Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
June 2nd, 2023
MOVIE: SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE
STARRING: SHAMEIK MOORE, HAILEE STEINFELD, OSCAR ISAAC, JAKE JOHNSON, ISSA RAE
DIRECTED BY: JOAQUIM DOS SANTOS, KEMP POWERS, JUSTIN K. THOMPSON
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
With each new version of Spider-Man that arrives- animated, live-action, Spidey and His Amazing Friends, Tobey Maguire or Tom Holland, they never lose that allure. The story has been told many times and audiences still cheer loudly for the web-slinger. The teenager that is bitten by a radioactive spider and receives superpowers, that’s a story we know, but it’s not getting old. In the animated form, the mythos of Spider-Man has been greatly expanded on, and if you wondered if the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a fluke, I’m here to tell you that the follow-up- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is proof of how amazing the story of Spider-Man can truly be. A trio of directors- Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson have taken over the storytelling, expanding the adventure for Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy in epic fashion. Across the Spider-Verse is a thrilling continuation into the revolutionary world of Spider-Man that will leave all of your Spidey senses tingling.
From a story perspective, what made Into the Spider-Verse incredible was Miles Morales (voiced by Sameik Moore), a kid from Brooklyn, who loves escaping into his headphones, working on his sketching skills, and unable to escape the pressure from his police officer father and extra-loving mother. The minor shift in Across the Spider-Verse is that the focus begins with Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) aka Ghost Spider. We learn the backstory of her alternate reality, where Peter Parker became The Lizard and died in his rampage, sending her own police chief father hunting for her. It’s in the second act where we catch up with Miles, now fully submerged into the Spider-Man hustle, missing classes to stop bad guys, and disappointing his parents with his lack of focus. With the multiverse still causing glitches, a villain by the name of The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) shows up, and now he wants to make Miles…or any Spider-person miserable. This leads Gwen back to Miles, for a much bigger purpose, and Miles will realize that there are many more Spider-People than ever before.
The screenplay itself was written by Christopher Miller, Phil Lord, and Dave Callaham and just like the first Spider-Verse did, we are introduced to an even bigger society of Spider-versions, led by Spider-Man 2099 Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac doing some of the best vocal work), Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) aka Spider-Girl, Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya), Spider-Man India (Karan Soni), and Spider-Byte (Amandla Stenberg). And although that many variations and characters can make Across the Spider-Verse chaotic at times, the story glides through it like a blade through a web. Any narrative flaws are instantly muted by the visual spectacle. The animation here is otherworldly. A true display of various animation types and styles, from watercolor to graffiti art, to anime, to an old-school comic book look, and on. To capture it all is impossible and it becomes a movie to study again and again.
What is also elevated in Across the Spider-Verse are the stakes. Unlike Spider-Man: No Way Home, this feels untethered to the long-form narrative and the Disney machine. The tension is even greater than before, where The Spot is only an immediate threat, but what becomes the true test is when Miles and Gwen must decide between sacrificing those they love for the greater good. It all thwaps and whips with great energy, something that may have been held back in the first installment, but has been fully unleashed now. The only minor complaint I had was that I didn’t want it to end and it was two hours and twenty minutes long. (The third installment has already been announced and it can’t arrive soon enough.)
The hype for Across the Spider-Verse is legit. Dos Santos, Powers, and Thompson have made something truly special, crafting an animated film that blends all ages, eras, and versions of Spider-Man into a thrilling feature. At times it feels like a Spider-Man utopia of Spidey characters. Add on top of that a soundtrack and score that vibrantly buzz’s in the background, while the animation itself does its own magical dance, including easter eggs for the die-hards, and hints at things to come. It’s easy to say that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is one of the best movies of 2023. I just hope I can survive till we get the next installment. Possible to jump into a Spider-Verse where the next one is playing? If not, I guess I’ll just have to see this one three or four…hundred more times. It’s that good.
SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE IS PLAYING IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY JUNE 2ND, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady