Review: Spider-Man – Across the Spider-Verse

When the dial is already at eleven, it is going to break if you push it further.

Following the events of Into The Spider-Verse, we follow both Miles Morales and Gwen Stacey in their own universes, trying to cope with their own lonely vigils of their cities. However, the Spider-Society, formed over thousands of universes, hires Gwen to tackle a super-villain tied to Miles’s past…

2018’s Into the Spider-Verse took everyone by surprise. As stated in our review of that film, audiences were experiencing severe Spider-overdose at that time, yet the film won hearts and fans everywhere with a stunning animation style. It was a bit frantic, but it was so gorgeous and fun to watch that it was forgivable.
With a slightly different writing team, and a completely different directing team (we’ve gone from three directors with decent animation resumes: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, to three directors with less experience or no experience: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson) Across the Spider-Verse is just as visually astounding, but it is a bit relentless…

Girl suddenly appears in your bedroom has never been more awkward.

What does that mean exactly?
A lot of people will embrace Across without question, but let’s start with some negatives. Remember when we thought Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin had gone too far having three villains? Well, Across has its cake and eats it too. Because it is about multi-verses, it has decided it can do a lot. Too much. This was an issue with the first film as well, to be fair, but here there are so many characters. Good and bad. All with poignant stories and character arcs, true, but goodness… It is like a balloon inflated to the point of bursting. Fascinating, but alarming.

We have so many characters, and yet, some of the best characters from the first film aren’t even here! Are you expecting more of Nic Cage’s Spider-Noir? Sorry. Peter Porker? Not here. It is a long film as well, for an animated movie, sitting at two hours and twenty minutes is insane, and to be totally honest… that still isn’t enough time. Suffice to say: the film has “middle child” syndrome and it will rub some people the wrong way.

Finally… this may have been a specific cinema viewing issue, but seems unlikely. The audio mixing was bad. Only at certain moments, and unfortunately sometimes critical story moments, the music volume was far too loud and the dialogue volume was far too quiet. For you, dear reader, this happens with the first dialogues in the film. Watch out for it.

When you cannot tell if it is a still from a movie or an illustration… Wow.

But, it isn’t all bad! The art style and characters are both awesome and endearing. There is an early fight sequence against Vulture, a classic Spider-Man villain, but Vulture himself is from another dimension. Visually, this is represented with him from a sepia-toned comic-book cutting; his lines all scratchy and loose compared to his surroundings. It is absolutely fascinating to see. Or more subtle moments of emotional tenderness or heartache, with colours bleeding and changing across the canvas of the screen to harmonize with the characters. It is beautiful, and much more what you would expect from an independent animation studio than something from Sony.

There are so many cameos and references. Like the first film again, Across is a nerdy movie for nerds. Notice a character playing Insomniac’s Spider-Man video game? Notice the Spider-Man from that video game being a character in the movie?? The film goes completely wild when it introduces the Spider-Society, with so many different Spider-people. Spider-Punk and Spider-Cat were particular favourites.

There’s a lot of heart in the storytelling as well, despite the chaos. A fight against fate and destiny mixed with a unique origin story for our hero, it is powerful stuff, and definitely rewarding after “the Spider-Man story” we all know by now.

The voice cast is excellent. Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld return as our volatile teens Miles and Gwen, Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez as Miles’s parents, for some very emotionally affecting scenes, despite the carnage of the rest of the movie. Oscar Isaac, Daniel Kaluuya, Mahershala Ali either return or fill out the rest of the cast.

Sony discovered they had the leg up on Disney, and threw all of their cards on the table. With the MCU’s own multi-verse floundering, as well as more animated movies taking Into the Spider-Verse‘s impressionistic style (Puss in Boots and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) they capitalized and threw everything they had at us.

Maybe too much?
Across the Spider-Verse is exhausting. Visually incredible, affecting storyline, but it is sensory-overload and too much everywhere all at once. Perhaps when the third part is out, all three movies will support one-another… but right now, the first film was superior.

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