2018’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is considered one of the best animated films of all time. Its frenetic style felt new, surprising and fresh, and it told an emotionally charged story no other Spider-Man film had yet.
Into The Spider-Verse also introduced us to the multiverse by grouping a bunch of different spider-people across different universes together. Across the Spider-Verse, the first of two sequels to Into The Spider-Verse, is mostly set just over a year after the events of the first film.
Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) has finally become comfortable and confident in being his universe’s sole Spider-Man. He effortlessly fights villains on the streets, but it’s causing trouble at home as Miles’ parents struggle to understand why their son is so secretive and withdrawn.
Miles is thrown into a multidimensional adventure, filled with all the different spider-people, after Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) comes to visit and inadvertently leads him through the multiverse in an attempt to help stop a supervillain, Spot (Jason Schwartzmann).
To say anything more about the plot would be to spoil many of Across the Spider-Verse’s delightful surprises. Much like its predecessor, Across The Spider-Verse is certainly one of the best films of the year and certainly the most visually dazzling (though we suspect Barbie might be coming for that title).
All the Spider-people get their signature animation styles and each is more innovative than the one before. Gwen’s world is painted with striking purples and pinks in soft brush strokes while Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya with a scene-stealing voice performance) looks more chaotic, fitting for a die-hard anarchist.
Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson create memorable, beautiful visuals so effortlessly, but Across The Spider-Verse is also a sensory overload, a completely overwhelming experience. It throws everything at you, both in terms of visuals and exposition, at an alarming rate.
The plot is pleasingly simple and easy to follow, an achievement on its own since we’re talking about the multiverse, but there is simply too much happening at all times. It becomes a little exhausting, even at its most exhilarating moments. Across the Spider-Verse lacks moments where the characters or the narrative can just stop and breathe; where the audience can just take it all in.
The film also succumbs to fan service. Granted, Across the Spider-Verse does it in a rather brilliant, satisfying way but the film comes dangerously close to feeling a little smug. It will take several viewings to catch the numerous references to previous iterations of the character, but for the most part, the film pulls it off and this might just be the definitive Spider-Man film. We won’t spoil anything here, but there’s a very rewarding sense of harmony to the film’s multiversal proceedings.
Across The Spider-Verse dives into what it really means to be a superhero, or Spider-Man specifically, and the film actually manages to answer that question before boldly challenging it again. It’s exactly that boldness that defined Into the Spider-Verse and will also define this film. In an era of endless remakes and sequels, Across the Spider-Verse manages to make itself not only relevant, but exemplary. This is how you make a sequel.
Across the Spider-Verse is also clearly only the first part of a bigger story. This is currently a common phenomenon in Hollywood; Mission Impossible is doing it this summer and even Wicked has been split into two parts. The most obvious comparison is Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Where those films had full story arcs – Infinity War works perfectly well on its own while setting up the next film – Across The Spider-Verse fails to find an ending.
It’s not a perfect film, but it doesn’t need to be. There is so much to love and admire in Across the Spider-Verse; Daniel Pemberton’s mesmerising score, the artistry that is evident in every single frame, the performances. This is animation at its very best. It’s creative, pioneering and thoroughly impressive and Across the Spider-Verse is the best multiverse movie we’ve got.
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is in cinemas now.