Five years after the revolutionizing, Oscar-winning animated film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” hit the theaters, we finally have our hands on its sequel and it astonishingly beats its predecessor in every category. With an incredible storyline, unforgettable characters and of course, beautiful animation, many viewers are calling “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" a masterpiece of a movie.
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson, the sequel reunites Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) as a new villain, The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), threatens to shatter the multiverse. Miles travels to Earth 2099 to meet with the Spider-Society, a group of Spider-People from different dimensions led by Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) tasked to protect the Multiverse. However, when the heroes disagree on how to handle the new threat, Miles has to match against Miguel and the other Spiders and embark on a mission to write his own story to save the people he loves most.
Visually, the film serves as a love letter to comic books and animation. With the advantage of being an animated film, the possibilities are as limitless as the imagination. Many of the scenes in Spider-Verse are unrealistic, but this preference for style over realism is exactly what gives the series its unquestionable charm. I bet you can pause the movie at any moment and the frame will be art museum-worthy. But make no mistake, each color choice, comic book flair and transition serve to enhance and drive the story forward. Each universe is well-crafted and backed by intentional artistic decisions. From the culturally-rich streets of Mumbattan — a fusion of Mumbai and Manhattan — to the pastel watercolors of Gwen’s inner world, the art and animation will take you on a ride you’ll never be bored of.
And of course, we can’t forget about the sounds of the film. ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ gave us a stellar soundtrack with the unforgettable hit song ‘Sunflower’ by Post Malone and Swae Lee. It comes as no surprise that the “Across the Spider-Verse” soundtrack goes above and beyond expectations with songs produced by Metro Boomin featuring artists like NAV, Don Toliver, and many more. It’s a synthwave, trap and hip-hop gem with absolutely 0 skips. Not to mention the work of Daniel Pemberton whose score and motifs perfectly capture the suspense in each thrilling action scene and the emotion behind each intimate moment. Pemberton along with Metro Boomin creates a palpable combination of talent that encapsulates the spirit of Miles Morales throughout his journey as Spider-Man.
While you’re distracted by the bright colors and sounds, the main story is sure to come from right under you and pull at your heartstrings. In the last movie, Miles was just learning the ropes and stepping up to become Brooklyn’s only Spider-Man. The movie elaborates on what it means to be Spider-Man with the main conflict of the movie focusing on Miles grappling with the identity everyone else expects him to be. From his parents to his antagonists, everyone is trying to write his story for him, but in true superhero fashion, he won’t buckle that easily. It is an emotionally resonant theme in everyone’s lives, the discovery and process of defining who we are and who we want to be on our terms. He is determined to prioritize both identities, as Miles and as Spider-Man. Miles wants to have his cake and eat it too —- by making two cakes.
In addition, Miles is not the only character highlighted in this movie. Gwen gets the spotlight to demonstrate how the two Spiders struggle with their life of secrecy. For Gwen, her father is actively seeking out Spider-Woman to get justice for his daughter, unaware that they are the same person. So Gwen pushes her father away because she doesn’t know how to tell him what she’s dealing with. And for Miles, while Rio (Luna Lauren Velez) and Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) care deeply for their son, Miles still fears that they won’t love him anymore when he uncovers the second life he’s been living. Their crime-fighting lifestyle is quietly dissolving the bonds they have with their loved ones, a conflict that connects the two characters.
Besides Miles and Gwen, there is a whole catalog of new characters you’re guaranteed to fall in love with. Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) is hardcore, fighting evil villains all while pregnant! On a motorcycle! Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni) is witty and funny and despite being a new Spider-Man, is dedicated to saving his local citizens from danger. Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya) is foul-mouthed and a punk-rock anarchist who isn’t afraid to march to the beat of his own drum. Each character is distinct in their design and the film makes it easy for the viewer to want to care about these individuals.
However, ‘Across the Spider-Verse’ is not without its flaws. The film takes its time introducing the new cast of Spider-People in its first act and opens up so many unique storylines that by the time it drops the other shoe and hits its viewers with the “To Be Continued” screen, it feels like a 2+ hour-long trailer for part two, ‘Beyond the Spider-Verse’. Plot points are left incomplete until the release of the third movie, but for how many movies can you say that its only flaw is that it ends too soon? If you’re heading into the theaters for this film, keep in mind that this is only part one and try not to get too emotionally attached.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” does a brilliant job of combining both elements of excellent writing and breathtaking animation to deliver a wonderful story about carving your own path in life. There are truly not enough words to describe the pure delight I have felt while watching this film. It’s funny, it’s emotional, and it’s enjoyable for all age groups. If you were a fan of the first Spider-Verse movie, you will 100% be into this one and I can’t wait to see where the writers and directors will take this franchise in the next installment.
5 out of 5 stars.
Knives Nguyen, (he/them/theirs) is a journalist from the Bay Area who covers entertainment and culture. You can connect with them on LinkedIn: @knivesnguyen.
Edited by Nykeya Woods