Back in February, my son was on break from school, and I decided to take a day off so that we could go to the movies. I suggested seeing The Lego Movie 2. “Too many little kids will be there,” replied the cooler-than-cool 12-year-old. “Let’s see Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse.” My thoughts, in no particular order, went like this: Little kids won’t be at an animated Spiderman movie? Does the world need another Spiderman movie? Why animate a franchise that is already live action? Why would I want to see an animated version of a franchise I had lukewarm feelings about?
Rather than answer any of my questions, I’ll just say this: I was an idiot. The only positive aspect of my ignorance regarding Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse was that my expectations were suitably blown away by the experience of seeing this film. Less than a month later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded the film an Oscar for best animated feature, making Rodney Rothman ’95, a cowriter and codirector of Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, a first-time Oscar winner.
Rothman’s background is in comedy. He was a staff writer for Letterman, scripted a number of sitcoms, and cowrote the screenplay 22 Jump Street. And while there are plenty of comedic elements in Spiderman, the strength of both the narrative and visuals (a seamless hybrid of animation and retro hand-drawing) lies in its exacting social commentary on what it means to be a hero in today’s world and who, exactly, gets to assume that role.