REVIEW: SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE (2023) exceeds expectations

While the animation in its predecessor was already groundbreaking, this sequel takes the cinematic experience to new heights.
Orly Agawin

Following the critical success of SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE, which swung into theaters in 2018, ripping a hole in the multiverse with its awe-inspiring animation and heartfelt storytelling, SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE (2023) is here to do all that and more. Not only have Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and David Callaham penned a script that delivers a healthy dose of humor and heart, but they have crafted a story that is leagues beyond its Marvel peers.

ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE is set in the aftermath of the events of Into the Spider-Verse and reunites Miles Morales, (Shameik Moor) and Gwen Stacy, (Hailee Steinfeld). In Gwen's world, Spider-Woman is falsely accused of the murder of her own best friend, Peter Parker. On the other hand, Miles has to deal with his own problems, including his relationship with his parents and an inter-dimensional crisis brought about by The Spot, a supervillain (Jason Schwartzman), created by Miles' own doing from the first installment.

I don't know about you, but when I think of Spider-Man, I don't immediately think of Miles Morales. But apparently, this guy is the bee's knees - the absolute best Spider-Man to have ever graced the screen. Perharps it's his charm, his trials, or the emotional rollercoaster he's about to journey on in ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE. Whatever it is, I guess we're supposed to believe that Miles is the superhero to beat.

Further, in a clever move, this film challenges Miles' notion of superiority by presenting a twist that, in the third act, questions his fate as Spider-Man. This meta-narrative adds another layer of complexity and highlights Miles' importance in a more contemporary age of Marvel storytelling.

The film does not shy away from jokingly referencing Doctor Strange’s misadventures within the Multiverse of Madness. This invites comparisons between the films' exploration of the different dimensions in the Marvel universe. It thrives in its exceptional use of the vast potential inherent to the multiverse concept. 

We are again treated to a new visual feast, with various universes with unique cultures, stunning animation stylistics, and interesting variations of familiar characters. The introduction of canon events also digs deeper into Miles’ journey and promises an exciting exploration in the highly-anticipated SPIDER-MAN: BEYOND THE SPIDER-VERSE.

While the animation in its predecessor was already groundbreaking, this sequel takes the cinematic experience to new heights. The expressive, immersive, and ever-evolving animation captivates so gloriously on screen. Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson use thematic visuals to elevate every scene with inventive comic book themes and vibrant color palettes. Each unique design captures the individuality of each universe, presenting a diverse yet unified visual explosion only movie magic can bring.

Yet, the genuine human connections at the story's heart make this film shine. The intricately crafted characters transcend their animated existence, evoking genuine emotions that resonate long after the final credits. Take, for example, Miles's journey. Here, he goes beyond the mere coming-of-age story as he grapples with a moral dilemma that challenges even the most seasoned heroes.

This makes SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE an ambitious animated masterpiece that exceeds expectations. With its captivating character developments, immersive world-building, and dazzling universes, the film offers an experience that appeals to the young and the not-so-young. Furthermore, it solidifies Miles Morales as the best incarnation of Spider-Man to date, leaving us eagerly anticipating what happens next.

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