Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse sees Miles Morales and Co. returning in a film that builds upon the strengths of its predecessor in every conceivable way (And in a few inconceivable ways as well). The result is a spectacular sequel that, formally and creatively, expands in scale and scope while burrowing deeper into the very bones of what made Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse such a success.
TOP 5 THINGS ABOUT THIS MOVIE
5. The Writing
The screenplay for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is wonderful. Written by Phil Lord, Chris Miller, and Dave Callaham, it is a whip-tight and razor-sharp script full of tremendous character work, palpably impactful themes, and a ton of heart. While it seems like every big blockbuster franchise at the moment is chasing after the ‘multiverse’ concept to broaden their horizons, Across the Spider-Verse uses the multiverse to dig deeper into the characters at its story’s core, much like the Academy Award-winning Everything Everywhere All at Once.
It is a multiverse story that weaponizes the concept of multiple universes and variants to explore cyclical repetition within its characters’ lives and within Spider-Man storytelling itself. It takes full advantage of the numerous adaptations of this core story that audiences have been exposed to over the past few decades and capitalizes on that familiarity with often surprising poignancy and power. Lord and Miller have always been the meta-masters of having the form of their films symbiotically merge with the content of their stories (ala The Lego Movie), and nowhere have they achieved this more potently than they have in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
4. Shameik Moore’s Miles Morales
Moore is Miles Morales. His performance in Into the Spider-Verse was astounding, injecting Miles straight into mainstream pop culture with finesse to spare (Since the first film’s release in 2018, Miles has become one of the defining characters of Marvel storytelling, with appearances in everything from Insomniac’s Spider-Man video game franchise, increased prominence in the comics, and an upcoming appearance in the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Here, Across the Spider-Verse asks even more of Moore as the film challenges Miles as a character on a fundamental level at every turn, and Moore exceeds expectations time and time again. Filled with reserved emotionality, infectiously off-kilter charisma, and genuine gravitas, Moore is truly amazing.
3. Daniel Pemberton’s Musical Score
So much of these Spider-Verse films’ identity comes from their musicality. While singles such as Swae Lee and Post Malone’s “Sunflower” and Black Cavlar and Blackway’s “What’s Up Danger” hit the mainstream in a big way and are excellent, it is truly Daniel Pemberton’s score that sews so much of the film’s varying stylistic choices together.
From his transcendent and emotive central Miles theme to the passionately pounding percussive work of Gwen’s theme, Pemberton’s score is just as eclectic, kinetic, and sonically vibrant as the animation is visually, and so much of the film’s power stems from it.
2. Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy
Steinfeld excelled in Into the Spider-Verse, delivering a vocal performance that, when paired with excellent writing and animation, changed how audiences viewed a character like Gwen Stacy. Much like Spider-Gwen’s introduction into the Marvel comics in 2014, Into the Spider-Verse and Steinfeld’s performance breathed new life into a character who was previously known for being a woman who died, giving her autonomy from Spider-Man and making her a dynamic character.
Across the Spider-Verse takes this a step further, delving even deeper into Gwen’s world of problems (quite literally), and Steinfeld rises to the challenge in an immensely affecting fashion. She’s practically a co-lead of Across the Spider-Verse and has treacherous ground to walk. Steinfeld’s vulnerable and profound performance is remarkable in that she keeps us constantly anchored in Gwen’s emotional throughline, even when her choices are at odds with what Miles and the audience may want.
1. The Animation
In its opening moments, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse more than earns its The Beatles-indebted title, showcasing a bleeding edge, boundary-shattering ambition regarding the prowess of its animated craft. Blending seemingly anachronistic and disparate animation styles, frame rates, and color schemes into a single cohesive visual symphony of light, color, and movement, it’s nigh unbelievable what has been accomplished here.
From the direction by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, to the excellent work done by the team of over a hundred animators, to the pristine editing by Michael Andrews, it’s all wonderful. If Into the Spider-Verse was equivalent to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in terms of its ground-breaking artistry and how it fundamentally altered the possibilities of animation, Across the Spider-Verse is this team’s Fantasia.
In a film landscape seemingly bursting at the seams with superhero media, so much of it can feel totally disconnected from their actual comic book inspirations. They treat the comics like a bullet point list synopsis, one from which they can cherry-pick characters, storylines, and crossover events while seeming entirely disinterested in engaging with the artistry of the comics (the actual writing, structure, and artwork) in any meaningful way. This is what makes the Spider-Verse films such glorious accomplishments. From its very opening frames, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, just as it blends animation styles and musical influences, is vehemently rooted in combining the visual language of comic books and cinema into a single cohesive craft. The result is not only immensely visually exciting but also one that positively radiates with innovation.