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Across the Spider-Verse
Credit: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023)

Movie Reviews

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ review: Funny and heartwarming sequel

We had to wait five years for one of the great animated feature films of all time.

Five years ago, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was released and completely changed the way you can approach animation. Taking cues from the comics where the web-slinger was introduced, the groundbreaking mix of 2D and 3D animation recreated the aesthetic and techniques of the source material, as well as various art forms such as street art, all of which serve to tell a story where anyone, including you, can wear the mask. Along with the many accolades it deserved, as well as being an influence for other animation studios to experiment, leading to things like Netflix’s Arcane, how do producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller and the staff of Sony Pictures Animation top themselves with the long-awaited sequel? 

Whereas Into the Spider-Verse was aware of audiences’ over-familiarity of Spider-Man’s origin story and cleverly played with it through Miles Morales’ own origin, Across the Spider-Verse is about deconstructing the consequences about what it means to be Spider-Man. While you have the typical Spidey dilemma of Miles (Shameik Moore) trying to balance his normalcy with the role of Brooklyn’s wall-crawling superhero, what makes him an outsider, even towards his parents, is him knowing that he is only one Spider-person in a multiverse where there are others just like him. 

His parents Jefferson and Rio (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Vélez) are afraid of losing Miles yet not knowing of his costumed life; but Miles’ true challenge is not only confronting the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) who could cause a catastrophic disaster, but also reunited with Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), who is now a member of a group of Spider-People known as the Spider-Society, led by Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac). Expanding upon the ideas from its predecessor, which now seems small-scale despite its multiversal stakes, there are a lot of moving gears in Across the Spider-Verse, not least in exploring other dimensions to showcase new Spider-People can be introduced.

No doubt for a lot of the audience, they will walk away talking about the animation, which continues to break new ground, with directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson building on the first movie’s aesthetics and just ramping them to ridiculous heights. One of the selling points of this movie is the presence of the many, many Spider-People pop up. Sure, they are mostly played for comedic effect, but when you have characters like Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) who is presented in the style of British punk rock art, the animators are constantly experimenting, churning out something more visually interesting than the many live-action superhero outings.

If there is a recurring problem with most American family-friendly animated features, it is the lack of slowing down the narrative and throwing as many visual jokes as possible, just so that the kids won’t get bored. With a running time of 140 minutes, the visual noise is strong with Lord and Miller’s brand of humor being displayed to hilarious effect – including a reference to one of the duo’s previous animated outings – but when the movie slows down to get to know the characters, we find the heart of this series. We may have had a Fast & Furious a few weeks ago, but Across the Spider-Verse‘s theme of family emotionally slaps as the narrative deepens not only Miles’ story, but also Gwen’s as we get more of her backstory than before. 

The sequel’s other central theme is destiny, which has always been a crucial element of the Spider-Man mythos. There has always been a tragic side to the hero, going all the way back to his origin and no doubt Miles in any version, including this one, has gone through that. The question, however, is whether you will let tragedy define you as a hero afterwards and ultimately Miles must confront, not only through the Spot, but also the heroes that are driven by the destiny that has been a part of Spider-Man. When it comes to superhero comics, no matter how convoluted they can be, there has always been an attempt to maintain a canon, something that Across the Spider-Verse acknowledges and is determined to break it for the better.

Across the Spider-Verse
‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ review: Funny and heartwarming sequel
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Five years have passed since its masterful predecessor, but Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse takes the core from before, in terms of animation and narrative, and creates yet another masterful superhero story that is aware of the source material and subverts through its multiversal premise. Bring on Beyond the Spider-Verse!
Reader Rating0 Votes
With more Spider-people and other dimensions to explore, the mix of 2D and 3D animation continues to be groundbreaking.
Strikes the balance between surreal humor and heartwarming drama so gracefully.
Deconstructs the tropes when it comes to Spider-Man's lore, confronting ideas of destiny.
Can we have Beyond the Spider-Verse right now, please?

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