Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is incredible. It’s a poignant and heartfelt coming-of-age story boasting killer animation, a heroic soundtrack, and some of the best Spider-Man iconography ever committed to film.
When Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse arrived on our screens in the latter stages of 2018 it changed the way we view animated movies forever. The film had it all. A character-driven and well-conceived storyline, a visual flair the likes of which we had never seen, and a glorious soundtrack that hit all the right notes. In short, it was nothing short of spectacular. So when the studio announced a sequel, everyone took notice. Fast forward to today, and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is swinging into theatres everywhere. But with the pressure on to deliver a worthy follow-up, can the same team of creatives capture lightning in a bottle and deliver the sequel we are all hoping for?
If you had any doubts, put them to bed now. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is magnificent. It’s a poignant and heartfelt coming-of-age story boasting breathtaking visuals, a bombastic soundtrack, and some of the best Spider-Man iconography ever committed to film.
Miles Morales returns for the next chapter of the Oscar®-winning Spider-Verse saga, Spider-Man™: Across the Spider-Verse. After reuniting with Gwen Stacy, Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is catapulted across the Multiverse, where he encounters the Spider Society, a team of Spider-People charged with protecting the Multiverse’s very existence. But when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders and must set out on his own to save those he loves most. Anyone can wear the mask – it’s how you wear it that makes you a hero.
Right from the off, the directorial team of Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson set the tone for what will become a 140-minute thrill ride. Starting in a familiar setting, we are introduced to Gwen Stacey in a fresh and exciting way. The well-known story of how she acquired her spider abilities is portrayed effectively, drawing us into the story. And soon, she is zipping through the air as Spider-Gwen. Just like any other hero, she bears great responsibility for her powers. Sadly, concealing her abilities from her father is weighing heavily on her. And as the manhunt for her alter ego gathers pace, Gwen finds herself at odds with him – both in and out of costume.
Despite her concerns, she must put them aside as a new multiversal anomaly has emerged in the center of the city leading her into a confrontation with a dangerous new enemy. During the battle, she comes face-to-face with Miguel O’Hara, also known as Spider-Man 2099. And the two unite to overcome their common enemy. However, the villain’s existence reveals a larger threat to the multiverse that appears to originate from Earth-1610 – the home of Miles Morales. And so, the attention of the Spider-Verse shifts to the Morales family, where our hero is still learning to master his powers.
The Morales family is going through a tough time as they try to cope with Miles’ newfound independence. The story is a touching and emotional exploration of family values. And these relationships become strained as Miles struggles to find a balance between his life as a teenager and his life as Spider-Man. In addition, Miles is facing difficulty coping with the loneliness that his gifts have caused and he yearns to reconnect with Gwen. However, things take an unexpected turn when she emerges from a portal and disrupts his world, causing chaos that he didn’t anticipate. This event strains his relationship with his parents in ways he never imagined.
My first and only criticism of the movie arises at this point. Unfortunately, this particular aspect of the plot becomes the primary focus for a period, causing the pace of the movie to slow down significantly, just when it was picking up momentum. It’s a disruptive experience that wears out its welcome quickly. But it’s an instrumental plot point that needs to play out to propel the story forwards. And thankfully, it’s my only gripe.
A MULTIVERSE OF SPIDER-PEOPLE
The plot truly gathers pace in the second and third acts when Miles enters the multiverse and discovers an entire organization of Spider-People dedicated to defending the fabric of every universe. The characters that come into play are astounding and jaws will hit the floor. Moreover, the characters that come to the fore will push the boundaries of expectations and could prove to be pivotal for the future of the Marvel Universe. Every character is rewarded with their own animation style and it’s an onslaught for the senses. One that will take some time to get used to. But by the time we adapt and get thrust into the action, the combination of animation styles is a joy to behold.
These variable styles come into play with the arrival of Karan Soni’s Spider-Man India and Daniel Kaluuya’s Spider-Punk. Their involvement also ramps up the comedy offering some genuinely hilarious moments. And their animation styles offer a rich and rewarding jolt for the senses. But these comedic moments are tempered by the often heartwrenching moments when Miles discovers his true place in the Multiverse.
Once again, the voice cast here is exceptional. Shameik Moore adds yet another layer to Miles’ character to create a far more seasoned personality than his previous outing. And his anguish is more prolific than you would usually expect from an animated movie. Hailee Steinfeld is thrust to the forefront here, and she rises to the challenge and solidifies Gwen Stacey as a hero in her own right. Her performance cannot be understated as she navigates her way through a variety of emotions. Gwen is put through the wringer in this sequel but Steinfeld carries the burden on her shoulders and delivers a performance worthy of recognition.
Oscar Isaac’s Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099, and Jason Schwartzman’s The Spot are major additions to the story. And both play their parts to perfection. The Spot is depicted as the token villain, a foil to solidify Miles’ standing as a hero. But Schwartzman’s performance leaves an impression. And the rollercoaster ride of emotions he endures is a testament to the actor’s range. Isaac, on the other hand, delivers a solid performance but doesn’t really have much to sink his teeth into. This is undoubtedly reserved for the second part of the story coming in 2024. But on the strength of this showing, Spider-Man 2099 will play a major part in Miles’ future.
Daniel Pemberton has returned with yet another bombastic score that, when combined with a playlist of great tracks, creates a symphonic masterpiece that hits all the right notes. It perfectly captures the essence of the story and heightens the drama when it needs to. All the while maintaining the spirit of Miles’ rebellious teenager.
I could go into greater detail and reveal more of what occurs. But to do so would deprive you of your enjoyment of a movie masterpiece that deserves to be experienced on the biggest screen you can find. Lord & Miller’s mission to defy expectations and enhance the formula that captivated us in 2018 was a success. And the result is a sequel grander in scale, visually stunning, and packed to the brim with a heartbreaking coming-of-age story that will resonate with us all.
It’s not for me to say whether Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie to date. That is a matter of personal interpretation. But for me, this sequel raises the bar for the genre and takes it to new highs I never expected it to reach. And if this is the sign of things to come, then the future of animation may just surpass its live-action counterparts. Either way, this sequel is one helluva rollercoaster ride. It’s an expertly crafted adventure oozing with glorious visuals and a pulse-pounding score for the ages. It may not be perfect, but it comes pretty damn close.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is playing in cinemas everywhere now!
Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!