. “They're not from outer space. Being a super-person is not their birthright. They are chosen by accident, at random, and they have to rise to that challenge like we all do. They're scared, vulnerable, and clumsy. They make mistakes and they're human beings. That was the principle idea that Steve Ditko and Stan Lee had to begin with.”
Chris Miller also notes that the Spidey mask and the multiverse of different Spideys means kids can “imagine themselves there, under the mask.” Lord adds that “any of us could be in there.”
The new film, once again centers on the current Spider-Man, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who lives with his parents in Brooklyn and juggles his school studies with regularly saving the day. Following, a brief reunion with Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), Miles winds up thrust deep into the Multiverse, where he meets the Spider-People tasked with maintaining order, well, everywhere. It’s not long before personal circumstances pit Miles against Spider-People who should be his allies. The result is a tale brimming with emotion, action, propulsive music, and wildly inventive animation, as well as questions about family, friendship, and responsibility.
And, make no mistake, Across the Spider-Verse fits within the greater Spider-Man cosmos. So, for example, Miller and Lord paid close attention to the most recent live-action adventure, Spider-Man: No Way Home, as they toiled on Across the Spider-Verse.
“These films coexist in parallel, and we obviously try not to repeat what other people have done,” Lord says. “So, we make adjustments based on the other pictures that come out. More or less, we're just doing our own thing,
“So much of this movie is about parent-child relationships.”
Parents watching Across the Spider-Verse will surely appreciate the domestic moments devoted to Peter B. Parker/Spider-Man (Jake Johnson) and Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman (Issa Rae). We get glimpses of Mayday Parker, who is Peter B., and Mary Jane Watson’s little baby. Plus, later, Jessica turns up very, very pregnant and even more capable.
“Peter loves being a dad,” Lord says. “He loves spinning diapers with his webbing and he's so proud of his daughter. We also love that Jessica is also bringing her kid to work. So much of this movie is about parent-child relationships. Not only do the kids have to grow up, but the parents do too. Both Peter and Jessica are thinking about what kind of parents they want to be, and what kind of kids they want to raise.”
Miller and Lord both laugh when it’s mentioned that they seem to be spinning a web that will one day lead to a Spider-Man next-generation movie featuring even more Spidey babies, all grown-up.
“Anything,” Lord notes, “is possible in the multiverse.”
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out in theaters now.