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'Spider-Man' kicks off summer blockbuster season with big, broad audiences

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Hollywood's blockbuster season is in full swing, with an animated Spider-Man doing most of the swinging. Critic Bob Mondello says the film's appeal has proved bigger and broader than expected.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The first "Spider-Verse" film five years ago was what's called a sleeper hit.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE")

SHAMEIK MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Anyone can wear the mask, but how you wear it - that's what matters.

MONDELLO: Animated and with an Afro-Latino Spider-Guy in an alternate universe from the popular live-action superhero, "Into The Spider-Verse" was not a conventional Marvel movie, and it was not expected to do much business. But the film ended up making $384 million worldwide. Five years later...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE")

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Things are going great.

MONDELLO: The producers doubled down in "Across The Spider-Verse" on the uniqueness audiences liked the first time - multiple heroes, diverse backgrounds, lots of animated tricks to make the film look like the comic books that inspired it.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE")

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Maybe some things are supposed to be just for us.

HAILEE STEINFELD: (As Ghost-Spider) That's a nice way to think about it.

MONDELLO: The result was an explosive start this weekend - $208 million worldwide...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE")

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Woo (ph).

MONDELLO: ...Roughly three times the opening of the first film.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE")

STEINFELD: (As Ghost-Spider) Look at you.

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Look at me.

MONDELLO: And the diversity on screen - not just Shameik Moore's leading arachnoid but also several Spider-Women and a whole plotline built around a Spider-Dude in India...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE")

KARAN SONI: (As Pavitr Prabhakar) My name is Pavitr Prabhakar. I live in Mumbai. This is where the traffic is. This is also where...

MONDELLO: ...Predictably led to diversity out in the auditorium. The film opened strongly in 59 countries around the world. And in North America, exit tracking found that the audience was about one-third Latino and another third Black and Asian, diversity percentages far higher than for most superhero films.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE")

MOORE: (As Miles Morales) Calmate, mami. Eso no es my fault.

MONDELLO: All of this despite what, for an animated film, is a downright epic running time - two hours and 20 minutes, meaning exhibitors can't squeeze in as many showtimes as they'd like. You won't hear them complaining, though. At the end of "Across The Spider-Verse" is on-screen text saying that next year Spidey will be back in "Beyond The Spider-Verse."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMPOSSIBLE (ORCHESTRAL REMIX)")

BLACKWAY: (Singing) I come alive in the dark.

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IMPOSSIBLE (ORCHESTRAL REMIX)")

BLACKWAY: (Singing) And I keep getting stronger. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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