Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is Sony’s long delayed sequel to the 2018 film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and it takes what was a simple origin story and carefully constructs a vastly more complicated web, managing to keep audiences strung along without breaking. It manages to keep the heart and humour of the first film, all the while telling a darker story and leaving it on a satisfying and intriguing cliffhanger.
The plot in this film asks the audience to keep track of much more than most other comic book films, partly because it’s split into two parts, but also because of its more complex nature, fully exploring several multiverses, introducing Spider Society, every Spider-Being imaginable, the Spot and so much more.
But the film manages not to collapse under the immense weight of it all because it quickly invests the audience in its conflict, and because ultimately because it’s still a human one. It keeps itself laser focused on Miles and his identity as Spider-Man, something very personal to him.
Of course, this is the middle chapter in a planned trilogy, and that darkness and struggle show. But the film feels like a complete package from start to end, with Miles and Gwen both having strong character arcs across the film. Gwen in particular is a standout, with her story feeling particularly tragic but with a happier ending.
Animation is gorgeous, bigger and better than Into the Spider-Verse in every way. Characters and multiverses are shown in different styles, making the film a visual feast, especially when characters stand next to one another. It makes Into the Spider-Verse look like a proof of concept, with it being fully realised here.
The soundtrack is another area where differences in character and universe are felt, and it’s on point. Whether it’s in the exhilarating beat over the opening action sequence, the tragic tones or the sinister theme of Miguel O’Hara, composer Daniel Pemberton gives the score so much energy.
While the film is darker in tone, fun isn’t suffocated out of the film. Through Shameik Moore’s incredible voice acting, Miles Morales retains the fun, optimism and humour of Spider-Man. This sense of fun and humour is brought through to the references, which will have audiences pointing at their screens like they’re Leonardo DiCaprio.
These references aren’t just contained to jokes, but paying homage to everything Spider-Man has been in, comics, video-games, cartoons and live-action movies. Fans who know the lore of Spider-Man inside out will have a great time spotting deep-cut cameos, and the film invites the viewer to multiple rewatches to catch them all.
The villain, the Spot, is absolutely hilarious, both with the writing and with Jason Schwartzman voice acting. The writers take the goofiness inherent with the character and use it to make him a terrifying villain. By the end of the movie, audiences are genuinely scared for what’s about to happen. He’s tied to Miles Morales in an ingenious way, just like all the best Spider-Man villains are.
There are only two small nitpicks to make with the film, and that is its length, and despite its overall great focus it does lose track of one key character, and that’s the Spot himself. At two hours and 20 minutes, which is felt most during the opening act of the film, dragging only slightly. The Spot, while being a compelling villain, disappears for a huge chunk of the film, reappearing only at the end to set up the third instalment.
But minor issues aside, Across the Spider-Verse pulls off what so many sequels fail at, deepening its world and animation, pushing characters forward in new and interesting ways, and tells a story that feels complete despite it being a middle chapter. The film remains constantly compelling and puts the final chapter in an incredible position.