Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse’s Jake Johnson finally brings a married Spidey to the big-screen
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Featured Image Credit: Sony
Spider-Man fans are a long-suffering bunch. We’ve sat through clone sagas, one more days, far too many symbiotes, and whatever the heck The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was supposed to be. But in the last few years? Well, the last few years have been a hell of a ride.
Spider-Man joined the MCU for his own excellent trilogy, we got an outstanding game in the form of Marvel’s Spider-Man (with a sequel on the way!), and Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire returned for closure in No Way Home. But most important of all, we got the masterpiece that is Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
Released back in 2018, Into The Spider-Verse quickly earned heaps of critical acclaim and established itself as the definitive Spider-Man movie. It’s a gorgeous, confident, daring piece of work that pays homage to over half a century of Spider-Man lore without ever buckling under the weight of fan service or allowing cameos to get in the way of the grounded, human story at its heart. I like it a lot, I’m not sure if you can tell.
For GAMINGbible, I sat down with Peter B. Parker himself - Jake Johnson - to discuss the forthcoming sequel, Across The Spider-Verse. During our chat we touch on the idea of an older, married Spider-Man, comparisons to Empire Strikes Back, and joining a society of Spider-Men from across the multiverse.
“I didn't realize how powerful the movie was until the first time I saw the animation,” Johnson tells GAMINGbible of the overwhelming reaction to the first film. “Shameik [Moore, who plays Miles Morales] and I got to see a cut a couple of weeks before we did press for it.
“He and I both felt like we’d just been hit by a car. We’d been with the movie for a couple of years without really seeing visuals. And then to realize what they were doing visually! We were like, ‘oh, this movie is going to be different’. I realized during that screening, they were on to something really big.”
Into The Spider-Verse saw Johnson’s Spider-Man at his lowest point: Divorced, living alone, and kind of obsessed with the mating rituals of seahorses. It’s through meeting and mentoring Miles that our hero is able to embrace the idea of fatherhood and reconcile with Mary Jane Watson in his own universe. Sure enough, when we meet this version of Spidey again in Across The Spider-Verse, he’s a little older, a little wiser, and has his very own Spider-Baby to take care of.
“He's seeing something special in her, you know?” Johnson explains of newcomer Mayday Parker. “Moreso than the regular parent, he actually thinks she might have something to her. And so he's back in the mix, but he's doing it with a little baby carrier.”
Anyone who’s followed Spider-Man comics for more than a few years will know that Marvel has a rather unfortunate habit: any time that Peter Parker comes close to growing up, settling down, or generally getting his shit together, the powers that be come in and slam the reset button as hard as they can.
It’s fair to say that the vast majority of fans desperately want to go back to the days when Peter was happily married - an opinion that’s directly at odds with Marvel, clearly. And the idea of a happily married Spider-Man with a kid? Well, that’s just something we’re never going to see outside of alternate universe stories. So to see a more settled Spider-Man on the big screen for the first time is a huge deal. I inform Johnson of the fan desire to see Spider-Man actually grow as a person, and he immediately cracks up.
“Well, I like those fans! And I feel the same way,” he grins. “I liked playing Peter in the first movie a lot. I liked playing a version of Peter where he was a little bit older, but he was tired. He didn't want to do all the swinging around and saving everybody. But he felt like he had to. And so I liked that.
“They didn't repeat that in this one. I like that he's growing. And he's changing. And we're seeing a version of Peter Parker that we've never seen. He's a father. And it's new. And so the idea of what would happen to him as his character evolves, feels really fun. Peter is on a whole other journey. But he is still, Peter B. Parker.”
Across The Spider-Verse writer-producer Chris Miller teased a few months ago that the new movie shares a lot of DNA with Empire Strikes Back, in that the story ends in an emotional place and leaves you feeling like you need to see the third one (Beyond The Spider-Verse). I ask Johnson how he feels about this comparison.
“Anything he says I'm going to agree with! I think this movie is gorgeous. I think it's really smart. I think it's really fun. It is emotionally heavier at times. If you liked the first one, I don't see how you wouldn't like this one. They're not just repeating themselves. They're not making a Big Mac, you know? Once they figured out the formula, they're not going to try to make 50 of them. They're growing. For me, I can't compare it to another movie. But if that's what he’s saying, then that's the answer.”