Star Rating:

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K Thompson

Actors: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Jason Schwartzman

Release Date: Friday 2nd June 2023

Genre(s): Animation, Family

Running time: 139 minutes

After reuniting with Gwen Stacy (voice of Hailee Steinfeld), Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) - Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man - is catapulted across the Multiverse where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence, led by Miguel O'Hara (voice of Oscar Isaac) with help from Spider-Woman (voice of Issa Rae) and Spider-Punk (voice of Daniel Kaluuya). But when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat (voice of Jason Schwartzmann), Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders and must redefine what it means to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most...

Spider-Man as a concept and character has always been that's been easily adaptable. The general idea is that he's an easygoing, well-meaning foil with a heart of gold and not too much darkness around the edges. He's not Wolverine, all potent and misdirected rage. He's not Batman, wallowing in shadows and unprocessed trauma. Even with Uncle Ben and all that jazz, Spider-Man is still upbeat and able to rely on his quick wits and smarts. 'Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse' was one of the first comic-book adaptations to utilise the character's malleability and also play with the fact that, well, there's been a lot of Spider-Men over the years. Sure, 'Spider-Man: Far From Home' riffed on this, but it's 'Into Spider-Verse' that tore the whole thing open. Indeed, 'Across The Spider-Verse' wastes no time in cracking wise about Doctor Strange before it vaults into action.

The opening setpiece shows Gwen Stacy / Spider-Gwen in action, drawing in character Shea Whigham as her father, NYPD Captain George Stacy, in a pretty emotional beat where he attempts to turn in his own daughter for the alleged murder of Peter B. Parker. From there, we reconnect with Miles Morales in usual fashion, complete with a slick montage of where he's at and how he's stretching himself thin in order to navigate college, growing up, and well-meaning parents. It's not before long, though, that he throws himself into the Spider-Verse when he's confronted by a villain-of-the-week who won't accept his status and has gone to insane lengths to make himself all powerful. Enter Oscar Isaac as the brooding Spider-Man 2099, charged with defending the multiverse and ensuring there are no more anomalies to upset things.

'Across The Spider-Verse' plays fast and loose with the concepts of canons and characters, just overloading the screen with all kinds of crazy Spider-people. There's a Spaghetti Western-themed Spider-Man called the Web-Slinger, there's a Spider-Monkey, a Spider-Therapist, a LEGO Spider-Man (of course there is), and there's even a few live-action cameos thrown in for good measure as well. All of this just adds to the free-wheeling atmosphere that made 'Into The Spider-Verse' a deserved Oscar winner, and is likely to happen again for 'Across The Spider-Verse'. What makes it so special and so unique is that it actively embraces its comic-book origins and the medium of animation itself.

It never once matters that the lines sometimes are jarring or that there's a changing background because you're so invested in the colour and the spectacle of it all that it becomes completely compelling. It's not an adaptation of a comic book, it's like watching a comic book brought to life on a giant IMAX screen. If there's a complaint to be made, it's that 'Across The Spider-Verse' cuts itself off in the final moments far too cleanly. You're left on a giant cliffhanger, one that will ultimately be resolved in 'Beyond The Spider-Verse', but still nevertheless feels like it's spreading itself out too much - just like Miles Morales. For a movie that is pushing up against two and a half hours long, the Spider-Verse teeters on the brink of collapsing in on itself. Yet for all of this, 'Across The Spider-Verse' is an animated blast of energy that deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can find.