Our man-of-many-movies, Mark Kermode, is swinging on by to drop his take on the animated superhero flick, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. You can watch his fine review, above.
But what did we think here at SFcrowsnest Towers? The Spider-Verse, it seems, is an infinite canvas of alternate universes where everybody gets a turn to be the Spider-hero (yes, even a punk rocker and a man from 2099), and Miles Morales is the epicenter of it all. If you thought the premise of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) was wacky, well, then, hold on to your web-shooters, because the sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, is here to make things all the more kaleidoscopically thrilling and emotionally gripping.
Despite being the longest animated film produced in the United States (140 minutes, that’s like ten tiny Spider-ham adventures), the movie does not feel overly drawn-out, but instead, feels like an adrenaline-packed roller coaster ride across different universes and art styles. It is an animated tribute to the imagination, an unabashed love letter to the comic book medium, each frame meticulously woven with visual inventiveness and narrative depth.
Much like its predecessor, this film proves to be a masterstroke in animated storytelling, only this time around, the multiverse is their playground. Our hero, Miles Morales, swings from universe to universe in a whirlwind of portals, portals, and more portals (Can you ever have enough portals? Apparently not). It’s Spider-Man meets Doctor Who meets Sliders, with a little sprinkle of cosmic seasoning on top. It’s as wild and frenetic as it sounds, and it’s just as delightful.
What strikes the perfect balance is the heart of the story – the relationship between Miles and Gwen Stacy, aka Spider-Woman. A tale of friendship, trust, and a hint of star-crossed romance, it’s a reminder that at its core, this big multiverse saga is also a small, intimate story about growing up, making choices, and dealing with the consequences. This time, Miles is not just wrestling with multiversal villains but also with the universal pains of adolescence.
And while the web of characters is expanding – with an eclectic Spider-Society led by the enigmatic Spider-Man 2099 – it doesn’t overlook the trials and tribulations of each Spider-character. From Gwen Stacy’s struggle with her secret identity and its impact on her relationship with her father, to Miles’ grappling with the expectations of his parents while mourning the departure of Gwen, each character’s arc is given due attention and emotional heft.
The Spider-Verse is also a chance to meet new Spidey alter-egos, some of which are as delightfully wacky as you’d expect. Pavitr Prabhakar aka Spider-Man India and Hobie Brown aka Spider-Punk take the center stage in one of the movie’s most explosive sequences. You haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen a punk rocker with a spider mask taking on a baddie with the power of rebellious rock and roll. Trust me.
What sets Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse apart from other superhero fare is not just its vibrant and unique visual style (six different styles, to be exact), or its unabashed embrace of the weird, but its ability to ground all of its high-flying, dimension-hopping action in real, human emotion. This is the heart of the Spider-Man story, and it beats as strong as ever.
Yes, there’s a Renaissance-themed Vulture, a Spider-Society, and an unfortunate scientist named Spot who got infused with portals (and you thought you had a bad day at work), but at its core, it’s still a story about a boy growing up, a girl coming to terms with her identity, and the age-old Spider-Man mantra: with great power, comes great responsibility.
In the hands of directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, this film’s ethos and energy are beautifully captured. The action sequences are kinetic, visceral, and mind-bending. Just as you think you’ve got a handle on the rules of this universe-hopping madness, another visual marvel (no pun intended) hits you right in the face like a Spidey-punch. One can’t help but marvel (again, no pun intended) at the ingenuity of the visual style – each universe distinct, yet part of a cohesive, brilliantly executed visual feast.
But what makes Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse truly sparkle is its soul. It’s not just a fantastic superhero film – it’s a meditation on identity, a tale of growing up, and a homage to the myriad possibilities that comics can offer. It handles complex, emotional themes with the deftness of a seasoned tightrope walker, grounding its spectacular inter-dimensional antics in deeply human experiences and emotions.