Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
MOVIE | A vibrant, kinetic, and worthy sequel to 2018’s Into the Spider-Verse
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➤ Rated PG
➤ S1 / V4 / L3*
In recent years, formulaic comic-book films have disappointed moviegoers, but Phil Lord and Christopher Miller hope to dispel superhero fatigue with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the much-anticipated sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which won the Academy Award for best animated feature.
Across the Spider-Verse picks up where the original movie left off. In the first movie, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) led various Spider-Men from different dimensions to defeat a bad guy who risked collapsing the multiverse with a giant supercollider. The Spider-Team prevented the collapse. But as we now learn, their battle poked holes in the multiverse, letting both good guys and bad guys travel between dimensions.
Miles is a science-loving 15-year-old of African American and Puerto Rican descent, and he finds balancing the responsibilities of family and school with his secret identity as Spider-Man to be a challenge.
Miles’ parents (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Vélez) don’t know why he’s so distracted, and they don’t understand how to raise a teenager trying to make a life for himself. Parents of teenagers will experience a flicker of recognition in scenes where Miles’ parents wrestle with their frustrations.
Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), Miles’ sort-of girlfriend who’s the Spider-Woman of another dimension, steps back into his life through an interdimensional portal and introduces him to the wider Spider-Verse. Thousands of Spider-People from thousands of worlds have teamed up to keep the multiverse from collapsing. They need to plug the holes that were left after the supercollider exploded. They’re led by Miguel (Oscar Isaac), the only Spider-Man without a sense of humor.
Across the Spider-Verse is vibrant and kinetic with animation that expands on the previous movie’s innovative style. The action sequences showcase Spider-Man’s agility, and while things get a little chaotic, they never confuse.
The stunning visuals complement Lord and Miller’s poignant script that covers familiar Spidey tropes about being defined by hardship and using power responsibly. The movie has plenty of humor to go along with its heart and indulges freely in referencing 60 years of Spider-Man lore.
In the old days of comics, the hero clashed with a villain who had obviously wicked motivations—greed, lust for power, revenge. That villain shows up in this movie, but he’s not the focus. The real conflict—the more interesting conflict—comes between Miles and Miguel. They both think of themselves as the “good guy,” but they have starkly different philosophies. Plenty of evil has been wrought by people who believed they were on the right side of history.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is rated PG, but parents should exercise some discernment. Along with the cartoon action, it has a couple of mild profanities. And while many viewers won’t catch it, the movie has a subtle endorsement of the LGBT agenda. Gwen is not trans, but if you look closely, you’ll see a sign above her bedroom door that says “protect trans kids.” Woke teenagers with secrets clash with their more traditional parents, and maybe we’re expected to see a teenager’s coming out as a Spider-Person as a metaphor for coming out as LGBT. There’s also a scene in which a girl swipes through pictures of women online—it’s not clear whether she’s looking for a new hairstyle or a girlfriend.
The film’s 140-minute running time could have been shaved by streamlining some of the Gwen subplot, but the movie doesn’t drag. Be warned, Across the Spider-Verse ends on a cliffhanger. A third installment, due early next year, will wrap up Miles’ story.
These issues aside, Lord and Miller have created a worthy sequel for the 2018 movie. I’ve seen a lot of movies, so I usually see plot twists coming, but this movie genuinely surprised me toward the end. We’ll have to wait until next year to see if Lord and Miller stick the landing, but I won’t be surprised if they do.
*Ratings from kids-in-mind.com, with quantity of sexual (S), violent (V), and foul language (L) content on a 0-10 scale, with 10 high
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