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

Move over Peter Parker, your time as everyone’s favorite Spider-Person has officially come to an end. You had a spectacular run, but second place is not all that bad.

Since his creation by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli in 2011, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) has easily maneuvered himself into the hearts of many by first turning the lights on with PS4’s Spider-Man and complimentary game Miles Morales and finally becoming mainstream in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Arguably one of the best animated films and comic book films of that year in 2018, a year that also saw the release of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Miles made his own way to the front, no one should tell his story for him, destiny doesn’t work that way.

5 years and a pandemic later and finally Across the SpiderVerse has come to leave its multiverse sized mark on the genre, on the medium and on film history. The film directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson check those boxes and then some, making Across the Spider-Verse the most pivotal Spider-Man film to date. What Into the Spider-Verse accomplishes Across doubles down on its bet and hits the jackpot for 140 minutes straight. Every Spider-Person that appears in this sequel has a purpose, from the smallest one-shot fan served cameo to those with more prominent roles.

And there are cameos galore – most of which are blurs due to the breakneck speed Across moves at, that have been already teased with a few that sends shockwaves through the Spider-Verse sized connection these films share. What a better way to bring all of these Spider-People’s stories together than through Miles Morales, the one and only Spider-Man of Earth-1610. In the time since Into the Spider-Verse, Miles has progressed as the city’s protector, learning and enhancing his electrically charged venom powers, honoring his late uncle Aaron’s (Mahershala Ali) death, creating a new stylishly sleek costume, and above all else missing his friends.

Friends that don’t come to visit him, though they have the power to. Friends that think they’re protecting Miles but end up hurting him the most.

But there’s a pretty significant reason these friends don’t visit Miles that ventures into spoiler territory so to avoid those, the basic premise is this – after being bit by the radioactive spider in Into the Spider-Verse and destroying the collider, Miles inadvertently creates a ripple effect that could destroy the entire multiverse. To take it a step further, the spider that bites Miles came from a different earth, Earth-42, an Earth that has no Spider-Person to protect it.

But that’s only the cherry on top of a Spider Sunday consisting of all the favorite flavors we have come to expect from this team and seemingly infinite cast of spider characters. One of those flavors is the breathtaking picturesque animation style. There are moments where I had to remind myself to actually breath and proceed to pick my jaw up off the floor (though 5 seconds later it was back down there in awe of the achievement put on screen). It’s been said but every frame Is its own work of art, a masterpiece drawn, colored and computer generated into its own living and breathing Sistine Chapel.

The directing trio suck you into these portals to other dimensions, creating a fully engaging visual feast for the senses. The attention to detail stands out creating an immersive unique heartbeat to each universe we visit down to the snap of a finger from Rio Morales (Luna Lauren Vélez) representing the Puerto Rican flag. Several earth’s are visited in this sequel, opening on Earth-65 and its Spider-Person Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) as she reminiscences on her Peter Parker and the journey she went on including an estrangement with her father George Stacy (Shea Whigham).

Setting the films events in motion, Gwen becomes alerted to Vulture (Jorma Taccone) an anomaly from an alternate renaissance themed universe trapped on Earth-65. Showing up to assist Gwen and protect the Spider-Society is Miguel O’Hara aka Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) with assistance from Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman (Issa Rae). How Miles fits into this puzzle begins with what he refers to as a “villain of the week” in The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) robbing a convenience store’s ATM machine because his new look doesn’t attract a ton of job opportunities.

Across the SpiderVerse does the job of a sequel without so much as a strain on a thwipped web strand. A multiverse story has already proved more tedious and impossible to get right but Across does so with ease without becoming too overstimulating and convoluted. Writers Phil Lord, Chris Miller and David Callaham execute their script never once sacrificing the viewer’s attention and understanding of the mechanics of a multiverse story.

In every way, Across the Spider-Verse is the Empire Strikes Back of Spider sequels. Given its sheer spectacle and dimension shattering ambition, Lord, Miller and Callaham keep Miles story firmly planted on a Brooklyn sidewalk. But it’s not just Miles that is given the intimacy among the scope necessary for a sequel to thrive  – Gwen, her expectations and her father, Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) and his little Mayday and finally Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni) in his introduction and minimal time returning a maximum investment. I hope Beyond the Spider-Verse revisits Mumbattan. For all these stories and characters that wind up making the Spider-Society, Across is still very much a Miles centered story and at its heart is his family Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio.

Beyond the dazzling animation, Across features another magnificent score from composer Daniel Pemberton and complimented by an even better soundtrack despite no song coming close to Post Malone’s Sunflower. The music only elevates the story hitting the nail on the head for the darker themes, higher stakes and tone set as the backdrop.

We all know the clichéd saying that Peter Parker and subsequently every Spider-Person has come to represent – “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility.” I would add in “ The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.” Both epitomize the struggle between protagonist, Miles and the antagonist character keeping the multiverse intact, Miguel. These two quotes give Spider-People their purpose for what their doing. “If not for Uncle Ben, most of us wouldn’t be here” Peter B. Parker pleads with Miles during the ride up to the films climax. Loss will always drive a Spider-Person, it’s the foundation of the character but for this film, its crucial.

If anything can be taken away from Across and its predecessor Into and hopefully in its sequel Beyond its the awareness and introduction of these Spider-People that come from different backgrounds and cultures. Peter Parker is no longer the only Spider-Man to love, adore and cheer for. And if one person who sees Across decides to pick up a Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) or a Pavitr Prabhakar comic book, than the film and every artist and creator that has crafted this film and the characters has done their job.  

Across the Spider-Verse has all of the humor, the self-awareness and most importantly, the bite to push the boundaries of a sequel. The word masterpiece should never be used as cavalier or casually when discussing a film, but Across, ripped right from the pages of a comic book in every aspect technically and artistically is a masterpiece that deserves it’s time to be marveled.

Screenplay By: Phil Lord, Chris Miller & David Callaham

Directed By: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson

Music By: Daniel Pemberton

Starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Vélez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar Isaac, Shea Whigham, Mahershala Ali, Andy Samberg, Greta Lee

Edited By: Mike Andrews

Release Date: June 2, 2023

Running Time: 2 Hours 20 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Based On: Spider-Man created by Brian Michael Bendis & Sara Pichelli

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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