‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ weaves a spectacular sequel



The movie poster for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Srivas Arun, Co-News Editor

As one of the most influential pieces of animation ever created, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse pushed the boundaries of what a work of animation could be at the time of its release in December of 2018. Its sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, released on June 2,  is an improvement on nearly every possible level, but strains under the weight of multiple storylines. 

When the first Spider-Verse movie released, audiences and critics agreed that a captivating storyline, incredibly charming characters, and an exhilarating soundtrack all wove together to create a nearly perfect piece of cinema. Not to mention a revolutionary art style that numerous other animated movies including The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Puss in Boots: Last Wish, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, have replicated in recent years. 

Needless to say Into the Spider-Verse‘s sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, was highly anticipated from the moment of its announcement in late 2019. Despite the fact that the sequel took over three years to release, it is undeniable that Across the Spider-Verse was more than worth the wait.

Right off the bat, the animation of the sequel follows a similar style to the first movie. The hand-drawn aesthetic and bright, contrasting colors pay homage to classic comic book artwork. However, Across the Spider-Verse goes a step further by focusing even more on the bold strokes of color and linework in each frame and skillfully featured many different art styles throughout the movie. All the effort that was put into the artwork made Across the Spider-Verse one of the most visually stunning movies I have ever watched.

Another aspect of the film that takes the storytelling to another level is the amazing soundtrack. Created by Metro Boomin and featuring prominent artists such as 21 Savage, ASAP Rocky, and Swae Lee, each song feels perfectly suited to its corresponding scene. Ominous tracks such as “Annihilate” heighten the tension in scenes while also being insanely catchy. The tone for quieter and more intimate moments is perfectly set by elegant songs such as “Hummingbird.”

Across the Spider-Verse begins with a deeper look into the struggles of Spider-Woman Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). When Gwen’s life comes crashing down due to a difficult relationship, she leaves her universe and joins the Spider-Society, a team of spider superheroes from different universes working together to protect and maintain the structure of the multiverse.

I really appreciated the additional backstory on Gwen because it displayed another side of her character that was previously unknown. While the narrative about her difficult relationship with her father is captivating and heart wrenching, the backgrounds of the scenes abruptly changed at times, making them feel somewhat random.

The story then shifts to the life of lead protagonist, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). One of the main antagonists of the movie, Spot (Jason Schwartzman), who is able to create portals, is introduced as Miles attempts to stop him from robbing a store. While Spot begins a pesky annoyance to the protagonists, he soon grows to be a major threat as he discovers how to use his unique portal powers to navigate the multiverse.

With the threat Spot poses unknown to Miles, he struggles to handle the stressors of his day-to-day life until a visit from Gwen leads to him discovering the Spider-Society. Gwen eventually brings Miles to the headquarters of the Spider-Society where he meets the serious and resentful Miguel O’Hara, aka Spider-Man 99 (Oscar Isaac), a Spider-Man who leads the team and will do anything to protect the integrity of the multiverse. Miguel shares shocking information with Miles, and as the intentions of the other Spider-people become clear, Miles embarks on a desperate mission alone across the multiverse.

Although Across the Spider-Verse introduces many diverse heroes, one of my least favorite characters was Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni), an Indian Spider-Man who Miles briefly works with. In my experience, depictions of Indian characters are most often oddballs with annoying personalities and abrasive voices. When I first learned that an Indian superhero was going to be in the movie, I was thrilled. I was hoping for a valiant and charming hero, but instead Pavitr ended up being a mildly obnoxious and arrogant goofball who adds little to the story and perpetuates the stereotypical Indian character. He’s not an awful character, I just wish he had a more serious personality.

On the other hand, the two antagonists, Miguel O’Hara and Spot, were captivating in their own ways. Spot transitioning from an incompetent weirdo to a huge threat to the protagonists keeps his character interesting, and seeing the shift in the way Miles and the other characters view him is fascinating. While Miguel is not truly a villain, his values often conflict with the other characters, making the dynamic between him and the other heroes very interesting.

With so many characters and multiple storylines, the movie did feel overwhelming at points. Cramming so much content into one movie also resulted in some characters barely receiving any screen time. However, the characters that were fleshed out had very satisfying story arcs. The problems Miles encounters are surprisingly relatable as they involve dealing with the expectations of parents, proving himself to his peers, and facing roadblocks alone. The way he reacts and overcomes his challenges makes it hard not to empathize with him.

Watching Across the Spider-Verse was an overall incredible experience even though it ended with one of my least favorite plot devices: the cliffhanger. The second Spider-Verse journey finishes with our protagonists facing multiple different threats, some of which are revealed in the very last minutes of the movie. Although a sudden reveal followed by the credits was slightly infuriating, I do not think any other ending could have left me with a higher feeling of anticipation for the third movie, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, which is set to release in March of 2024.

As a huge fan of the first movie, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse blew my expectations out of the water. The advances in the art style, storytelling, and writing were all absolutely incredible, and the Spider-Verse team proved yet again that even an animated film has a place among the best superhero movies ever made.

Audiences who enjoy films such as Spider-Man: No Way HomeKlaus, and The Iron Giant will appreciate this movie for its coming of age story and unique animation style.