May the nerd gods bless the animators who brought this stunning movie to life because this one was one of the most impressive-looking films I’ve ever seen!
Set a little over a year after the events of the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse once again follows Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), and their multiple multiversal pals as they’re met by a new enemy called The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), a quirky villain who has a bone to pick with Miles in the worst way possible. Diving further into the Spider-Verse than ever before, Miles soon finds himself not only at odds with Spot but with another version of Spidey named Miguel O’Hara aka Spider-Man 2099, the leader of the Spider-Society of Spider-Man variants and a character who’s doing his best to keep the Spider-Verse safe. Soon, Miles is thrust back into an ever-expanding universe of spider-related heroes and multiverse-threatening foes, forcing him to become something more than he ever thought possible while facing odds that are decidedly not in his favor.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is not as good of a movie as the original, but its sure does everything in its power to try to be. With character work that continues its excellent climb towards showing these young heroes as fully realized people with their own issues outside of superhero-ing, a story that keeps things interesting throughout while being pushed along by zippy and inventive action beats, and more cameos than you can *thwip* a web at, and this sequel has everything fans are looking for and then some. Throw in the fact every single frame of this movie is a piece of breathtaking art all its own since each new Spider-Man has their own unique art style (Spider-Punk’s very Ramones-like visual design being one stellar standout among many), and Across the Spider-Verse may not hit every high and stick every landing compared to the first movie, but by the time the credits rolled, I had to admit I had a blast of a time that I didn’t want to end.
If I had to nitpick, this movie does take a while to get into the thick of things (though the Gwen Stacy-centric prologue was awesome to see), does run a little long in the tooth (it’s the longest animated movie ever produced, apparently), and feels a bit repetitive in spots (no doubt because of its runtime), but thanks to some great character moments, consistently entertaining action and a constantly changing animation style that I can only praise on the highest of levels, these smaller issues can easily be overlooked. But what bothered me most about this one was the fact that it succumbed to the usual unfinished-feeling “part one” movies often have — i.e. dangling plot threads, an odd sense of pacing, cliffhanger ending etc. — making me wish we could have had some sort of real resolution to this film while still effectively leaving room for the next entry to continue from — a la how Avengers: Infinity War led into Avengers: Endgame — without feeling like we’re losing something in the process.
So while Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse could never reach the near perfect heights of its predecessor — a comic book film that’s hands down the best Spider-Man movie ever made and also at the top of the list of best superhero movies of all time — it’s still a worthy, thoughtful and downright beautiful movie to behold all its own. Now if the trilogy-capper to this animated superhero epic can finish this story out on a high note and make its March 2024 release date, I’d be soooo happy!