Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is one of the most gorgeous, enthralling and immersive animated films I've ever seen.
Warning: The following review contains spoilers
The sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is set 16 months after the events of its predecessor and opens with Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld), rather than Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), the protagonist of Across The Spider-Verse.
After the death of her best friend Peter Parker, and with her police captain father George (Shea Whigham) unknowingly hunting for her alter-ego, a conflicted Gwen is invited by Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) and Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) to join the Spider-Society. The job of this organisation is to restore the balance of the Spider-verse, after the events of the original film caused numerous villains to start popping up in the wrong universes.
This brings Gwen back into contact with Miles on Earth-65. But when he follows her to a different world, even though she insisted that he couldn’t, it starts a chain reaction that might lead to the end of every universe. Ultimately, Miles does meet those in charge of the Spider-Society and they butt heads over how to proceed. He has to decide whether to fall in line and follow the other Spiders, or risk it all so that he can save the people he loves the most.
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse’s trio of directors, Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K Thompson, deserve nothing but praise for their virtuoso filmmaking throughout this spell-binding adventure. Not only are their cinematography choices, swift storytelling techniques and use of colour bold and inventive, but they also enhance the story and characters by adding an emotional depth that otherwise wouldn’t be as resonant or powerful.
Across The Spider-Verse is so successful that there are moments and sequences where it genuinely feels and looks as though we're watching a painting come to life.
When you consider how dull and cliched other recent animation blockbusters have been (I’m looking at you Super Mario Bros Movie), Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse should be roundly celebrated for being so fearless, creative and audacious.
Despite ostensibly being aimed at children, Across The Spider-Verse doesn’t dumb itself down, or take a formulaic approach, just to make sure that all its viewers are satisfied. Instead, it challenges them to keep up with its rapid action and thought-provoking themes on responsibility and heroism. It’s a film that every member of the family, no matter how old or comic-literate they are, will be enthralled by.
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is so ambitious that not all of it ends up working, though. With a run time of two hours and 20 minutes, it feels a tad too long, especially as it becomes apparent that this is very much the second film of a trilogy rather than its own singular movie. As this realisation kicks in, you can’t help but feel a little short-changed by its conclusion, especially as it has raised so many fascinating themes and talking points that it then doesn’t quite answer.
At the same time, while there are several laugh-out-loud moments throughout Across The Spider-Verse, these were all included in its various trailers. Of course, this is a habitual casualty of modern movie marketing, but it also disappointingly doesn’t come close to matching Into The Spider-Verse’s volume of jokes. Meanwhile, its action is so relentless and packed with breath-breaking visuals, at times it can be overwhelming and leave you wondering what exactly is going on.
Ultimately, though, these are just minor quibbles, which will almost certainly melt away upon the numerous rewatches that the film’s quality deserves and demands. There’s just too much that’s great about Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse for it to be considered anything other than a resounding triumph. Bring on Spider-Man: Beyond The Spider-Verse, the third and final film of the trilogy, which Sony Pictures Animation have already announced will be released next March.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out now in the US and UK, and will be released in the UAE on June 22.