Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse (2024.12, So-So , Hero )

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse is a sequel and like the original, it isn’t for everyone. If you are into comic book action heroes go for it. Otherwise, there are plenty of other movies to see. (3*)
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse – Snapshot

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse is a sequel to the Animated Feature Oscar Winner in 2019 with a similar name.  This one shares many of the good things of the early film and a lot more of what made it difficult to watch.  This isn’t for everyone! (3*)

Where to Watch:

Stream: Netflix

Rent/Buy: Google/Prime/Apple/Fandango ($4)

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse – The Oscar Buzz 

Oscar Nominations (1) / Oscar Wins (0) :

Animated Feature

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse is a sequel to the Oscar-winning original animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (18).  (Note: because these are both long movie titles and also because they are identical except for one word, I am going to take a short-cut in the rest of this review and use “Spider- Man Across” to refer to this year’s movie and “Spider-Man Into” for the earlier one.  I’m sure this will infuriate the purists, but it will make my editors happier…Oh, and “:” create havoc with SEO keywords, so I’ve thrown them out…). As a sequel produced by Sony – the same group who did Spider-Man IntoSpider-Man Across shares a lot of the same talent.  And since Spider-Man Into won the Animated Feature Oscar, there are several cross-linkages worth mentioning.  

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller wrote the screenplay for this movie and won the Oscars for Spider-Man Into.  They also collaborated on the two Lego animated films.  Miller and Dave Callaham, another writer on Spider-Man Across, received Oscar nominations for The Mitchells and the Machines (Note: I thought that particular movie was the worst thing I’ve ever seen and gave it half a star, so I’m not sure this is a positive association!). One of the directors, Kemp Powers, co-directed Soul (a movie I did enjoy) and received a nomination for his One Night in Miami screenplay.

Daniel Pemberton wrote the musical score for both Spider-Man Into and Spider-Man Across, and the music certainly has comic-book super-hero energy.  Pemberton received an Oscar nomination for his song in The Trial of the Chicago 7.  No doubt Spider-Man Across and Spider-Man Into shared many of the people in the Sound, Visual Effects, and Animation areas, which in Spider-Man Across total more than 500 people so I’m not going to list them individually.

The voice actors almost universally reprise their same roles in both films.  Shameik Moore returns as Miles Morales and Hailee Steinfeld voices the young and hip Spider-Woman, Gwen Stacy.  Steinfeld, as an even younger girl, received a Supporting Actress nomination for True Grit (10).  Brian Tyree Henry’s character has undergone a name change from Jefferson Davis in Spider-Man: Into to Jeff Morales in Spider-Man Across, but in either case he is Miles father figure.  Henry received a Supporting Actor nomination in last year’s Causeway, playing opposite Jennifer Lawrence in a terrific performance.  Daniel Kaluuya, who received a leading actor nomination for Get Out and won the Supporting Actor contest in Judas and the Black Messiah, plays a delightfully eccentric Spider-man, Hobie Brown in this film.  And finally two time Oscar winner (Green Book and Moonlight) Mahershala Ali returns as Miles’ Uncle Aaron.  Clearly there is a lot of talent providing the voices in these movies and you can tell that they enjoyed their roles.  I especially liked the chemistry between Steinfeld and Moore.  It should be noted that there are some 240 characters in this film and it is impossible to discuss all of them in any normal movie review.

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse – Related Movies

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse  (Screenplay, Score,  Production Design, Multiple Cast Members/Voice Actors)

Soul/ One Night in Miami (Direction)

The Lego Movie/The Lego Movie 2/ The Mitchells vs the Machines/ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Screenplay)

True Grit  (10) (Steinfeld)

Get Out/ Black Panther/ Judas and the Black Messiah (Kaluuya)

Green Book/ Moonlight (Ali)

The Trial of the Chicago 7/Steve Jobs/Being the Ricardos (Music/Score)

Raya and the Last Dragon (Costume Design)

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse – What Others Think

Audiences loved Spider-Man Across, rating it the highest of all five animated features and third of all 38 nominated films this year, behind only Godzilla Minus One and 20 Days in Mariupol.  And, yes, they liked it better than this year’s Best Picture (Oppenheimer) or any of the other Best Picture nominees.  Viewer comments included “excels in every category”, “truly exceptional”, “absolutely lost for words”, “jaw-dropping aesthetics”, “amazing” …and that’s just getting started.  I guess if you are into comic book stories and styles, it just doesn’t get much better than Spider-Man Across.

Critical opinion was not quite as positive but still ranked it seventh out of all 38 of this year’s movies and the second best animated flick, behind The Boy and the Heron.  Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert) gave the film 4* and said it was “loaded with incredible imagery and fascinating ideas.”  He found the film “more than most superhero movies, it’s about empowerment instead of destiny.  And that’s powerful stuff.”  Maya Phillips (New York Times) gave the film a Critics Pick and noted that it “replicates the charms of the first film but also expands the multiverse concept, the main characters and the stakes..”  I suppose, in many ways, it does all of that.

