SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE review by Mark Walters – Miles Morales returns in an ambitious sequel

SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE review by Mark Walters – Miles Morales returns in an ambitious sequel

After the incredible INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE wowed audiences in 2018, people have anxiously been waiting for the sequel, which was actually supposed to be out before now, but like many big movies these days had been pushed back a bit due to Covid delays. SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE in now hitting theaters this weekend, the first half of a very big cinematic story. Let’s just say if you’re a Spider-Man comic book fan, there is a LOT of look forward to here, though personally I was most excited about seeing Spider-Man 2099 (a futuristic take on the web-slinger that was a popular comic book title in the 1990s), and Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider (a clone of Peter Parker who becomes yet another Spider-Man of sorts). This new installment is directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson from a screenplay by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller and David Callaham. After what seems like a long delay, is this sequel worth your box office bucks?

In her universe, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) wants to enjoy her Spider-powers and be a hero, but fate seems to have other ideas. She is mistakenly believed by her policeman father George Stacy (Shea Whigham) to be responsible for her best friend Peter Parker (who is secretly a villain in her universe) dying, making Gwen’s “Spider-Woman” evil in his eyes. When a version of a supervillain called The Vulture shows up wreaking havoc, two different Spider-people show up through a portal to help Gwen bring him down, one being the futuristic Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) and the other being the motorcycle riding Jessica Drew (Issa Rae). They recruit Gwen to help them fight dimensional-jumping anomalies that require the work of multiple Spider-heroes. Not seeing much good left for her in her own world, Gwen accepts, and joins the “Spider-Verse” in their efforts to correct the problems arising in the multiverse. Meanwhile, in his own world, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is also feeling restless, unable to share the truth about his being Spider-Man with his parents, but clearly feeling the pressure of his alter ego’s lifestyle. Gwen eventually visits her old friend, and thinks he could be a good addition to the Spider-Verse, but Miguel doesn’t agree, and may have very specific reasons for not wanting Miles around.

That’s about as much as I can say about the plot without getting into spoiler territory, but let’s just say there’s a lot to take in here, and a LOT of Spider-people occupying the screen by the time the story reaches its second half. The voice cast is magnificent, and really elevates the emotional resonance of the story, but the exceptional visuals are what make this movie something truly special. Every frame is a work of art, really showing something extraordinary to the audience, and telling a story that is at times very dark and heavy stuff. This almost feels less like a superhero movie, and more of a commentary on what superhero movies have become, or perhaps what they should think about more. Jason Schwartzman plays the closest thing the film has to a regular villain as The Spot, seemingly a “Villain of the Week” who aspires to become something much more, and eventually poses a major threat to our heroes and one that could be beyond their abilities. But the most interesting character here is that of Miguel O’Hara, played wonderfully by Oscar Isaac. His motivations are ambiguous and at times questionable, but you always have the sense he’s just trying to keep things from getting worse.

Shameik Moore is again excellent as Miles Morales, and Hailee Steinfeld is equally great as Gwen. The film really expands their relationship and emotional connection, while acknowledging fate may not always allow for happiness, no matter how much two people feel drawn to each other. I really enjoyed seeing all of the Spider-Men (and women) included in this outing, and there are some great nods to classic comic book stories Marvel published over the years – you’re going to LOVE Karan Soni as Spider-Man India. In fact in some ways, this movie does a superb job of connecting ALL of the Sony SPIDER-MAN movies, along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, in a smart and economical way. I have never been more excited about seeing the future of these films than I was after watching this one.

At two hours and 20-minutes, SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE is indeed a long movie, but I never found myself becoming tired or restless, as the stunning visuals and intense story kept me riveted the entire time. This is easily one of the most beautiful animated films I’ve ever seen, and earns the anticipation it’s received. The only thing I see letting certain audience members down is the major cliffhanger ending. Keep in mind, this is part one of a BIG two-part story, and when that “To Be Continued” card comes up at the end, it’s hard not to be a little frustrated not seeing how the story ends. That said, they’ve set up so many fascinating plot threads, I now cannot wait to see how it all ends. And as for that run time, honestly, I could have watched another hour of this one and never been bored. As a superhero movie, it’s incredibly ambitious and imaginative, but never falters under its own weight. If you enjoyed the first movie, chances are you’ll be even more impressed with this one. There is no mid or post-credit stinger here, but believe me when I say the movie itself delivers more than enough… for now, at least.


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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.