Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse could be considered the best Spider-Man movie and the best comic book movie ever made. At the very least, it’s one of the best and original animated films produced in the last several years. Across the Spider-Verse not only gives us more of what we loved in the first place, but expands upon the worlds and characters previously seen.
Across the Spider-Verse opens on Earth-65, home of Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), who struggles with the death of her best friend Peter Parker (Jack Quaid), who died after transforming into the Lizard. She’s also a wanted criminal hunted by her own father Capt. George Stacy (Shea Wigham), unaware that the masked vigilante he seeks is his daughter. Gwen is soon recruited into the Spider Society, a multiversal task force of Spider-People led by Miguel O’Hara aka Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) and his lieutenant Jessica Drew (issa Rae), a motorcycle riding Spider-Woman.
Meanwhile, on Earth-1610, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is going through his own struggles balancing his personal life with his duties as Spider-Man. His parents, Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio (Luna Lauren Velez), are concerned, especially after he skips out on an important meeting with his school counselor. Miles must do battle with a bizarre new baddie called The Spot (Jason Schwartzman). A former scientist who helped build the Kingpin’s super collider, The Spot was transformed into a being who can open portals inside and outside of his body. In a typical superhero movie, they’d build to a big showdown between hero and villain, but Across the Spider-Verse throws us for a loop when Miles runs afoul of the Society.
According to Miguel, all Spider variations have shared experiences known as “canon events.” Specifically, these events involve the tragic loss of a loved one. Preventing canon events from occurring could lead to the unraveling of an entire universe. When Miles chooses to save his father from being killed by the Spot, that puts him at odds with an army of Spiders and even a few former allies.
Into the Spider-Verse made a massive splash due to its unique animation style and the sequel goes even further with the medium. Animators use various art styles, frame rates, and even live-action to differentiate between various universes and Spider variants. The film’s prologue in Gwen’s universe utilizes pastel watercolors that mimic Robbi Rodriguez’s cover art for the Spider-Gwen series. If that wasn’t enough, the heroes do battle with a Renaissance Vulture, a living, breathing Da Vinci drawing made of parchment paper, in the middle of the Guggenheim Museum where one of Jeff Koons’ balloon dogs gets decapitated. The visual playfulness of the new directing trio of Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers & Justin K. Thompson continues as they pay homage to the source material with the use of word balloons, sound effects, and even entire comic panels (featuring the artwork of Steve Ditko, Gil Kane & many others) for exposition. The action set pieces are exhilarating as the filmmakers give us the feeling of webslinging through sprawling urban landscapes.
The screenplay by David Callaham, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller introduces us to a dazzling array of Spider-heroes like Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya), a guitar playing, anti-establishment anarchist that looks like a Sex Pistols playbill come to life. There’s also tons of cameos such as the Spectacular Spider-Man (Josh Keaton) from the 2008 cartoon, the OG ‘67 animated Spidey, and an utterly angsty Ben Reilly (Andy Samberg) aka The Scarlet Spider. On the wackier side, there’s Pter Ptarker, a Spider-saurus Rex; Peter Parkedcar, a sentient version of the Spider-Mobile dune buggy; and Spider-Cat, who hocks hairballs made of organic webbing. Make no mistake, Across the Spider-Verse isn’t relying solely on Member Berries. The easter eggs and inside references are there to enhance a touching coming-of-age story. At the same time, there’s meta-commentary about tropes and what is to be expected in sequels and superhero movies.
Dizzying. Energetic. Vibrant. There are so many ways to describe just how amazing and spectacular Across the Spider-Verse is. This is the rare sequel that tops its predecessor. Across the Spider-Verse has dethroned Into the Spider-Verse as the best Spidey movie ever and it’s only half the story.
Film Rating: 9