Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a rare kind of sequel. It manages to be just as good, if not even better, than its predecessor (the Oscar-winning Into the Spider-Verse), by building upon, what some would say is already, perfection in every imaginable way to create an experience that is both familiar and fresh.
Most impressively, Across the Spider-Verse manages to exceed as a sequel that is the first of two parts, (a third film is confirmed for a 2024 release). Countless times we’ve seen “Part 1” sequels feel like filler, paving the way for all the more exciting action to come in the next one. But Across the Spider-Verse dodges this pitfall, providing an emotionally resonant story that earns its place as a worthy middle chapter.
It’s not fair to compare every sequel to something like The Empire Strikes Back, but Across the Spider-Verse is certainly that for this franchise.
Across the Spider-Verse picks things up with Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) sometime after their first adventure. Miles has settled into his role as Spider-Man, but is still rusty, and is finding it difficult to balance his personal and superhero lives. Gwen is struggling with the same double act that is driving a rift between her and her father, a police Captain.
When this balancing act implodes, Gwen eventually returns to the Multiverse, where she is recruited by Miguel O’Hara (aka Spider-Man 2099, voiced by Oscar Isaac) and Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman (Issa Rae) to assist with rectifying the errors that are popping up throughout the different universes as a result of Kingpin’s collider.
A nice evolution in Across the Spider-Verse is that Gwen’s story is given just as much spotlight as Miles’ is. Spider-Man may be in the title, but this story is just as much Gwen’s. The duo’s blossoming connection across the multiverse is an anchor in this story. It unfolds organically in a beautiful representation of the coming-of-age genre, brought to life against a backdrop of animated landscapes you’ll instantly want to hang on your wall.
Across the Spider-Verse builds upon the foundations laid in the first film with a more complex layer of mythology within the Multiverse – and a hell of a lot more Spider-People. It’s unafraid to take risks or shy away from leaning into the experimental. It’s the Everything Everywhere All At Once of superhero movies.
It’s also a movie that is constructed with so much thoughtfulness, not just in its style and performance, but in the care that is taken with its source material and the legacy of a character like Spider-Man. Yes, it’s chock full of Easter eggs and cameos that fans will love, but it’s not weighed down by these elements, nor does it rely on them to create hype. Across the Spider-Verse is a momentous movie, all of its own making.
A lot of reviews out there will tell you just how dazzlingly beautiful Across the Spider-Verse’s animation is, or how the soundtrack perfectly compliments the visuals, or how sharp and witty its humour hits. This is all true.
But what really struck me about this movie is how intimately it is able to resonate with such a broad audience.
At one point, a scene between Miles and his father reminded me so much of an exchange I’ve had with my own Dad that I felt genuinely moved. Now, I’m not a biracial teenage boy from Brooklyn harbouring secret superpowers but, in that moment, I felt seen. And there are countless moments like this.
Spider-Man has always been a relatable hero by design. He’s the everyman. He’s your friendly neighbourhood superhero. But it’s the Spider-Verse movies that have really pushed the message that anyone can be a hero and crafted an emotionally resonant story to convey that message. In that way, they have become movies that have the ability to speak to anyone who sits down in the cinema.
The only fault I can find in Across the Spider-Verse is the aforementioned middle film syndrome. It does feel at times that this is one half of a whole, but this is by design. And when the result is a film that is this perfectly crafted, who even cares? It doesn’t make it any less worth watching.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is everything that a sequel should be. It builds on the original in bold and beautiful ways and then leaves you wanting more.
Beyond the Spider-Verse can not come soon enough.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: The Verdict
Cons: That it ends.
Watch it if you liked: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The LEGO Movie, Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse releases in Australian cinemas on June 1.
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