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‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ (review)

In 2018, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse amazed audiences with its pop-art stylized introduction of Brooklyn teen Miles Morales as Spider-Man for Earth 1610.

As Morales learns of the multiverse, viewers were also treated with a multiverse of animation styles and vibrant effects that brought you as close to an immersive 3D experience as you could achieve without glasses. But it was more than the stunning visuals that left audiences clamoring for more.

The way that Black and brown lives were centered through the soundtrack, storytelling, and character design made many feel seen on a level that rarely occurs in the genre.

This was an epic success, and many worried that the long stretch between sequels would make it impossible for the next film to meet the skyscraper-level expectations of the first.

But Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is just as much a gem as the original, if not slightly better.

Going for even bolder risks in animation and narrative, the phenomenal sequel takes advantage of the mandate audiences gave it in 2018. The story goes deeper into the heart and sincerity of its young protagonist to ground a storyline that stretches across hundreds of realities and canons.

At the center of several layers of Spidey world-building is the question all new superheroes must face: how long can someone excel at walking in multiple worlds before something has to give?

Son, student, Spider-Man, friend, Black, Puerto Rican – Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is split into many identities that converge in him but collide in his day-to-day life. As he begins to feel more isolated in his unique predicament, Gwen Stacey (Hailee Steinfeld) reappears and introduces a far more connected universe than he could have ever imagined.

There is more focus on what makes Miles engaging and relatable, which is his tight family unit. Bryan Tyree Henry and Lauren Vélez return to give a warm and familiar voice to his dad/police officer Jefferson Davis and nurse mom Rio Morales.

We get to see more of his extended family and home life, along with stretches of Spanish dialogue that are never translated and purely left as bonuses for bilingual viewers. The diverse array of new Spider-Man variations include a bright and colorful swing through Mumbattan (Mumbai + Manhattan) with clever and chatty Spider-Man Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni of Deadpool) and Brit-rock channeling Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) among others. Issa Rae debuts as the pregnant, motorcycle-riding Jessica Drew who serves as a second-in-command to the brooding and controlling leader Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) who maintains the delicate balance of canon events that are central to all Spider-Man universes.

The humor is significantly dialed up and it’s not just Miles.

With hundreds of distinct Spider-Mans, it seems like the quips never end but instead of being exhausting, the laughs cascade freely. Whether the dynamic is beleaguered teen to equally exasperated parent or Spidey on Spidey action, the dynamic of bio and chosen family means that the speed of barbs is as natural as bickering at the kitchen table.

Every joke hits and the amount of Easter eggs sewn throughout invites the audience to remember the many ways they have fallen into the universe over the past few decades. I won’t reveal spoilers here, but the cliffhanger ending will pull from the past while launching the story into a yet-unvisited world.

While this is the first time directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson have handled this franchise, they have managed to build something with even more thrills, charm, and ground-breaking style choices than the original blockbuster.

March 2024 cannot come quickly enough.

•  •  •  •  •
Produced by Avi Arad, Amy Pascal, Phil Lord,
Christopher Miller, Christina Steinberg

Written by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, David Callaham
Based on Marvel Comics
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Starring Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry,
Luna Lauren Vélez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae,
Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni, Shea Whigham, Zoë Kravitz,
Mahershala Ali, Andy Samberg, Rachel Dratch, Oscar Isaac

 

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