'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse' Review
May 31, 2023
We all know Hollywood has had an aversion to using numbers within their titles due to the implication that you must have watched the previous entries to comprehend the upcoming one. Instead of just Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, etc. we got Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Afterlife, etc. Sure, using subtitles may have lessened the audience’s weariness for a sequel, but it also makes it impossible to sort franchises in the correct chronological order. And as a further act of the snake eating its tail, we now have the beginning halves of multi-part stories not containing the title of “Part One,” à la Dune, Fast X, and now Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Yes, for all of you who weren’t already in the loop, this sequel to the 2018 surprise critical and commercial success is only the first half of a two-part story, with the concluding chapter to come in only nine months. And in keeping with that Harry Potter/The Hunger Games/Avengers-inspired trend, we leave off here with a cliffhanger, which of course I won’t spoil.
With a 140-minute runtime (making it one of the longest wide-release animated movies of all time) and IMAX engagement, Sony is truly treating this like an event picture. In terms of production qualities, the movie more than lives up to its ambitions. Similar to Denis Villeneuve and Greig Fraser’s work within Dune, Across the Spider-Verse contains mountains upon mountains of beautiful sequences that require the largest screen possible to appreciate. It can become a little too chaotic at times, such as the backgrounds shifting entire color palettes just between shot/reverse shot moments, but it’s all in service of something more creative than almost any other animated movie.
Between Loki, Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, comic-book fans (or MCU fans to be more precise) are well accustomed to the concept of the multiverse. Thankfully, Spider-Verse leaps over that slowly tiring concept and delivers on its true potential of having access to a limitless version of Spider-Men. Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson revealed that the film contains nearly 250 characters, which happens to include a car and a dinosaur version of Spider-Man. I guess that doesn’t sound that far-fetched considering John Mulaney’s Spider-Ham stole the show in Into the Spider-Verse.
Miles’ introduction into the multiverse comes from a new villain on the scene named The Spot, whose Rorschach-esque body allows him to shoot teleportation spots. His quest to become Spider-Man’s nemesis leads him to open up portals into other dimensions, all happening to contain their version of Spider-Man. But shifting between dimensions isn’t exactly a natural process, nor a safe one, as bridging them together leads to catastrophic consequences. Miguel O’Hara leads the unofficial Spider-Man version of the Justice League that seeks to retain order, sometimes achieved “by any means necessary.”
Between Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, Tom Holland, and Shameik Moore, we’ve had our fair share of stories about the web-slinging superhero. For all its visual inventiveness, Across the Spider-Verse struggles to break the mold (or should I say web?) when it comes to delivering a unique story. We’ve still got the radioactive spider, the inability to share his secret identity, and the struggles of balancing responsibilities. At this point, it’s a little tiring, especially in a movie like this that kicks all the resolutions down the road.
Still, those weary concepts are given a lot of mileage out of the extremely talented voice cast. Jason Schwartzman, Oscar Isaac, Issa Rae, and Daniel Kaluuya round out the newest additions that join the returning core. Through the expressive animation, they’re all allowed to plentifully run the gamut of emotions. Providing background to their one-liners and dramatic moments is a bevy of hits on the soundtrack by the likes of Metro Boomin and Future.
The world may not need more Spider-Man stories, but Across the Spider-Verse makes enough of a case for its existence thanks to its breathless animation and fun ideas. With 140 minutes spent on developing just the beginning of this story, I’m intrigued to see all that the finale has to offer.