How Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s Negative Test Reaction Helped the Movie


The Spider-Mania is continuing well into 2022 thanks to the monumental Spider-Man: No Way Home, although that movie isn’t the first instance of a Spider-Verse coming to life on the big screen. That honor went to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which brought more than half a dozen web-slingers together into one story with the fate of the Multiverse on the line.

For the most part, Sony’s animated Spider-Man feature became an overwhelming success by featuring Shemiek Moore’s Miles Morales alongside multiple Peter Parkers and other web-slingers. While the movie is universally loved by critics and fans now, it took a long time for the studio and team behind Into the Spider-Verse to nail down the specifics for the story and characters.

Recently, producing duo Christopher Miller and Phil Lord explored some of the more difficult aspects of bringing their animated pet project to completion more than three years ago. Part of that included the use of test screenings, some of which made them worry if everything was going to work out in the end.

Spider-Verse Producers on Test Screenings

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller sat down with the Happy Sad Confused Podcast to discuss the challenging parts of making the animated movie. The clip comes from host Josh Horowitz on Twitter.

The pair looked back to test screenings for the film, including one in Arizona where it “did not test well at all.” This forced the duo to make adjustments for people who “weren’t engaging with it,” letting the audience indicate what needed to be adjusted so that the best story came to fruition:

“Every single thing that we’ve done, we’ve had some screening midway through the production where we all looked each other going ‘We are screwed. We are absolutely screwed.’ Even Spider-Verse! We did an early test in Arizona, and it did not test well at all. We made some adjustments, we figured out what people were bumping on, why they weren’t engaging with it, and you just keep working.  It’s just a thing that evolves. The audience sort of tells you what it wants, and then you have to figure out the way to give what they don’t realize they want.”

Specifically, this involves going deep into the footage to “sustain an audience’s engagement” for the longest time possible, meaning Lord and Miller had to analyze every few seconds over and over:

“It is a case of just grinding, where you kinda go ‘I’m trying to sustain an audience’s engagement in this thing for as long as possible, which means you have to sit there and watch it going like ‘Alright, those five seconds, those are great. The next five seconds, those are great.’ Then, something happens in my body like, the whole thing grinds to a halt, and I’m like ‘What? That was dumb.’ And then you gotta either cut it or beat it, usually, we try to beat it because we try to leave it all on the field, and then only cut things down as a last resort.”

How Lord & Miller Made Into The Spider-Verse Work

Every major Hollywood production goes through its rough patches, especially superhero movies, considering how much pressure is on them to be great these days. The same applies to animated features like Into the Spider-Verse, especially with how ambitious this film was for tackling the Multiverse head-on.

With so many twists and turns in their movie, Lord and Miller seemed to constantly be reworking portions of the plot to make sure everything flowed smoothly. While the team didn’t offer any specifics in regard to what was adjusted the most, a story with that many characters and storylines had to be a monumental task to get right for Sony.

Now, the pair looks to do the same thing and more with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which is set to release later this year with even more wild plot points. Oscar Isaac’s Spider-Man 2099 will be yet another key player alongside Miles Morales and Hailee Steinfeld’s Spider-Gwen, and there are plenty of unrevealed details that are sure to come in the near future as well.

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