The days when Disney and Pixar had a monopoly within the world of animated films are long gone. Studios like Illumination and, of course, Sony have now proven that there are more players on the animation stage. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse picks up the web after the events of Into the Spider-Verse and swings everything into high gear.
This review contains minimal spoilers that can be seen in the trailers.
Bizarre high level
You may have already seen that Across the Spider-Verse has a running time of over 2.5 hours. An awful lot of time for a movie where really a lot happens. Once again, we follow Miles Morales – and actually Gwen – who is New York’s only superhero after the events of the previous film. Things change quickly in Miles’ adolescent life and the multiverse literally turns upside down. The different universes, Spider-People and the cliffhanger at the end of the film made me sit and watch with my mouth open for 2.5 hours. There was not a single moment when I wanted to glance at my watch to see if we were almost to the end. In fact, as soon as the credits rolled on Across the Spider-Verse, the movie continues to gnaw at you. Indeed, the aforementioned cliffhanger introduced toward the end is one that clichédly turns everything upside down.
Of course I won’t give anything away about the story, because it remains fantastic to experience it for yourself for the first time. I do want to go into a little more detail about the different styles used. For it is incredibly clever what the makers of this film have managed to do. In fact, the various important Spider-People all have their own style. A style that has been implemented so cleverly and well that, as far as I’m concerned, Across the Spider-Verse takes the animation genre to a new level and does so even better than its predecessor. This not only applies to the worlds we get to see, it also applies to the way the creators portray internal dialogues in the film.
Different worlds have different styles and they are exchanged with each other. When our Miles travels to another world, he does not change to the style of that world, but keeps the style we are used to. This creates a kind of mood board of different styles during the film that are combined with each other. This is accentuated thanks to the edit work. More than once, different panels appear on the screen making a lot of things happen at once. It is very bold to see that the creators want to bring a comic book to life. Here for me is also the only real point of criticism. Occasionally too many panels appear on the screen at once making it impossible to see what is happening on each panel. So the choice to bring a comic book to life this way works incredibly well, except for the few scenes where it really is overkill.
A big plus of Across the Spider-Verse is the music used to tie scenes together, introduce characters or sound in the background and add extra atmosphere. From heavy hip-hop to tight punk, you will encounter it all while watching Across the Spider-Verse and each tone seems to be a deliberate choice to support and enhance the visuals. The story Across the Spider-Verse is serious, allows characters to grow and sets up for the next part. In the process, you will be introduced to quite a few brand new characters who have a deeper layer than you might initially think. Fortunately, there is no lack of humor that the Spider-Man films are known for. From a little wink to obvious jokes, the film has it all. Add to that the countless amount of cameos for fan service, and Across the Spider-Verse makes a serious run for best film of the year.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is, in a word, fantastic. As far as I’m concerned, it takes the animation genre to the next level and combines it with a gripping story, strong humor and a good soundtrack. Sometimes a little too much happens on screen, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I can’t wait to see this movie again in theaters.