To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a computer-animated superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Miles Morales/Spider-Man, directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson (in their feature directorial debuts), from a screenplay written by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), and David Callaham (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). Featuring Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Vélez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, and Oscar Isaac; it is the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and is set in “Spider-Verse,” a shared multiverse of Spider-Man and his affiliated characters. The story follows Miles Morales as he reunites with Gwen Stacy and follows her on an adventure across the multiverse where he meets a new team of Spider-People, led by Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099.
In Chelsea on Earth-65, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) is still struggling to get over the death of her best friend Peter while missing Miles. Her father, Captain Stacey (Shea Whigham) lets her know they are close to capturing Spider-Woman, whom the police are hunting for Peter’s death. That night Captain Stacey gets a call about an intruder at the Guggenheim Museum and heads out. Gwen secretly changes into her costume and follows him. Inside she runs into a Renaissance-themed version of the Vulture (Jorma Taccone) and deduces that he comes from an alternate universe. As they fight, Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) and Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) arrive using portal-generating watches and help Gwen subdue the villain. Gwen is confronted on the scene by her father and reveals her identity to him. Distraught at this revelation, he attempts to arrest her but is restrained by Drew and O’Hara and Gwen escapes with them through a dimensional portal.
In Brooklyn on Earth-1610, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is struggling to balance his academic responsibilities and his job as Spider-Man while missing Gwen. While heading to a parent-teacher evaluation, he encounters former Alchemax scientist, Dr. Jonathan Ohnn (Jason Schwartzman), who now goes by the Spot after his body was imbued with portals during the collider explosion. Blaming Miles for being stuck in his predicament, the two fight and end up back at the explosion site. There Miles runs into his father Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) and they talk. The Spot reappears to continue their fight but ends up “kicking his own butt” and accidentally transporting himself inside of himself. In the void, Ohnn learns to travel to other universes after briefly entering Earth-688. He then decides to travel to every universe that contains an Alchemax collider so he can use them to become more powerful.
I have always been a big fan of Spider-Man. He has one of the most interesting and diverse rogues gallery in all of comics next to Batman. His origin story and how he uses his powers despite not being well-off are relatable to the average person. I was first introduced to Miles Morales/Spider-Man when I read the Ultimate Marvel comics in high school. The stories were set in an alternate universe and the ones centering around Peter Parker/Spider-man were fascinating. When Peter died Miles ended up replacing the web-slinger and taking up the mantle of Spider-Man. One of the things I loved about Miles was that he was Black, being the biracial son of an African-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. He was also not a carbon copy of Peter as his abilities included camouflaging himself rendering him effectively invisible to others and a “venom strike” an electric discharge that can temporarily paralyze almost anyone with just a touch. When the Ultimate universe ended during Secret Wars, Miles was folded into the main 616 continuity.
Considering how much I enjoyed the MCU Spider-Man I was pretty sure that an animated Spider-Man movie would never come to fruition. However, after seeing Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse my tune quickly changed and I wanted more movies a.s.a.p. I wasn’t the only one either as the movie became a moderate financial success, was critically praised, and went on to win the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film at the 91st Academy Awards. (The first non-Disney/Pixar film to do so since Rango at the 84th Academy Awards.) I was hopeful that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse would follow in the footsteps of its predecessor and I’m happy to say that it does in spades.
This film is magic and filled to the brim with the essence of a good sequel. The story is not a rehash of the previous movie and develops upon the relationships and characters that we were previously introduced to. None of these characters have remained stagnant during their time offscreen and have lived full lives. Aside from looking more mature and gaining new costumes some of the characters have kids and even different names. The story starting from Gwen’s point of view is a fantastically unexpected change that helps the blooming romance between her and Miles. Whereas she was a tertiary character in Into the Spider-Verse she has now been promoted to co-lead.
The voice cast is great once again with everybody turning in amazing performances. I can truly see every single cast member making the leap to live-action if it ever happened. Aside from Miles and Gwen, other returning Spider-People have more limited roles. Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) now has a young daughter named May whom he irresponsibly takes on adventures with him. Her introduction is adorable. She has inherited her father’s abilities and even has her own little web-shooter. The prominent newcomers include Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man, Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman, Pavitr Prabhakar/Spider-Man (Karan Soni), and Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya). Each has a unique personality that distinguishes them from their peers. Miguel is serious, Pavitr is carefree, and Hobie is just super cool and laid back. Honestly, Hobie is my favorite newcomer and Kaluuya crushes the role.
The animation is experimental and stunning. Never before have I seen so many different styles utilized in a single movie. There is even a bit of live-action tossed in there. Each Spider-Person and their world boasts a unique and vibrant animation style. Hobie for instance looks like a collage made from magazine clippings while Pavitr looks like he was drawn with chalk and Miguel is sleeker and anime-inspired. Earth-65 world looks like it’s painted with watercolors with the pigment changing depending on her mood. Earth-13122 is made out of Legos. Earth-1610 and Earth-42 look like a stylized comic book and Earth-688 is live-action. Of course, the music also plays a major role in how good this movie is. Daniel Pemberton’s (The Bad Guys) score combined with the soundtrack curated by Metro Boomin works hand in hand for a memorable melodious experience. There are also tons upon tons of Easter eggs scattered throughout, from a passing mention of the events of Spider-Man: No way Home (2021) to making sense of the Morbius (2022) post-credits scene. The attention to detail in in how this story connects to other Spider-Man canon is well done .
Across the Spider-Verse has a hefty runtime for an animated film clocking in at 140 minutes which is 23 minutes longer than the first picture. That being said you don’t feel the length or rather you don’t care as not a single second is wasted. The movies keeps you interested at all times. The movie doesn’t just jump from location to location either. We spend a good bit of time on Earth-1610 seeing Miles deal with his family issues before the multiverse adventure starts. Even with the lengthy runtime, this is only half a story as it ends on a cliffhanger a la Back to the Future Part II (1989). Originally the film was subtitled Across the Spider-Verse (Part One) with the second half coming a year later. The third film has since been resubtitled Beyond the Spider-Verse, but it’s clearly still finishing up what’s left of this story. It makes sense as releasing a 4-hour kids movie into theaters is a hard sell.
With its experimental animation, deep characters, and heartfelt story Across the Spider-Verse is one of the best-animated movies ever to grace the screen and one of the best sequels ever produced. I give Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse a Perfect 10/10. I can’t wait to see how this story concludes in Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse and with “beyond” in the title I can imagine some of our favorite live-action Spider-Men will be making their debut to help out Miles and the team.