We review the mind-bending animated epic Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Does it live up to its predecessor?
PLOT: One year after becoming Spider-Man, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is still trying to juggle school, his home life, and being a superhero. His life gets even more complicated when Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) re-emerges into his universe to keep tabs on The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), an enemy Miles already humiliated. To his horror, this one-time joke becomes powerful enough to endanger the fabric of the multi-verse, putting him on a collision course with The Spider-Society, led by the tormented Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac).
REVIEW: I firmly believe that Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is the definitive Spider-Man movie. I still remember going to see the first film and thinking it would just be some disposable kids’ movie, only to discover that producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were reinventing the superhero movie in animated form. In that film, I saw things that I never thought I’d see in a superhero film, and I also believe its mingling of the Spider-verses paved the way for the best live-action Spider-Man movie, No Way Home.
But how would a sequel fare? I’ve been seeing bits and pieces of this movie for years, with Sony showing us extended looks at Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at the various CinemaCon’s I attended, and even with rough animation, it looked pretty spectacular. But how is the finished film? Beyond anything I could have hoped for. My only caveat is that despite a two-hour and twenty-minute running time, we’re only getting half the story, with Beyond the Spider-Verse due for release next year. Yet, it’s an entirely engrossing animated epic that proves, as its predecessor did, that imagination is the only limitation for these films. Lord & Miller, with their three directors, Kemp Powers, Joaquim Dos Santos and Justin K. Thompson, definitely don’t lack imagination – that’s for sure.
Like many other superhero movies this year, this explores the concept of a multi-verse but does so in ways a live-action film could never dream of. If the last one blew minds by having Spider-Ham and Spider-Man Noir, this features endless variations on that character, including cat, dinosaur and even Lego versions – all of which you’ll find yourself taking seriously. Notably, it expands on the Sony-shared Spider-Verse in interesting ways, teeing up limitless ways for this universe to continue.
As part of an epic two-part story, Across the Spider-Verse can take its time bringing you back into its world. The first forty minutes spend much time developing Spider-Gwen, who, in the first twenty minutes, gets a fully fleshed-out backstory that was only hinted at in the first film. When we meet Miles again, the filmmakers give us plenty of time to explore his universe and hang out. Once again, we get to like Miles and especially his parents, including his cop dad Captain Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) and his mom, Rio, voiced by Luna Lauren Vélez.
The movie kicks into high gear in its second and third acts. It shows Miles having a multi-verse adventure that introduces up to a fantastic collection of Spider-people, including Karan Soni’s Spider-Man India and Daniel Kaluuya’s scene-stealing Spider-Punk. Each character has its own animation style, and the effect is trippy, to say the least. It takes a bit of getting used to, as you’re bombarded with stimuli, but the result is intoxicating and unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Like the first film, it has plenty of humour, but also a heart-wrenching main story that involves Miles discovering his proper place in the Multi-verse may not be what he thinks it’s going to be, and real pain is inevitable for him and his friends to continue on this journey. The voice cast is superb, with Shameik Moore definitive as Miles Morales, while Hailee Steinfeld makes Spider-Gwen a protagonist in her own right. One thing I appreciate about these movies is that the voice actors always act naturalistically despite the visual style. They aren’t doing big voices like people often do when voicing cartoons. They underplay as needed, giving the film a truly human dimension.
Oscar Isaac’s Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099, and Jason Schwartzman’s The Spot are the most significant new additions, and both add pathos to what, in a more straightforward movie, would have been standard roles. It’s a film jam-packed to the brim with breakout characters. It includes the welcome return of Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker, Miles’ mentor, who expertly conveys how his once hopeless character has indeed become a better man thanks to the positive influence of working with Miles.
As far as describing characters go, I’m going to stop there, as the less you know about this Spider-Verse sequel, the better. Rest assured, it’s one heck of a ride, with gorgeous visuals and an expertly crafted soundtrack that includes, for my money, the year’s best score (so far) by the great Daniel Pemberton. Indeed, superhero movies are on the verge of a major re-invention between this and The Flash. It’ll be interesting to see if the proper MCU can keep up, as both of these movies, which come out within mere weeks of each other, change the game.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/spider-man-across-the-spider-verse-review/