Reviewed by Cliff Homewood
There’s nothing like alienating your audience with the beginning of your review so Star Wars is better than The Empire Strikes Back. It’s the more complete film, not relying on the previous film for world building nor a future film to finish. Creators Lord & Miller were meant to make a Star Wars film but when sacked wrote these Spider-verse films instead.
One of my first thoughts was ‘how do you review this?’ how to convey your mind being blown, I don’t have to with the first informing how stylish it is with its ability to blend, being the masterpiece of animation in recent years, worthy of its Oscar.
Reviews are stating Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is better than the original – following the old standard film series trajectory – second film declared better than first, third dodgier and if it makes it to fourth it’s a franchise killer (Batman & Robin & Superman IV).
Miles Morales was created when Brian Michael Bendis watched Community and reflected how fabulous Donald Glover looked in a Spider-man outfit (Glover went onto cameo as Aaron Davis (The Prowler) in Spider-Man: Homecoming).
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse doesn’t get to the other side, Beyond the Spider-Verse, due March 2024, continues the story. At 2 hours 20mins with 240 characters and 1000 crew it’s the longest, largest American animated movie so far, telling a multi-threaded story, with at least four converging threads. It’s master storytelling, two of the threads setting up our heroes, Gwen & Miles, are emotional. Gwen’s universe changes colour with her mood, blue when she’s sad, pink when it’s love, which is cool and a great example of the film’s artistry.
It moves fast, even the slow scenes are essential viewing, although it does continue the storyline from the previous film so if you carry a memory with you it’s handy, I do not, however recaps are provided. There is some interesting dialogue referencing where we appropriate a foreign word following with the English meaning exactly the same thing. Eg Sahara Desert. Forgive me for not being multi-lingual!
It’s full of Easter eggs, even more than the first. I’ve been reading Spidey for decades but the depth of knowledge required was beyond me. The obscure villain, The Spot (who I prefer to call Holes in reference to the FOMO* audience who were of the arse variety) has been around since the 1980s was a great choice, being humorous, strikingly visual and original. A big fan of Spider-Man 2099 so interesting to see him be a major part of the plot, however wasn’t impressed by a scientist using personal experience-based logic, a test sampling of one is not very scientific.
It’s kinetic with so much happening, requiring multiple watches to fully appreciate. Superb imagery with the wow factor, reminiscent of The Matrix in being an evolution in style, the first film giving them confidence to go even more out there, and also of Lord & Miller’s similarly crammed The Lego Movie.
However as much I enjoyed it, able to relax in the hands of master craftsmen from artists and voice artists to the driven soundtrack which also made the first so effective, to make a great film everyone involved has to be providing their A game, on reflection I prefer the tightness and freshness of the first. That story felt more driven, with a great post-credit scene (this film has none), this whilst providing an emotional riveting story, is a larger more meandering storyline. There are fleeting moments where you get to admire whilst waiting for the next gear to kick in. I had similar non-immersive moments with The Matrix which I don’t remember happening in Into the Spider-verse.
There have been too many Hollywood films using standard action movie writing of just stringing set pieces together so heartening to see a film that knows the heart is making an audience care and having that ability.
This bravura movie provides nearly every Spidey you can think of** and more spurt out your web shooters Spider-Ham ones, so in a way it is the ultimate Spider-Man movie.
*Fear Of Missing Out, a disease of constantly looking at your phone in case nuclear war or the like had started, which it nearly did in that very establishment – C
**Except poor Nicholas Hammond, who campaigned to be in Spider-man: No Way Home, which turned out alas to be true – C