Sign of the times

January 23, 2019


I have written before about superheroes. Discussing the rise of Marvel and how our context has provided a great canvas for the return of the superhero. Over the summer, I had the pleasure of watching Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Image Source: Flickering Myth

Firstly, go and see it (if you haven’t already). What struck me was how other superheroes have retold old fables. Spider-Verse (I’ll call it that for short) brings the webbed one into a modern context. It tackles the rise of women, multiculturalism and fatherhood. 

The initial Spider-man movies take a similar path to some we grew up with. Superhero. Mystery. Saves the world. Gets the girl. Onto the next act of courage. The soundtrack was full of soft rock – topped off by Nickelback.

But everything about Spider-Verse flips things.

The animation is nothing short of inspiring and uplifting. The way the different dimensions of time and space collide. Turning the grey concrete of NYC and Brooklyn into shards of colour and other times. 

The characters/types of spider people tell a similar story. Spider-Gwen is capable. A Japanese anime Spider woman, complete with ballet slippers. Mysterious-ish. An equal, if not more skilled than the newest Spider-man. Not to mention the pastiche pig Spider-ham (bit random I thought). 
Spider-man himself (Peter Parker) is fallible. The teacher, not the saviour. The new Spider-man must learn to be courageous and take a leap of faith.

Finally the sound track, it's not just full of rock brands from the US and Canada. This time artists from the US are complemented with Brits, Zimbabweans, Ugandans and people from the Caribbean. Which has created songs that are a mix of juxtapositions to the film, not just the typical pump up high octane sound accustomed to these types of films.

I have been really enthused by everything to do with this film. I believe it shows how the creative industries and story-tellers are embracing many of the forces and threads in society today. 

The film made me think about, and challenge, how we go about marketing today. How we can take our brands and evolve their narratives to ‘clash’ with some of the new and challenging ideas in society. Whether they be like the ones the movie has tapped into, or others that are more specific to your category. 
This also reminds us that even though ads might not have the place they once did, that visual styles and identity can help to differentiate and create the emotional impact they are after in communication and identity development.

More broadly, however, it shows how the studio had courage to reshape a brand that was ticking along "okay". To give it a new lease on life. Taking the heroism of the brand and bringing it into a new place.