Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was always going to be Miles Morales’ movie but, early on in development, the filmmakers realised there was a big problem. His name was Peter Parker.
“From the inception of the project, when they came to us asking if we would do an animated Spider-Man movie, we said only if it’s Miles Morales story,” producer Chris Miller told Gizmodo.
“So the idea of it being Miles’ journey, about Miles’ family, his friendships, and him becoming a hero was the core of the movie in every conception from the very beginning. And then, sort of midway through he first draft, it was like ‘Let’s address the elephant in the room of Peter Parker.’”
For people who don’t read comic books, Spider-Man has almost always been Peter Parker. So the filmmakers decided the movie had to address the character but also not simply retell his origin story, which we’ve all seen so many times.
“[The movie] always started with Peter narrating it and basically going like ‘You know what this is,’” producer and co-writer Phil Lord said. “It goes like ‘I’m this, I’m this, I’m a comic.’ At that point it was like ‘I’m a movie, I’m all these other things.’”
“Later Rodney [Rothman] embellished some of the other characters stories with their own version [of that],” Miller added.
Rothman, who wrote 22 Jump Street for Lord and Miller, co-wrote Into the Spider-Verse with Lord, and also co-directed the film with Peter Ramsey and Bob Persichetti.
“I was looking at stuff Phil had done and just experimenting with it, Rothman told Gizmodo. “It was definitely a way to convey to the audience that we understood we were picking up a story that had been told before, that was almost like a modern myth.”
“There was going to be this recurring, infinite variations and infinite combinations kind of thing where you see repeated tropes or events through the spectrum of different characters, whether it’s Peter or Miles,” said co-director Peter Ramsey. “But it hadn’t been refined to what it is now until quite a bit later.”
Once the problem of Peter Parker got ironed out a bit, Rothman continued experimenting, extending the conceit he developed for Peter Parker’s origin to the other Spider-beings in the film as well.
“It just got interesting and fun to repeat it and to use that almost thematically to show how all the characters are interesting or similar and different,” he said. “It just kind of happened organically.”
However, repeating the same thing over and over again in a movie is rarely a good idea. It has to be just right, which became an issue for the directors.
“Initially [the origins] always kind of dragged you back too far,” Persichetti said. “And then, over the course of sort of editorial, we figured out a way to make it always propel you forward as opposed to pulling you backwards.”
The two people who probably got pulled backwards the most, though, were the voice actors.
“My intro? I think I’ve probably done 70 different versions [of that] over two and a half years,” Jake Johnson, who voices Peter Parker, told Gizmodo. “That was one of those things where we’ve done various jokes, various tones, we did it countless times, in countless different ways and they tested it to see [what worked best] because obviously it’s really important.”
However, this is Miles’ movie. Always has been. So the most important origin story was his. And, according to Shameik Moore, who voices Miles, his origin monologue changed, well, more recently than you may expect.
“You saw the movie when, yesterday?” the actor asked. “That’s a later version than the monologue that [we] were talking about. I did that like three weeks ago.”
Yes, the actor recorded a crucial piece of dialogue three weeks before the movie was shown to audiences, which was kind of par for the course on Into the Spider-Verse.
“This whole movie has been last minute,” Persichetti said when asked about the crazy-late change. “But they’re not changes, they’re reactions. They’re reactions to everything that’s happening before. You subtly change the conversation as things are being discovered and learned, so you want to get more specific with the words.”
“Weirdly, it’s like tailoring a coat or something,” Rothman added. “That piece we kind of had to stitch last because it was the culmination of everything.”
Actually though, the culmination of everything is later this week when fans can finally see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in theatres.