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Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Review: The Spider-Verse Just Levelled Up

When Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse debuted in 2018, audiences and critics hailed it as an instant classic. The film delivered a captivating story, cutting-edge visuals, and memorable characters that audiences fell in love with.  

Recreating the magic of genre-defining films like Into the Spider-Verse is like trying to capture lightning in a bottle. Could anyone reasonably expect the sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse to match the original’s sweet, sweet highs? 

Luckily, Across the Spider-Verse’s directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, are not reasonable people. This filmmaking trio goes for broke, crafting an ambitious follow-up hellbent on outdoing its predecessor in every conceivable way. 

In the months following the events of Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) has found his groove as Spider-Man. Although he’s Brooklyn’s finest hero, his crime-fighting career is taking a toll on his personal life. Mile’s grades aren’t where they should be, and he often lets down his parents when they need him the most. 

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Miles ends up in the dog house after dipping out of an important parent-teacher meeting to chase down a “villain-of-the-week” calling himself The Spot (Jason Schwartzman). The Spot uses his ability to create small wormholes to commit petty crimes until his tussle with Spider-Man helps him unlock his full potential.  

It turns out that The Spot’s holes tear through time and space, opening a doorway to other dimensions. In order to stop this power-hungry villain from growing stronger, Miles must once again team up with Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and leave his beloved Brooklyn behind to slingshot across the multiverse. 

Writers Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Dave Callaham make the film’s unwieldy multiverse-hopping hijinks easily digestible for comic book fans and newbies alike. While Across the Spider-Verse’s eye-popping visuals are the first thing to grab your attention, the film works like gangbusters because the writers always prioritize character and story over visual bombast.  

Lord and Miller are two of Hollywood’s most outside-the-box thinkers. They have a superb grasp of storytelling structure that allows them to bend and twist narrative rules in strange and compelling ways. Lord and Miller have the subversive filmmaking instincts of arthouse directors, but they’re masterful at seeding their unconventional ideas into commercially viable family films with universally relatable themes. 

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When discussing the most beautiful animated films ever created, Into the Spider-Verse has to be in the conversation. Since its release five years ago, no other animated film has come close to matching its level of technical craftmanship until Across the Spider-Verse.  

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The visual effects team builds on all of Into the Spider-Verse’s game-changing technical innovations while letting their imaginations run wild. It’s as if the film’s animators dreamt up the most challenging visual concepts imaginable and then pushed themselves ten steps further. 

Even though this film shines when the action reaches a fevered pitch, some of its best shots happen when the pace slows down, allowing the audience to catch its breath.  

One standout sequence sees Miles and Gwen gazing at the New York skyline. It’s an imposing composition that conveys the overwhelming nature of the world they fight to protect. The stunning shot would look great mounted in a frame in your living room, but it also serves a storytelling function reminding us that despite their superpowers, Miles and Gwen are still only a couple of kids in over their heads.  

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The film’s score is loaded with nothing but bangers. The film had me in its grip the second it dropped Rakim’s old-school jam Guess Who’s Back, and it kept the vibes flowing with a handful of new tracks from Metro Boomin.  

But as much as I enjoyed the soundtrack’s radio-friendly hits, it’s composer Daniel Pemberton’s scintillating score that elevates the onscreen action to a higher level. Pemberton draws from a number of musical genres to sonically colour each scene.  

The music shifts from pulsing bass-heavy synths reminiscent of Blade Runner to the operatic sounds of a gothic choir. The emphatic score pairs magnificently with the vibrant visuals, creating a delectable audio-visual feast. 

Across the Spider-Verse is a glowing love letter to Spider-Man’s legendary mythology, and it’s bursting at the seams with homages and easter eggs. An avid Spider-Man fan could watch this film 20 times and find something new with each viewing. While anyone can enjoy this film, it will leave long-time Spider-Man fans in a state of cinematic bliss. 

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The multiverse was a novel concept in 2018, but studios have unleashed a flood of multiverse movies since then. While most of these movies are quite meta, few use the conceit so adeptly. Rather than simply showing fans different versions of what they already love, Across the Spider-Verse delves deeper, striving to do more than deliver token fan service.  

Unlike movies and TV, comic book characters exist in perpetuity – Peter Parker’s story began in 1962. In the time since, he’s been a high school geek, a struggling college kid, a family man, and even a host for an alien symbiote. 

Across the Spider-Verse examines how much we can alter a classic character before they lose the essence of what we cherish. Must every Spider-Man story include a murdered uncle? Does Spider-Man always have to take s#!t from J. Jonah Jameson? By having Miles and Gwen confront these questions, the film digs into some weighty Shakespearean themes regarding fate, tragedy, and individual agency. 

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Most multiverse movies go for cheap thrills, indulging devoted fans by revisiting iconography they already adore. While there’s plenty of that here, the film goes full-on John Hammond, putting the very notion of a Spider-Man story under a microscope to resequence the mythology’s ancient DNA. 

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The film’s true antagonist isn’t something Miles can punch in the face. The real enemy here is how Spider-Man’s 60-year-old mythology has denied Miles’ self-agency. Do we truly desire a closed-loop system of remakes and sequels serving us the same tale over and over? Or should we be open to seeing the stories we love to evolve into something new and unexpected? 

Although the film won’t help dispel fandom’s addiction to cheap fanservice, I appreciate its attempt to nudge viewers outside their comfort zones. 

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the ultimate Spider-Man movie and a perfect summer popcorn flick. It’s a funny, heartfelt, and infinitely rewatchable action-comedy that ranks among the superhero genre’s very best. 



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