Animated Spider-Man Back with ‘Arthouse’ Sequel to Oscar Winner

US actor Shameik Moore arrives for the world premiere of "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on May 30, 2023. (AFP)
US actor Shameik Moore arrives for the world premiere of "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on May 30, 2023. (AFP)
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Animated Spider-Man Back with ‘Arthouse’ Sequel to Oscar Winner

US actor Shameik Moore arrives for the world premiere of "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on May 30, 2023. (AFP)
US actor Shameik Moore arrives for the world premiere of "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" at the Regency Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on May 30, 2023. (AFP)

Nearly five years after the animated "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" won an Oscar with its innovative, biracial take on the beloved webslinger, a wildly ambitious sequel aims to further blur the boundaries between superhero films and arthouse cinema.

 

"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," out Friday in the United States, picks up the story of half-Black, half-Latino Miles Morales, again using an eye-popping blend of decades-old 2D comic book drawing techniques with the latest computer-generated visual effects.

 

This time, the action takes place across several parallel universes, each one visualized in its own unique animated style, from a paint-streaked, grungy 1990s New York to a kaleidoscopic futuristic hybrid of Mumbai and Manhattan.

 

The movie employed three directors, more than 1,000 artists, and runs at two hours and 20 minutes -- unusually long for an animated film.

 

Its creators told AFP that the success of the first movie -- which holds the highest-ever rating for a superhero movie on Rotten Tomatoes (97 percent) -- "gave us permission to just be even more daring on this film."

 

"I feel like we got the amazing opportunity as directors to make the world's biggest independent film, basically," said co-director Justin K. Thompson.

 

"It's an arthouse film, disguised as a superhero movie."

 

'The Spider-Verse'

 

The film's hero Morales was first introduced to comic books in 2011, but came to mainstream attention with "Into the Spider-Verse," which won the Academy Award for best animated feature in 2019.

 

Morales shares a familiar backstory with Peter Parker -- bitten by a radioactive spider, he quickly deploys his new powers to swing between Manhattan skyscrapers and fight crime.

 

But his diverse ancestry and fondness for trendy sneakers and rap music set him apart from the "traditional" Spider-Man.

 

It is all made possible thanks to the concept of a "multiverse," in which different versions of the same characters exist in parallel dimensions -- and occasionally interact -- that has been used in comic books for decades.

 

In recent years, the multiverse has become popular in Hollywood too, as movie studios feed audiences' boundless appetite for more and more superhero films, and writers scramble to explain how they can possibly all fit together.

 

"The thing that shocked us on the first movie was, there was no resistance to the idea of a multiverse -- that the audience were completely on board and, like, not confused!" Christopher Miller, who co-produced both movies, told AFP.

 

"It allowed this movie to go to even more spectacular places -- to introduce more unusual characters."

 

The first Spider-Verse movie had a 1930s film noir-style private eye Spider-Man, and even a Spider-Ham pig character. This time, we meet a British punk rocker Spidey, and a dashing Indian version.

 

Two-hour barrier

 

Aside from the complexity of its dimension-hopping plot, the new film has raised eyebrows due to its length.

 

While upcoming adult dramas such as Martin Scorsese's "Killers of the Flower Moon" and Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" are set to top three hours, anything longer than two hours for a US animated feature is highly unusual.

 

And "Across the Spider-Verse" is the first of two sequels, with "Beyond the Spider-Verse" to conclude events next year.

 

But the creators shrugged off the notion that "a film that happens to be animated" must be brief, noting that "quiet" moments from the first film involving Miles bonding with his father and uncle were fan favorites.

 

"The peaks don't play as high if those lows don't play as beautifully low as they do," said co-director Joaquim Dos Santos.

 

"Those are the moments you're losing -- the moments that actually make the film special in the first place," added fellow director Kemp Powers, who also co-wrote Pixar's "Soul."

 

"Of course, if it were six hours, that's too long," he joked.



'Inside Out 2' Scores $100M in its 2nd Weekend, Setting Records

This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
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'Inside Out 2' Scores $100M in its 2nd Weekend, Setting Records

This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)
This image released by Disney/Pixar shows Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, left, and Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, in a scene from "Inside Out 2." (Disney/Pixar via AP)

Weekend number two was just as joyous for “Inside Out 2.”
The Pixar sequel collected $100 million in ticket sales in its second weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, setting a new record for an animated movie in its follow-up frame in theaters, The Associated Press reported. The previous best second weekend for an animated title was the $92 million for “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” Only six movies ever have had better second weekends.
In just a week and a half, “Inside Out 2” has become 2024’s highest-grossing film to date with $724.4 million globally, including $355.2 million in US and Canadian theaters. That passes the $711.8 million worldwide total of “Dune: Part Two.” “Inside Out 2” will likely blow through the $1 billion mark in about a week, which would make it the first film since “Barbie” to do so.
The extent of the “Inside Out 2” success startled Hollywood, which had grown accustomed to lower expectations as the film industry watched ticket sales this year slump about 40% below pre-pandemic totals, according to data firm Comscore, before “Inside Out 2” came along.
The record haul for “Inside Out 2,” though, recalled past years when $1 billion grosses were more commonplace for the Walt Disney Co. It is also a much-needed blockbuster for Pixar, which after experimenting with direct-to-streaming releases, reconsidered its movie pipeline and approach to mass-audience appeal.
Now, “Inside Out 2,” which dipped a mere 35% from its $154 million domestic debut, is poised to challenge “The Incredibles 2” ($1.2 billion) for the all-time top grossing Pixar release. It could also steer the venerated animation factory toward more sequels. Among its upcoming films is “Toy Story 5,” due out in 2026.
For theater owners, “Inside Out 2” could hardly have been more needed. But it also reminded exhibitors of how feast-or-famine the movie business has become in recent years. Since the pandemic, movies like “Barbie,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Top Gun: Maverick” have pushed ticket sales to record heights, but fallow periods in between box-office sensations have grown longer. Ticket sales over Memorial Day last month were the worst in three decades.
Some of 2024’s downturn can be attributed to release-schedule juggling caused by last year’s writers and actors strikes. The biggest new release over the weekend was Jeff Nichols’ motorcycle gang drama “The Bikeriders,” a film originally slated to open in 2023 before the actors strike prompted its postponement.
“The Bikeriders,” starring Jodie Comer, Austin Butler and Tom Hardy, came in on the high side of expectations with $10 million from 2,642 venues in its opening weekend. “The Bikeriders,” which cost about $35 million to produce, was originally to be released by Disney before New Regency took it to Focus Features last fall.
The strong business for “Inside Out 2” appeared to raise ticket sales generally. Sony Pictures’ “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” held well in its third week of release, collecting $18.8 million. It remained in second place. The “Bad Boys” sequel, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, has grossed $146.9 million domestically thus far.
Next week, the sci-fi horror prequel “A Quiet Place: Day One” and Kevin Costner's Western epic “Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1" will hope some of the “Inside Out 2” success rubs off on them.