Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is so perfect that the only complaint I can level is that the sequel can’t come fast enough.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came out in 2018, and it was a revolutionary, nuanced, animated film that pushed animation, and the genre of superhero films, forward. By that standard, I can’t imagine the pressure the filmmakers had to deal with when they made this sequel, but they took everything from the original and topped it in every way.
Across the Spider-Verse is funnier, bolder, and more challenging as a story. The film has bigger odds, way more drama, and it’s also more inventive with its visual style that feels inspired from classic comic books from a range of eras, while remaining true to the Spider-Man story.
Since it arrived in theatres, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 was my favourite film from the entire Spider-Man franchise, but I don’t think I can say that any more. The latest live action Spider-Man films have been absolutely wonderful in every way, tying so perfectly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Across the Spider-Verse is, in so many ways, the best film we’ve seen in the way it tells a really complex story that’s driven by a lot of emotion.
Across the Spider-Verse follows three main threads. There’s Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld), and her life after she went back to her own Earth, where her best friend Peter Parker died. Meanwhile Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is trying to lead two lives, between his school and parents, and as Spider-Man. And then there’s a group of Spider-people trying to protect the multiverses, and I won’t say too much more about that.
All of these threads comes together into one, big web that’s shaken up by one oddly perfect villain: Spot (Jason Schwartzman). This villain was born when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he’s after Spider-Man–specifically Miles–and he has a terrible plan.
I love the way the story–by screenwriters Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and David Callaham–subverts expectations at times, and shows Miles in a brand new light. He’s slightly older and wiser; more grown up and yet still recovering from everything that happened to him in the first film.
The film is so clever, and while you may see a few things coming at you, this Spider-Verse is filled with surprises. It’s inventive and frankly stunning to see all of these unique Spider-characters so well realized.
Issa Rae as Spider-Woman is a fantastic hero alongside so many others, including familiar faces, and Oscar Isaac as the great Miguel, a future Spider-Man drives a lot of story beats. But the two Spider-Men who steal the film for me were Daniel Kaluuya as Spider-Punk, the Brit-punk hero, and Karan Soni as Spider-Man India. These two characters aren’t around nearly long enough, but they electrify every scene.
The depth of the performances by Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Vélez, Miles’ parents, Jefferson and Rio, is astonishing and so heartfelt. It’s refreshing for any film, but especially a superhero film where parents generally occupy the edges of the frames.
The power and warmth and chemistry between Moore and Steinfeld is also wonderfully realized and feels so refreshing. This is a relationship built on admiration, respect, and seeing themselves in each other. The filmmakers have created a beautiful friendship, on the cusp of something else, and they pull and tug at those bonds throughout the entire film in the best ways possible.
So many of the original film’s best relationships are revisited, and get another look, or end up being something else entirely through the lens of the multiverse. There are so many surprises that I couldn’t tell you half of them if I tried. And a few cameos literally made me yell in the theatre.
What drew me in even deeper to this film is the way it actually becomes an even bigger extension of the multiverse we glimpsed in Spider-Man: No Way Home. It even finds a way of connecting things to Venom, in the most unlikely way possible.
There is also one minor complaint that I’ll level, but I can’t say too much about it without giving a lot away. All that I’ll point out is that I think Spider-Man is due for some new universal rules, and I hope the franchise can set aside old tropes for good in the very near future.
Audiences will have to wait nearly a year, until March 2024, for the finale to this incredible film, and it’s frankly worth the wait for a film that does so much, and creates a mood that feels so fresh and original and exciting. It’s been months since I’ve laughed this hard, and still left the theatre with so much to think about.
Go see this film on the biggest screen you can find, and then plan to see it again soon, because Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse demands to be seen again.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is playing now in theatres.
Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures.
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