Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Movie Review
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Movie Review Metadata
I need to tell you what no one told me before I went into Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023): it’s a two-parter. I may have remembered that after Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2018) was a box office smash, two sequels were greenlit, but maybe I didn’t think they’d daisy chain them together. So either due to my own ignorance or Sony’s sloth, I willfully forgot. While it seems they don’t have a lot of time to wrap up the plot to a satisfying conclusion, they actually made a whole other movie, so bear that in mind.
But don’t let that stop you from seeing this now.
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), as do all superheroes with a day job, is coming to a crossroads. He has his future to think about. There is being his friendly neighborhood Spider-Man of Earth-1610, keeping the criminal element at bay, there is his future as a college student matriculating at Princeton, if he ever meets with his guidance counselor, and there’s the relationship with his family, which is strained in that middle ground of being kept close and letting go, complicated by the secrets he’s keeping.
The biggest obstacle in his life though, is Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Spider-Woman of Earth-65, properly met in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. He thinks about her often, in the blush of first love, but due to their alternate dimension realities, she must remain the unattainable crush. He meets Spot (Jason Schwartzman), formerly Dr. Jonathan Ohnn, who was caught in the explosion of Alchemax and is now an interdimensional being. Spot has made it his life’s work to be Spider-Man’s arch nemesis with one singular goal – destroy Miles Morales and everything he loves. To do that he’ll need power from across dimensions, which is where Gwen re-enters the picture.
Gwen Stacy opens Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse as she recounts the very same hardships Miles experiences in a watercolor-washed monologue about family, identities, and the stress of keeping secrets that could destroy worlds. She pops by Earth-1610 superficially to visit Miles. It’s convenient, but not entirely aboveboard, but she uses the opportunity to unburden herself. She tells him about a Spider Society, a gathering of Spider-beings across the Spider-Verse, that to his dismay, Miles wasn’t invited to join. Having to convince Spider-Man 2099, Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), and a very pregnant and bad-ass Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew of Earth-616 (Issa Rae), of Miles’ worth is no small feat. Their job is stopping universe-collapsing anomalies, and Spot’s personal vendetta is the dragline of a very intricate web.
Expect to learn things like the consequences of stopping a Canon Level Event, which if you’re a Doctor Who fan, is like a Fixed Point in Time – things that must always happen across Time and Space. In the Spider-Verse, it’s the death of (an) Uncle (Ben), among others. The Spider-Verse has more than one, and a domino effect of collapsing events could be catastrophic.
The first thing you’ll notice about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the animation. Stylistically different from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it is no less initially jarring but ultimately immersive. It will take a minute to adjust to not only the masterful computer-assisted animation, but the seamless ebb and flow of backgrounds, characters, and dialogue. This is a movie that will require one’s entire attention, so put the phones down. Unlike the busy backgrounds of a James Gunn or Wes Anderson movie, the animation provides a solid focal point of the characters and their specific actions. This isn’t CGI inserts or green screens, but a dynamic, if blurred, setting where the framing is the point, and the background doesn’t require comedic humor to break up a dramatic moment. Much like Into the Spider-Verse was, the animation is broken out into story panels as if flipping the pages of a comic book. Some characters are edged in a blue-red blur reminiscent of a 3-D anaglyph image, a subtle reminder that these Spider-beings aren’t of our universe. The multiple universes and their denizens have their own animation styles, from the Renaissance-style sepias of Vulture (Jorma Taccone), to Gwen’s Impressionistic watercolors, to Miles’ own stylized hand-drawn techniques injecting emotion in subtle drips to the forebrain.
What Sony has managed to do better with the Spider-Verse is compile tomes of story information into visually articulate snapshots, loading them with dialog, emotion, action, and purpose. With humor, drama, and tragedy, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has integrated A LOT into one film than less ambitious studious may have broken out into four or five.
That said, yes, multiple viewings are necessary for the sheer amount of information, and it wouldn’t hurt to revisit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse prior to buying your ticket. There’s some backstory you’ll want to refresh because Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse isn’t going to take a moment to do it for you. There’s too much going down and at 135 minutes, holding your hand isn’t a side journey anyone wants to take.
Some might consider that a downside. The ability to process everything on the screen may be a challenge if the slower pace of a Marvel movie franchise is a comfortable speed. Sony is not wasting a single frame.
Character highlights include Spider-Punk, Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya), of Earth-138, an anarchist who fights against the injustices of his universe with his guitar and a bad attitude, and Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni), the Spider-Man of Earth 50101. Both dynamic personalities show us the weight cultural diversity brings to a film. In 2018, there was excitement for a superhero on par with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Black Panther (2018), a bright, multi-racial young man coming into his powers in a world that wasn’t ready for a Black superhero. We were all in. The further integration of a Spider-Men of all cultures is a natural progression.
We know the kind of people that might have a problem with that, and we kind of hope they choke.
Oh, I need to mention the score because it’s pretty great. Post Malone’s “Sunflower” shot to the top of the charts as a slow jam that gave the warm fuzzies after Into the Spider-Verse, and Across promises equally groovable beats. Daniel Pemberton’s score feels like an audio travelogue, the funky Afro-Caribbean beats of “My Name Is… Miles Morales,” the Indian ragas for Mumbattan, the grungy rock of The Mary Janes, the garage rock sound of the Spider-Slayers. The score is a safety feature in a movie that is so visually driven. The audible click of beats slides the brain into new scenes, syncing the experiences. I’d recommend viewing this in Dolby, with the caveat that it could be overwhelming for some viewers.
There are no End Credits scenes, other than an intertitle card that reminds you that Miles Morales will be back, so if you must, hie thy bladder to the nearest restroom. If you’ve been paying attention to the previous 140 minutes, Mid/End-Credits scenes aren’t needed. Unlike Sony’s Venom franchise which used the mid- and end-credits to set up the next installments, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the setup. Fortunately, for us, unlike the five-year pause between Into and Across, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse comes to us in 2024. It would be cruel to make us wait any longer.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (2023) is rated PG for frenetic animated action-adventure. There are swings from heights, casual heroics, explosions, building collapses, inter-dimensional portals, robbery, grief, and the anxiety that comes from being late for everything.