So often, contemporary superhero movies are content to lift storylines from comic books, with little of their spirit – but the Spider-Verse films really do honour the latter. This is of course not the only way to adapt comic books well. But as of right now, they feel like films that are both truest to the spirit of the medium of comics, and testament to the expressive potential of animation. That’s because Spider-Verse’s visuals aren’t just a complement to the story – they are part of the story. Indeed, they seem to have lit a fire under the right people in Hollywood, heralding a boom in varied, stylised approaches to animation in recent big releases like The Mitchells Versus the Machines, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (a few of which have some crew overlap with the Spider-Verse films).
The two movies – which will be joined by a third and final Spider-Verse film, set to be released next March – are also a reminder that writers are but half of what makes a comic book. Remember the colourists, the pencillers and inkers, the letterers and cover artists – they have as much authority over the depiction of these characters as the writers do. While so many films solely treat comic books as containers for intellectual property, the Spider-Verse films have once again broken from formula, embracing the true potential of what a comic book movie could be.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out in cinemas internationally now.
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