How Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Influenced Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Miles Morales close up Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is a complex film. Not only does the movie establish an origin story for a new character audiences have never seen on the big screen before -- Miles Morales -- but it then also throws a whole collection of other side characters into the mix that also require introduction. One can easily see how it must have been a juggling act for the filmmakers behind the movie, but according to writers/producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, one feature that was a source of inspiration while sorting it all out was John Avildsen's Rocky:

Phil Lord: It's an interestingly structured movie because for a really long time Miles is in the movie on his own, and the other lead doesn't show up until like 35 minutes into the picture. That part of it, actually, we're fans of long first acts, where you just really get to know the character and what's driving them. One of the movies we looked at was Rocky. The first hour of Rocky is just Sylvester Stallone walking around Philadelphia talking to people and giving them advice on their lives. And it's great! And that's part of what makes you love that guy.Chris Miller: By the end you just love him so much.

Last week I got to sit down and talk everything Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse with Phil Lord and Chris Miller during an extended interview, and Rocky came up in conversation about the evolution of the screenplay. According to the filmmakers, the script at one point was a whopping 150 pages (which would translate to a two-and-a-half hour film), and while trying to whittle it down they turned to one of the most beloved boxing movies of all time for inspiration.

Like Rocky, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse does indeed have a long first act, establishing Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) as an intelligent, charismatic kid adjusting to life at a new private school all before he gets bitten by a genetically-enhanced spider that gives him super powers. It's not until we've gotten to understand where he's coming from and what he has to lose by being a superhero that we learn about the super collider built by the Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) and the variety of Spider-People from alternate dimensions -- and it has a massive impact on the storytelling.

Simply put, the movie doesn't work unless you really care about Miles Morales, and, in short, it very much does (for a longer version of my thoughts, check out my review and the podcast episode below).

As you may have guessed by this point, it was ultimately the focus on Miles Morales that allowed the writers to hone their script for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and ensure that the story they were telling was being told properly. Said Phil Lord,

Tying it into what was going on with Miles and making sure that that story was always moving forward was really the trick.

You can watch Phil Lord and Chris Miller discuss the evolution of the screenplay for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and the influence of Rocky by clicking play on the video below:

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse will be arriving in theaters on December 14th, featuring a cast including Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Mahershala Ali, Liev Schreiber, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Hailee Steinfeld, Nicolas Cage, and Lily Tomlin. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our coverage, so be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with actors and filmmakers in the coming days and weeks!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

NJ native who calls LA home and lives in a Dreamatorium. A decade-plus CinemaBlend veteran who is endlessly enthusiastic about the career he’s dreamt of since seventh grade.