Trends in cinema come and go, but it seems a safe bet to say that when future generations look back at what defined the culture of the early 21st century, superhero movies will be up there.
Sony was arguably responsible for setting the foundation for what would become the modern superhero movie when they entrusted Sam Raimi with the original Spider-Man. As such, it seems fitting that almost two decades later it's Sony who is again treading new ground in the genre with a new release.
The movie in question is not Venom, nor anything in its villain-led universe. Rather, the release this year that could set into motion the next step for superheroes on the silver screen is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Here's why.
ANIMATION IS KEY
We've seen an abundance of superhero movies since the turn of the century, some great, others not so much. Nevertheless, one thing that is inevitable is that as the market for them becomes more saturated, fatigue will set in. I've already seen it personally, with one of my friends claiming he's "just bored of the MCU." The films are as good as ever, maybe even better, one needs only to look at Black Panther (2018) to see a movie with a unique aesthetic, that marks a step in the right direction for the industry. Despite this, it seems an increasingly common opinion that the movies are too formulaic, the market is too crowded — it's the natural cycle of cinema.
However, Into the Spider-Verse offers a welcome sense of freshness. There are various reasons for this, but let's start with the obvious: its animated nature. The concept of an animated comic-based superhero movie has rarely been seen in cinemas to date. This seems somewhat surprising, given how both superheroes and animated flicks are hugely popular among families.
Animated movies are not only popular amongst young audiences, but are more often than not cheaper to make than live-action blockbusters; as much can be seen by the popularity of the famously cheap-to-make Illumination movies.
Although the production budget for Into the Spider-Verse isn't known yet, there are still plenty of useful examples of this. Despicable Me (2010) had a low production budget of $69 million and even 2013's smash-hit Frozen's production budget was just $150 million; both pale in comparison to Spider-Man: Homecoming's (2017) $175 million production budget.
This leaves an enticing prospect for studios. With a lower budget, comes lower risk.
Furthermore, Homecoming is relatively small-scale for a recent Marvel movie. It's not a team-up movie like The Avengers, however Into the Spider-Verse is, and likely on a smaller budget. The reason for this is simple: despite strides forward in CGI, it's still possible to do more with action and set-pieces in an animated feature than in live-action.
THE DUAL APPEAL
However, being an animated superhero movie alone doesn't seem to be enough to be a success, as it has been done before, albeit not often. The recent release of Teen Titans Go! To the Movies (2018) wasn't a notable success and The Lego Batman Movie (2017), while a box office success, saw unexceptional profits compared to other animated hits.
There's one key difference between those two movies and Into the Spider-Verse — those were comedies first, superhero movies second; the same cannot be said of the upcoming Miles Morales adventure. In fact, one of Into the Spider-Verse's biggest pluses is the fact that it's a Miles Morales film. The introduction of Miles as main character, along with other fan-favorites hitherto unseen on the big screen such as Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir, will curry favor with fans.
There's a clear appeal to younger audiences due to the film both being animated and featuring the web crawler in action; there's an appeal to adults and fans of the comics, in particular, due to the focus on lesser referenced elements of the Spider-Man continuity. Not to mention the art style, which looks the closest we have ever seen to being pulled straight from the pages of the comics. It is clear that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse isn't just going to be Spidey's first theatrical outing in animated form, it's also likely to be the biggest love letter to fans of the comics we have seen to date.
It'll be interesting to see how Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse performs when it releases this December. It appears that between the focus on quality animation, the indulgence in quirks that make comics so interesting, and the duality of appeal Sony have cracked the code on what an animated superhero movie could be. If so, then expect a wave of animated features, which will hopefully offer a different take on the genre to the current selection of live-action movies.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse premieres in theaters on December 14.