Superhero movies are a fact of life these days with a minimum of four or five hitting theaters each year. One of last year’s most beloved is arriving on Blu-ray/DVD on March 19th, and after months of hearing people praise it with unanimous passion — typically a sign that it won’t be for me — I’ve finally watched it. And sweet Jesus is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse an absolutely brilliant comic book movie. Funny, smart, touching, and never less than visually thrilling, the film is an absolute joy that you’ll want to re-watch immediately.
So I did.
The Blu-ray features a commentary track featuring five of the immense talents responsible for this animated masterpiece — yeah, I said it — and they offer a mix of detail and anecdotal stories about the film’s production, all of which will appeal to the film’s many fans. So keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary for…
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Commentators: Phil Lord (co-writer, producer), Chris Miller (producer), Bob Persichetti (co-director), Peter Ramsay (co-director), Rodney Rothman (co-director, co-writer)
1. One of the glitching Columbia Pictures logos is from 1965’s Cat Ballou, “a fine film if you’ve never seen it.”
2. We see the number 42 early on — and will see it in the film again — and it’s a reference to Miles Morales’ (Shameik Moore) origin story involving a lottery that landed him at his elite prep school. It was also Jackie Robinson’s jersey number, but “it has nothing to do with Douglas Adams.”
3. One of them thinks the Spider-Man dance scene from Spider-Man 3 (2007) is “bad” but he’s quickly peer pressured into calling it “great” instead. The joke riffing on it was included at Rothman’s insistence.
4. The car ride with Miles in back and his dad (Brian Tyree Henry) driving was recorded with them sitting in chairs set up like a car to give them the proper dynamic.
5. A brief shot of the cover of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations shows a character touching another’s shoulder, and it’s a “deep cut” piece of foreshadowing.
6. There’s a quick shot at 9:40 of Donald Glover on Community in the Spider-Man costume.
7. They were all in awe of Mahershala Ali during his recording sessions. “He makes you want to be a better person when you’re around him,” says one. “Then he goes away and it kind of wears off.”
8. The graffiti montage with Miles and Uncle Aaron (Ali) was one of the earliest completed and served as a “lodestar” moving forward to inform and inspire them with later scenes.
9. It was Ramsay’s idea to hold off on the visual comic language — word bubbles, panels, etc. — until Miles is bitten by the spider.
10. They’ve been asked how Miles, with a cop father and nurse mother, could afford Air Jordans, but “they were a gift from his uncle.” Boom!
11. Their concept of Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) was that he was “the living expression of a black hole.”
12. They enjoyed the use of “Kirby dots” during the collider sequence as they remind of spray paint in addition to honoring their namesake “the great Jack Kirby, king of comic book artists, who would use that as sort of a way to show cosmic energy.”
13. Spider-Man’s face inside the collider beam shows very quick flashes of all the alternate universe Spideys heading our way.
14. The commentary track was recorded a few weeks after Stan Lee’s death on November 12th, 2018. They mention that they went to Lee’s office to record his vocal work — he was the only one they went to while everyone else came to their studio to record.
15. Miller voice cameos as the police dispatch officer on the cop car radio.
16. Doc Ock’s (Kathryn Hahn) office is filled with octagonal light fixtures and furniture as a hint to her true identity.
17. They went through seventy or so versions of how Miles would look while invisible. Yeah, you read that right.
18. The “bagel” text as the bagel hits the scientist’s head at 52:22 was a joke pitch that an animator took seriously and added in. They loved it.
19. The sound motif used when The Prowler is onscreen is a modified elephant roar.
20. They gave the animators permission to make Miles unattractive in his tearful breakdown when his Uncle Aaron dies.
21. Spider-Ham’s (John Mulaney) contribution to the scene where all of the Spideys mention who they’ve lost is now a touching beat of him acknowledging that “you can’t always save everybody,” but it used to be a joke line about his “Uncle Frankfurter who was electrocuted, he smelt so delicious.” It earned a big laugh from early viewers, but they realized it both took viewers out of the heaviness of the scene and hurt Ham’s appeal going forward.
22. The memorable shot at 1:23:43 of Miles falling/rising was written in the very first draft of the script as a stage direction.
23. The food machine from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) is visible being sucked into the collider at 1:40:53.
24. Producers Amy Pascal and Avi Arad first came to Lord & Miller about doing an animated Spider-Man movie in 2014.
25. The animation styles present throughout the film mean it took on average four times as long to animate a second than it typically does for CG animated films. “The crew was larger I believe than any other crew that’s been assembled for a movie.”
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“We can talk for a second about the chromatic aberration.”
“If you hit pause anytime a train goes, because everybody wanted to animate Stan [Lee], he’s in almost every single train.”
“There was a whole debate as to how much paunch Peter B. Parker should have.”
“We should have put an actual Easter egg in this shot.”
“One of the things that happened in the mix for the first time in Lord & Miller’s career was we started turning things quiet.”
“There was a moment where they were afraid that the movie was going to break their machine.”
“It was cold that day.”
There is a lot to take in both on the commentary and in the movie itself, and that’s still only scratching the surface of what the Blu-ray has to offer thanks to numerous featurettes, an onscreen Easter Egg hunt over the film itself, and more. Even if it was a barebones disc, though, with just the movie itself, this is a must-own release. Watch it, re-watch it, share it with the kids, neighbors, and passersby. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a magical piece of cinema.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.