By Jason Delgado
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film in 2018 because of its otherworldly animation, fresh music beats, and fantastic character/story development. All of those elements are back, remixed if you will, for the exciting, yet overlong, sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
I found the animation even more captivating this time around, and it needed to be so with a runtime of two hours and twenty minutes. The film starts out with Spider-Gwen, aka Ghost Spider (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), telling her story from her own perspective, which is a refreshing way to kick things off. The rest of the film is mainly a coming-of-age tale for the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man (voiced by Shameik Moore), but there are so many different Spider-characters and things going on in this Spider-Verse story that it may be difficult to keep up with all of them upon the initial viewing.
The heart of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is Miles is dealing with real world personal problems to which we can all relate (such as being late to important events because he has other issues on his hands), and the power of the unconditional love that Miles gets from his parents, despite their disappointment with his actions. As a parent myself, this element added an extra emotional dimension. Miles having to become responsible and grow up, despite life being so difficult, is universally relatable. Fans can really feel the weight of Miles’ and his parents’ pain, which would make Stan Lee so proud, since that’s what he was writing for Peter Parker and Aunt May all of the way back in 1962. Spider-Man has become insanely popular because we know these characters, we are them, and this story is such a natural and powerful evolution of that familiarity.
The film’s central villain, Spot (voiced by Jason Schwartzman), is mainly an oddball comic relief who becomes a threat because of what he means to the Spider-Verse. There are revelations regarding the character of Miles that I will not spoil, which added depth and even more emotional investment to get fans behind him. Another reveal that some fans of the comics may quibble with regards how a certain Spider-character is portrayed. However, this is an alternate reality version of Spider-Man, so anything can happen. Additionally, the film shows how this particular character became twisted into something other than what we’re used. As such, this issue did not bother me.
My main gripes with this otherwise beautiful film are the aforementioned length (it felt like they tried to cram too much into one movie) and the abrupt ending (no one knew going in that it was only the first part to a since-announced sequel: Beyond the Spider-Verse). I’m fine with a movie ending on a cliffhanger, but it just left something of an unsatisfying feeling not knowing what to expect going into the theater. It’s also a bit difficult to judge the film as a whole, because it’s not its own complete film like Into the Spider-Verse, and fans have yet to see the second half. The original film was succinct and this second one is all over the place. Yet both are still animated masterpieces.
As a pop culture addict, I love the seemingly endless number of references and Spider-characters. This movie was made with a ton of love and care for the fans, and it shows.
I give Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse 4.5 out of five hot sauce packets. It’s so spicy that you won’t know which Earth in the multiverse that you’re on!