Hailee Steinfeld’s captivating voice as Gwen Stacy sets the tone in the captivating opening of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. With confidence and determination, she expresses a strong yearning for change: “Let’s try something different this time,” she declares, igniting a desire to explore the unexplored territory in this thrilling sequel. And that’s exactly what Across the Spider-Verse does.
In Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, it’s been a year since the events of the first film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). Miles enjoys life as Spider-Man, but fighting crime and being a fifteen-year-old student can be challenging.
Miles soon has to battle against The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), a scientist-turned-supervillain who can create mini black holes into alternate dimensions. The Spot draws the attention of the Spider Society, an interdimensional team of spider people from all corners of the multiverse led by the dubious Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac).
With the eyes of the Spider Society watching, Miles and fellow web-slinger Gwen Stacy must hunt down and stop The Spot before it’s too late. However, Miles’ excursion into alternate worlds becomes a nightmare when he learns a secret that has dire consequences for himself, his family and the multiverse.
A Worthy Sequel
2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was a box-office and critical smash. The exciting blend of computer animation with traditional comic book artwork was cutting-edge. Thankfully, the sequel matches the first film’s jaw-dropping animation and action sequences. More importantly, the excellent storyline from the first film continues into the second.
The success of these films lies in their blend of great animation and heartfelt storytelling. More than simply an action hero, Miles feels like a real teenager with real problems. Furthermore, his portrayal as a hero has depth and conveys the weight of responsibility on his young shoulders. Miles’ mother and father are well utilized as caring, loving parents, creating a holistic ensemble that radiates the film’s emotional core.
The action in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse can be a bit exhausting at times, and there are moments when fast-paced editing can overwhelm the senses. Still, thankfully, this is balanced by quieter moments, especially Miles’ domestic life in Brooklyn with his mother and father, which gives some breathing room for the viewer. Nevertheless, the fantastic artwork and sublime action set pieces are exhilarating and key to why these films are so good.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse offers scientist Dr Jonathan Ohnn, aka The Spot, as a fumbling goofball villain whom Spider-Man casually insults as the ‘villain of the week’. However, to everyone’s surprise, the character is deftly transformed into a genuinely terrifying foe who eventually becomes a worthy arch-nemesis of Spider-Man. Unfortunately, Ohnn is somewhat underutilized, disappearing for large stretches of screentime.
In addition, the sequel seems torn between telling Miles’ story and Gwen’s. As a result, we spend a significant amount of time focusing on Gwen and her problems with her father and dealing with the death of her best friend, Peter Parker. Thus, the film feels half an hour too long and needs more sharpness and focus. This is mainly due to delving too much into Gwen’s universe but also because Miles has so much emotional road to cover, whether with his family in Brooklyn or his foray into the multiverse and the uncovered revelations.