Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted: Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse

Title: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Describe This Movie In One Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Quote:
RON: Why spiders? Why couldn't it be "follow the butterflies?"
Brief Plot Synopsis: Arachnid army assembles, aims are ambiguous.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4 Banksies out of 5.
Tagline: N/A

Better Tagline: "He is our hero!"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: 15-year old Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), AKA Spider-Man of Earth-1610, is trying to balance high school with being a superhero, and not doing that great a job of it. His parents Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio (Luna Lauren Vélez), who are unaware of his arachnid alter-ego, are increasingly irritated with his behavior, especially on the eve of Jefferson's promotion to Captain in the PDNY.* Things are further complicated by the return of Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), whose visit coincides with the appearance of a new villain: the Spot (Jason Schwartzman).
"Critical" Analysis: When Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse dropped a lifetime ago (well, 2018, but the point stands), it was a literal jolt to the senses. Visually arresting in a way not seen in mainstream comic movies and genuinely invested in its characters and their relationships, it was understandably lauded as a game changer for the superhero genre.

Five years, one pandemic, and several diminishing returns MCU movies later, comes Across the Spider-Verse. As the title suggests, this time we visit even more alternate Earths (Miles Morales lives on Earth-1610, Spider-Gwen on Earth-65, and so on), a move that allows the film's triumvirate of directors and over 1,000 animators to really explore the space afforded them by all these new dimensions.

And it starts with a bang. The almost 30-minute introductory sequence focuses on Gwen and is practically a movie unto itself. We're introduced to Earth-65's Captain Stacy (Shea Whigham) and learn what happened to her version of Peter before moving on to Miles and his struggles.

Across the Spider-Verse is nearly two and a half hours long, making it the longest American animated movie ever, and honestly, some of that could've been trimmed from the second act. Most of Miles's stress points were addressed in the initial meeting between him, his parents, and a school counselor (Rachel Dratch), but we still get heartfelt speeches with both mom and dad while waiting for the final confrontation to kick off.

Maybe that's not giving those developments the benefit of the doubt. One thing that sets the Spider-Verse movies apart are how they accurately represent the ways in which things change as we get older. Miles has a more complicated relationship with his parents, and has to grapple with some unpleasant truths. But still, let's get to the rest of the spider peeps.
click to enlarge
Across the Spider-Verse is as much Gwen's story as it is Miles's.
Boy howdy, do we. Earth-50101's Spider-Society, responsible for hunting down "anomalies" and returning them to their home dimensions, presents almost endless opportunities for future Blu-ray freeze framing. Oscar Isaac's Miguel O'Hara (Spider-Man 2099) and Issa Rae's Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) are just the tip of the iceberg, and all that's secondary to the big revelation (actually two revelations) that are going to simultaneously stun and piss off audiences.

Not the revelations so much as how writers/producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller end this movie. If you've heard them talking about Across the Spider-Verse, you know they wanted to up the stakes, forcing Miles to deal with bigger challenges in each film. To that end, it's interesting how the Spot is introduced as a quote-unquote "villain of the week" before ultimately turning into the greatest foe Miles has yet faced.

Across the Spider-Verse ups its predecessor in just about every way: visually, narratively, and emotionally. In a time when most superhero movies are increasingly formulaic and repetitive, it's gratifying that the Spider-Verse flicks continue to amaze.

*Remember, the various universes are similar to ours, but not identical.

Rank The Spider-Man Movies: Is that a threat?
Just Do It! Fine.

1. Spider-Man 2
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
4. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
5. Spider-Man: No Way Home
6. Spider-Man
7: The Amazing Spider-Man
8: Spider-Man: Far From Home
9. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
10. Spider-Man 3

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar