It's how you wear the mask that matters.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a 2023 animated science fiction superhero film directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, written by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and David Callaham, produced by Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Lord Miller Productions, and Pascal Pictures, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. It is based off of various Spider-Man comics by Marvel Comics. The film stars Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld. This is the tenth film in the Spider-Man franchise, being the second in the Spider-Verse franchise. It was preceded by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: No Way Home and will be followed by Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse.
"We are supposed to be the good guys." - Gwen Stacy
While balancing his life between being Spider-Man and being a high schooler, Miles Morales is sucked back into the Spider-Verse when Gwen Stacy comes back and brings him to an elite squad of Spider-Men. When a dangerous new threat rises with Miles at the center, the Spiders are split on how to deal with it, causing Miles to have to make a choice and protect the ones he holds dear.
Across the Spider-Verse is an experience.
If you've seen the early reactions and reviews, you know that this movie is getting the highest of praises from all corners of the movie world. Everyone is loving this movie. Some people are calling it the greatest animated movie ever made. That isn't a compliment to be taken lightly, but when you watch the movie, you understand why people are calling it that. No movie has ever done what Across the Spider-Verse does with animation.
This movie is a work of art. It uses the medium of animation as a way to communicate so much craft and artistry. They display the emotions that the characters are feeling through colors. Every different multiversal world has a different animation style. It's truly a ground-breaking use of animation as a storytelling technique as well as an art style. That's what people are referring to when calling it the greatest animated movie ever made. It's unlike anything I have ever seen before. It's beautiful. The last two movies I have seen before this were Fast X and The Little Mermaid. Both were fine, but both were also examples of how Hollywood often feels un-original or un-inspired. Spider-Verse is a reminder that that is not the case. Movies can still be inventive and awesome.
The film has also been accurately described as a celebration of Spider-Man. If you are a Spider-Man fan at all, this film will feel special. Not special in the way that No Way Home was special, but in a different way. This movie draws on the lore that was first established in Amazing Fantasy #15. It takes the lore and themes of Spider-Man and utilizes them in the story. The central plot is about how different people deal with the weight of being Spider-Man. Seeing those interactions and experiencing different perspectives of how these various people see the world as Spider-Man is incredibly interesting and makes for some great character dynamics.
Specifically touching on the character dynamics, the actual dilemma that our Spiders are presented with is very complicated. Since you are rooting for Miles, you are on his side, but the other Spider-Men who are against him are not entirely wrong. It makes for a morally ambiguous conflict that just engages your brain in this movie. A movie that can ask a question that you don't know the answer to is the best type of film, and that's what this is.
One thing that I really appreciated about Across the Spider-Verse was its ability to pay off things that were secretly set up in Into the Spider-Verse. Now, obviously, it's a sequel to that film, but it also feels like there were things intentionally put in Into the Spider-Verse to be paid off in Across the Spider-Verse. There are things revealed in this film that reframe the narrative of the first film, and it just made me appreciate this arc as a whole.
Miles Morales is also making a case for the best, most interesting Spider-Man ever put to screen. Tobey, Andrew, and Tom's iterations all have great elements of their own and go through the classic Peter Parker arc in interesting and unique ways, but Miles Morales is given a completely different character that is just as compelling and interesting as the various Peter Parker's we've gotten. His whole story is about not belonging, and that just makes him a protagonist who is easy to root for.
Along those same lines, Gwen Stacy is just as good as Miles in this movie. They spend the first ten or fifteen minutes of this movie setting up her arc and telling her full, fleshed-out backstory, and it's pretty emotional. It makes her a much more complicated and layered character than she was in Into the Spider-Verse. There's this weight added to her character that just makes her nearly as compelling as Miles. It was great.
While walking out of the theater, my friend said to me "Now that was Multiverse of Madness" and he was absolutely right. Like most, I was disappointed with the lack of multiversal madness in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Across the Spider-Verse uses the multiverse in the best way possible. The different dimensions are fun and exciting. There are surprises galore and fun little moments of fan service. It doesn't bombard you with cameos, but there are references here and there that will put a grin on your face. It's a central aspect of the story. It feels like the multiverse craziness that everyone wanted in the sequel to Doctor Strange, so it makes up for that film a bit.
Finally, this film takes a few major plot twists that kept me guessing throughout. Near the end, there are a few gigantic turns that I did not see coming, and it left me speechless by the time the credits rolled. There are betrayals and turns that you will not see coming, and it just makes the movie feel tighter and even better than it already is.
There are two major things that don't work about this movie.
The biggest problem is that it is part one of two. The story told in Across the Spider-Verse is not resolved by the end. There is a hard cliffhanger that will leave you shocked. The first words out of your mouth after the movie is over will be "I have to wait until March of next year to see what happens??". That will be jarring to some people. And it makes the film feel like less of a satisfying experience than it probably should be. Obviously, this criticism goes away once Beyond the Spider-Verse comes out, but go in knowing that this is the first part of a two-film story and it does not resolve itself by the end.
Secondly, the movie takes a minute to get going. Like I said earlier, the prologue with Gwen is probably ten or fifteen minutes. That means we don't see Miles until we are almost twenty minutes in. There's probably twenty-five more minutes where we develop Miles and the relationship with his parents. That means we are nearly thirty-five to forty minutes into the movie when the story fully starts. That's a bit too long before it starts. Now, I forgive it a bit because it's really setting up a five-hour story instead of a two and a half-hour story. But still. It takes too long to truly start.
Oh, also, this isn't a negative, but there are no after-credits. You don't need to stick around once the movie is over.
Final Thoughts and Score
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a ground-breaking feat of animation while also being an amazing celebration of Spider-Man. If you love Spider-Man or love animation or just love movies, this is a must-watch.
I will go Sweet here. Age range is 10+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Savory (Good) Sour (Bad)
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse"
Fun Factor: 9/10
Characters: 9/10 Quality: 9.5/10
Directed by Joaquim dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson
Rated PG for animated violence and action, disturbing themes and images, language, thematic elements
Released on June 2, 2023
2 hours and 21 minutes
Shameik Moore as Miles Morales / Spider-Man
Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy / Spider-Gwen
Oscar Isaac as Miguel O'Hara / Spider-Man 2099
Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis
Luna Lauren Vélez as Rio Morales
Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker / Spider-Man
Jason Schwartzman as Jonathan Ohn / The Spot
Issa Rae as Jessica Drew / Spider-Woman
Daniel Kaluuya as Hobie Brown / Spider-Punk
Karan Soni as Pavtir Prabhakar / Spider-Man India
Shea Wingham as Captain George Stacy
Greta Lee as Lyla
Mahershala Ali as Aaron Davis / The Prowler
Andy Samberg as Ben Reilly / Scarlet Spider
Amandla Stenberg as Margo Kess / Spider-Byte
Jorma Taccone as Adrian Toomes / Vulture