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Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

It’s not often that I walk out of an animated film and immediately think that I’ve seen an Oscar contender for Best Picture. With SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE, however, that is exactly how I felt…both times that I watched it.  

When INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE was released in 2018 I was blown away then, too. The film, directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman was a bombastic, beautiful, startlingly original take on the webslinger, introducing audiences to the charismatic Miles Morales (Shameik Moore.) It blended numerous animation styles together to create a wholly original vision, one that we had never seen before. 

It is the nature of filmmaking for a sequel to be a step below its predecessor in regard to execution and to lose some magic when following a masterpiece. This is especially true with a film like INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE that was so completely different than what viewers were accustomed to. For ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE, directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson knew that they had the monumental task of crafting the middle chapter of a trilogy, and an installment that would need to exceed the artistry of the original, if that were even possible. 

About twenty minutes into my first viewing of ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE, I knew that I was watching a work of art. This feeling wasn’t just due to storytelling, performances, or direction, it was because the litany of animation styles made it feel as if I were watching a comic book movie come to life. There are other films (SIN CITY immediately comes to mind) where I had the feeling that I was watching a film jump from the page and onto the screen, but this journey into the SPIDER-VERSE was something completely different.  The colors popped, the animation dazzled, and seamless blending of multiple different styles made each individual frame a staggering achievement.

Miles is still the main character this time around, but his pal Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) becomes much more of a focal point this time around. She has experienced heartache and devestation just as each version of a Spider-person has, but in her universe, Peter Parker certainly wasn’t Spider-Man, and Gwen inadvertently had a hand in his demise.  She is hunted relentlessly by police captain George Stacy (Shea Whigham), who just so happens to be her father.  

After an event in which a version of The Vulture appears from another universe, Gwen discovers that there is a society of “all of the best Spider-People” who work together to keep the multiverse from collapsing. This band of similarly skilled superheroes is led by Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), also known as Spider-Man 2099. He has purposefully kept Miles out of the loop and knows that the fragile balance across the multiverse could collapse if even one thing goes wrong.

The whole multiverse angle thing has been sort of a grating tool utilized throughout the most recent Marvel and DC films. It’s confusing and plodding at times and can make the franchises involved feel as if no rules apply and therefore major events don’t really matter. In ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE, the complex theory is handled with cleverness, humor, and style, which eliminates the feeling that the multiverse is being used as a crutch or ploy.  

Every sequence in this flawless film is exhilarating. Providing thrills, laughs, and beauty in equal measure, I can’t even recall the number of times I uttered the phrase “Wow!” while they played out. There is a scene in which Miles is chased by the litany of Spider-People that has so much happening that it is impossible to take it all in one sitting.  That’s not to imply it is over-crowded or convoluted, in fact, it will easily rank amongst my favorite scenes out of any movie this year. Lest you think that the production is nothing but action, rest assured there is also a multitude of heart and depth, crafting characters that are relatable and complex. This is just yet another reason why ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE is so impactful, and one that should help this instant classic shatter the glass ceiling when it comes to animated films and Best Picture recognition.


Now playing in theaters.

Brian Miller