With a generally very positive opinion from both the critical and movie-watching public’s, Spider-Man Across comes in second place of all 38 of this year’s movies, behind 20 Days in Mariupol and tied with Godzilla Minus One.  Very powerful recommendations indeed.  So why is my opinion comparatively so negative?

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse – Special Mention

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (the first one) – As mentioned at the beginning, Spider-Man Across is a sequel to the the 2018 film that introduced us not to the Spider-Man mythology – that came some time ago – but to the combination of Spider-Man and the Multiverse.  So, effectively we now have an infinite number of Spider-Men (and -Women and – OtherThingys).

There were only six of them in the first one.  Miles Morales, the biracial kid from Brooklyn is the main guy, of course, but we also have Peter B. Parker, Peni Parker, Peter Porker, Spider-Man Noir, and, of course, Spider-Woman/Gwen.  Due to a rift in the space-time continuum, these Spider-people from other universes converge on Earth to help Miles rid the planet of a nasty set of evil people and situations.  One of the ideas that I kind of liked in Spider-Man Into was that each version of Spider-Man was rendered in a unique, and appropriate, style of animation.  Peni Parker, for example, is Japanese and her style is rich in anime.  Peter Porker, suggesting Porky Pig, is painted in a two-dimensional animation, much like the old Disney cartoons.  Spider-Man Noir, voiced by Nicolas Cage, is lifted from the pages of a film noir comic book, and rendered in black and white and stark lines.  Their movements, too, reflect their backgrounds.  Gwen, for example, is very fluid and with graceful movements which serve as an interesting contrast to Miles’ gawky teenage awkwardness.

I admit it – although I found the different animation styles somewhat interesting, I couldn’t absorb why that was particularly important.  As I wrote in my review of Spider-Man Into, “I guess my childhood missed the comic-book phase and, as a result, I don’t understand the many references, not just to comic book characters, but also to comic book styles and the intricacies of the art form as it evolved over time.”  Add to that the underlying super-hero mythology with its over-the-top plot development, simple characters, and overloaded visual effects, and I just wasn’t impressed.  I could only give it 3* – although I acknowledge that, had I had a different childhood, perhaps I would have given it 4*.

Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse – Michael’s Moments

So is Spider-Man Across any different?  Is it really a better movie for me?

In this one, instead of having six different Spider-people, you have, theoretically an infinite number of them – one for each of the infinite universes. Now even this movie doesn’t pretend to deal with that many, there are only 242 of them.  And, thank goodness, we may see many of them, but most of them don’t have real speaking parts and some of them are things like a T-Rex in Spider-Man clothing.  There’s only a few of them that we get to encounter and some of them are even fun.  Daniel Kaluuya’s Hobie Brown is  a terrific black dude while Issa Rae’s Jessica Drew battles evil while pregnant and riding a motorcycle.  These guys spew lines that are sometimes profound and often downright funny.

Gwen/Spider-Woman returns and we learn a bunch more of her back story.  I thought the rekindled relationship with Miles was fun, but it left me wanting more to their story.  Maybe we have to wait for some future sequel…

And instead of six different spider-men coming to earth, the movie transports us to six different universes.  Following Miles, we see each one has a different animation style – or in one case, a live-action universe. In another, and it’s only on the screen for a few seconds, we visit a universe where everything and everybody are Lego creatures, and the animation is stop-motion.  Some of these stops aren’t really stops, they are flybys and, ultimately, I have to ask the question why was that necessary, except to throw one more visual thing at us without any real purpose.

Unfortunately, I sensed a lot of that. Some of the lines are, indeed, fun and witty.  But you never have time to savor them before you are assaulted with something new.  And there, ultimately is why I didn’t like this movie – it is mostly a sensory assault of technical animation style with no reverence for taking the time to absorb and understand what is happening.  I ended the movie feeling lost – much like I had after the first one.

Now, I did get a lot more on the second viewing, two days later.  And yes, I get the idea that Miles represents a superhero to a lot of people who don’t see many that look like themselves.  And I understand the notion that Miles is questioning the belief in destiny and determinism and replacing it with self-initiative and empowerment.  But I guess I don’t get to what end?  Where is all this plot and hundreds of glib lines of dialogue taking us?  Anywhere really important, or are we simply doing battle with a particularly ridiculous Dalmatian who happened to get his spots from the multiverse?  (By the way, Everything Everywhere All At Once does a better job at capturing the multiverse than this film does – and they use an Everything Bagel!)

Oh, and did I mention the ending?  Let’s just say there is a Part III coming out later this year!  If you love comic books or are into super-hero movies more than usual, you should probably watch this movie.  Otherwise…

So, because of all that, I give Spider-Man Across the same thing I gave the first one: (3*)

Spider-Man Across the Multiverse
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