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The new Spider-Man film shows that representation is a winning strategy

A still image from an animated Spider-Man movie shows the main character suspended in mid-air with a New York City skyline behind him.
Sony Pictures
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" is earning a lot of praise.

Turns out inclusivity also means more people want to give you their money! The early box office figures for the new Spider-Man film — and the demographic data of moviegoers — paint a vivid picture.

Who is he? There are plenty of variations on who Spider-Man is, and now Miles Morales is getting the spotlight.

  • You might be familiar with the original web slinging New York-based hero named Peter Parker. Miles is another variation of the hero in a different universe. He's a Puerto Rican, afro-Latino teenager from Brooklyn.
  • While he's been part of the Marvel universe for years, he arguably made his biggest splash as the protagonist of the recent Spider-Man animated films, starting with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a sleeper hit from 2018 that won an Oscar for best animated feature and earned nearly $400 million worldwide at the box office.

What's the big deal? The most recent film in the series, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, has made even bigger headlines and received rave reviews.

  • The film grossed $208 million worldwide in its opening weekend, roughly three times as much as the opening of the first film, as reported by NPR's critic, Bob Mondello.
  • And while in his review Mondello cites the inventive animation and plot as contributing to the success, he says that the diversity on screen was a huge draw for audiences.
  • That ranges from the main hero portrayed by Shameik Moore, to the several Spider-women featured, as well as the India based Spider-guy, Pavitr Prabhakar.
  • According to Mondello's reporting, the film opened strongly in 59 countries. 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.
A man in a white suit and sunglasses points at an unseen crowd while standing in front of a large promotional banner.
Joe Maher / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Shameik Moore attends an Across The Spider-Verse gala screening in London on June 1.

What are people saying?

Here's what the co-director of the first film, Peter Ramsey, had to say about the significance of Miles in a 2019 interview with NPR:
This genre allows people to sort of project themselves onto these heroic figures who struggle with their own difficulties and own insecurities.[People of color] want to be part of the story, want to be part of the myth. If you can't be part of a myth like that, then what do you have in a culture?

And here's Mondello again, in his review ofAcross the Spider-Verse:

If the last film was a major reset for genre expectations, Across The Spider-Verse is an expansion for artistic ones, rich enough in feeling and character and innovative visuals to warrant — and I'm kind of astonished to be saying this — the second or even third visit that fans will want to give it. I may just join them.

So, what now?

  • Across The Spider-Verse's numbers put it alongside the big live action superhero blockbusters, something Mondello says is "mildly astonishing" for an animated film not made by Pixar or Disney.
  • The release of the next sequel, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse is slated for March 2024.

Learn more:

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Manuela López Restrepo
Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.