Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse review – A spectacular sequel

Across the Spider-Verse runtime headerMarvel/Sony

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse had a tough act to follow, but manages to raise the stakes, both in style and the sheer amount of Spider-People.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is considered by many to be the best Spider-Man movie of all time, and we’d find it hard to disagree. The film pulled in an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and the “What’s up Danger” sequence has been burned into all of our minds ever since. So to say that people are excited for the film’s sequel, Across the Spider-Verse, would be an understatement. And at long last, it’s finally here.

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The synopsis of the film as as thus: “After reuniting with Gwen Stacy, Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is catapulted across the Multiverse, where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. However, when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders. He must soon redefine what it means to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most.”

So, let’s not waste any more time and get into it: Is Across the Spider-Verse worth watching, and is it as good as the first Spider-Verse film? Read on to find out, and don’t worry, we’ll do our best to avoid spoilers!

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So many Spider-People, so little time

The film opens not from Miles’ perspective, but from Gwen’s. It makes for an intriguing opening, so much in fact that you don’t realize how long it’s been until the opening credits roll. This choice was also a smart one; while this franchise may belong to Miles, putting Gwen upfront makes it easier to accept that there are going to be more side characters in this film than you can even count.

Thankfully, the new characters we get to know closely, such as Spider-Punk and Spider-Man India, are enjoyable to watch, and add more to the plot than simple novelty, which was arguably the case for Spider-Ham and co. last time.

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Every voice actor fits their character perfectly, though sometimes the sheer amount of voices talking at you may make it hard to grasp what’s being said, and sadly a lot of the film’s jokes get thrown out way too quickly due to this. This isn’t the case for arguably the best new addition to the cast, Jason Schwartzman as “Villain of the Week” The Spot, who manages to be both hilarious and intimidating.

Spider-Man 2099, voiced expertly by Oscar Isaac, also manages to be a fearsome antagonist, and we can only hope to get more of his internal conflict in the next film.

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Sony Pictures
Spider-Man 2099 is a terrifying concept: A Spider-Man that doesn’t crack jokes.

Thankfully, the movie also remembers to focus on the non-Spider characters, namely Miles’ parents. They are a significant part of the plat, and thankfully not just in a “I have to keep my identity a secret from my strict parents” cliché way. True, the motivational speeches we get from Miles’ mother about what it means to grow up – think of all the Aunt May speeches we’ve already heard – can overstay their welcome and feel a little heavy-handed, but that doesn’t mean you won’t tear up at those moments either.

Animation is art, and Across the Spider-Verse is the Mona Lisa

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: The animation. Spectacular. Amazing. All of the adjectives that have been used to describe Spider-Man.

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As Miles traverses into different multi-verses, we get to see so many more art styles this time around, with each style perfectly matching the characters and the emotions of the movie. While some shots are re-used, and some Spider-Folk can seem visually jarring when placed in a scene with other Spiders, there are so many nods to different comic stories that you find yourself excited, rather than distracted.

The animation makes the action exhilarating, and there’s a lot of it. You’ll lose track of how many cool shots get thrown your way as you watch multiple Spider-People swing across the screen. There’s sadly no equivalent to the ‘What’s Up Danger?’ sequence of the first film – that scene, and the first film’s soundtrack, really was lightning in a bottle – but what makes Across the Spider-Verse’s action iconic is the internal stakes. Every battle matters. Think of the conflict you felt as you watched Spider-Man and the Prowler, AKA Uncle Aaron, fight in the first film. Now make that short sequence the main aspect of the movie’s main battle, and you’ve got Across the Spider-Verse.

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As you may be able to gather from its synopsis, this movie calls the ethical role of Spider-Man into question in a way that doesn’t feel overdone, despite the sheer amount of Spider-movies we’ve gotten so far.

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The action only propels this storyline. While the lack of a classic big bad like King Pin could be taken as a negative in any other film, this choice is arguably what makes Across the Spider-Verse so fantastic. After all, the best way to explore the morality of Spider-Man is to naturally have one Spider-Man – Miles – battle them all.  

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It is surprising how willing almost all the other Spider-People are to go along with Miguel’s decision against Miles – which we shan’t spoil here, but here – but the movie at least makes it clear why Miles thinks differently to everyone else. Not just clear, but a major plot point, that seems both shocking and inevitable, just like any good twist should.

Where does Across the Spider-Verse falter?

So, a high-stakes story, expert animation, and killer action sequences. What’s there left to criticize?

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Well, alas, no piece of art is perfect. And considering how much of a game-changer the first Spider-Verse chapter was, it’s hard to not compare the new movie to it. And by doing so, Across the Spider-Verse comes up just slightly short – which is like saying that The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers wasn’t as good as Fellowship of the Ring. It’s still brilliant, just not quite as brilliant.

The second film in a trilogy often has an uphill battle purely by its placement: it must conclude one story while also building up another, making little room to create a complete tale of its own. Because of this, pretty much every plot point gets set up without being concluded. It makes for a good cliffhanger, but leaves a hole where character resolutions should be.

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The only person who arguably gets a complete (and very well-done) character arc is Gwen, so it makes sense why the film begins from her perspective. Peter B. Parker gets disappointingly side-lined in comparison to the first film, as his arc was pretty much already completed there. And if you’re hoping to see other familiar faces, such as Spider-Ham and Spider-Noir, well… check here.

Ultimately, you may find yourself expecting a climactic final battle that never comes. Yes, the plots that have been set up will have us running to our seats when Beyond the Spider-Verse swings into cinemas, but Across the Spider-Verse is now unable to stand on its own.

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Then again, this film had a lot to cover, and it definitely knows not to outstay its welcome. You’ll only start to think about checking your watch just as the film wraps up, so pacing isn’t something to worry about. And like we said, for all our complaints, we’ll be first in line to buy a ticket for the threequel.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse review score: 4/5

Were we not comparing it to the first, Across the Spider-Verse could easily be given five stars. The Spider-Verse movies as a whole are a masterclass of animation and what it can do. From the visuals to the characters, to the comedy and the action, for every criticism we have, there’s a multi-verse load of positives.

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We are lucky to be living in an age where the power of animated superhero films is finally being realized, and with great power, comes great responsibility. So be responsible, and watch Across the Spider-Verse as soon as you can.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse swings into cinemas on June 2, 2023. Check out our other coverage below: