Directed by: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Written by: Phil Lord, Chris Miller, David Callaham
Starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Vélez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar Issac
Released: June 1, 2023
Grade: B+

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Over the past two decades, the animated feature film industry has become more voluminous and more competitive.  This is great for fans of the genre but on the flip side, it’s made it harder for an animated feature to “stand out” in terms of style and narrative.  Released in late 2018, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse broke away from established moulds and created something fresh.  It was rewarded by becoming the first non-Disney/Pixar movie to win the Oscar for best animated feature in eight years.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the much-anticipated sequel and, whether it be for cash reasons or script reasons, has been split into two parts.  The final instalment will be released in March 2024.  The “wow” factor isn’t as strong this time around (we know what to expect) and the lack of subplot closure creates a slight sense of unfulfillment but, for the most part, this is a fun, twisting, entertaining adventure that has something to offer from start to finish (although there’s no need to stay until the end of the credits – it’s just a blank screen).

The opening offers a quick refresher and reminds us that our Brooklyn-based protagonist, Miles Morales (Moore), is the new Spider-Man in his particular universe.  The 15-year-old keeps his identify hidden and stops bad guys at any opportunity.  We also learned that different heroic “spider people” exist in other universes and that it’s possible to travel between these worlds.

I don’t want to give too much away about Across the Spider-Verse but suffice to say it takes those ideas to a higher level.  There are Spider-Horses, Spider-Cats, and Spider-Dinosaurs.  That may sound quite goofy (and I guess it kind of is) but there’s a deeper story at play about fate and destiny.  As we’ve seen explored in time travel flicks, can we change the path we’re on?  Or are there predetermined “canon events” which are beyond our control?

Miles remains a key player but this is Gwen Stacy’s (Steinfeld) film.  She’s more than just a love interest (although I liked the romantic connection) and her complex character is given the important task of opening and closing the movie.  The three-member screenwriting team also deserve praise for adding “greyness” to the point where the heroes and villains are not easily defined.

There are times when it all feels too hectic.  It’s hard to stay “in the moment” when being served up a torrent of fast-paced conversations, information boxes, split screens visuals, outlandish action, and just about every colour which has ever existed.  You also need to watch the movie in slow motion to fully absorb!  Thankfully, there are fleeting scenes where the characters get a chance to sit down, breathe, and have a heartfelt chat (like a moment atop the Williamsburg Bank Building).

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a winner and is likely to be a big hit.