Rant and Rave: “Spider-Man—Across the Spider-Verse” honors the stunning world of animated superheroes

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” definitely lives up to the prestige of its 2018 predecessor—however, it also serves as a reminder that its writers and animators should receive the respect and honor that they deserve.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a cinematic masterpiece from start to finish. A bold claim, sure—especially because it had to live up to the hype of its impressive 2018 predecessor, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which changed the landscape of the animation industry. Now, its sequel has only broadened the limits of what modern animation can do. 

Under the sharp direction of Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson, and Kemp Powers as well as the writing prowess of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a product of beautiful animation, eclectic sound, riveting storytelling, and keen acting. Fans of the web-slinging hero will be happy to know that the sequel keeps the ball expertly rolling through the intricacies of an often chaotic multiverse. Furthermore, the editor of the film, Andrew Leviton, had recently announced that at least two different versions were released for cinema, leaving fans scrambling to figure out which one they had already seen. 

The power of the multiverse 

Let’s get right into it: the film’s use of animation is nothing short of an ode to the world of cinema. Its premise rests on the foundation of the existence of the multiverse and this ambitious plan is executed perfectly through every aspect of the movie, most of all through its art direction. Miles Morales’ (Shameik Moore) comic book-illustrated world is a striking contrast to Spider Gwen’s (Hailee Steinfeld) more fluid and watercolor world. It is almost magical, the way the animators were able to meld contrasting styles so seamlessly into cohesive chaos without taking away from the story being told. 

In a similar fashion, the movie mixes and matches colors in a way that brings attention to the central objects of the scene, while smoothly matching the tempo of the storytelling. Vibrant eclectic colors fill the screen as the characters find themselves in action scenes, but mellow down into a calmness when the dialogue takes center stage. 

The soundtrack and score add another dimension of storytelling. Two specific tracks, Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy) and Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’ Hara), both aptly named after the very characters they introduce, perfectly encapsulate their personas. Spider-Gwen’s track embodies her strong and unwavering personality, while Miguel O’ Hara’s (Oscar Isaac) is notably the musical reverse of the Miles Morales theme, giving a more mysterious and almost otherworldly sound to his character. 

Why did you create that guy?

Across the Spider-Verse picks up a year and four months after the last installment, introducing a story that explores more about Spider Gwen than the previous film. While already quite a tenacious character in the first movie, she is a quick thunderbolt of energy in this one, and pairs off quite nicely with Miles’ stubborn personality. The audience will be thoroughly entertained to watch her navigate her complicated relationship with her father while simultaneously unraveling the sinister plot of this film’s “villain of the week”, Spot (Jason Schwartzman). 

Although initially introduced as a clumsy and rather silly villain who can’t control or even understand his powers, Spot becomes a force to be reckoned with and eventually someone to fear. But a good villain has the audience sympathizing with their plight and even, at times, agreeing with what they say—Spot is exactly that type of antagonist. His character serves as a reminder that even a villain deserves their own development arc, while still being unpredictable enough to leave you nervously clenching your fists at the edge of your seat. 

Anti-heroes are not unheard of in the Marvel universe, but the line between the good guys and the bad guys seemingly blurs in this film. Miguel O’ Hara is the brooding mysterious leader of the Spider Squad, whose tortured past leads him to make decisions that seem questionable at best to the audience. Though he claims to be propelled by the greater good, it is almost terrifying to watch as he does everything in his power to stick to the “canon”, leaving the audience uneasy yet engrossed.

For a film about the multiverse and an abundance of Spider-Men, it stays cohesive and keeps the plot easy to follow. Although there are an infinite number of charming and clever variants of Spider-Man—including the slightly air-headed but well-meaning Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni) and the chaos-loving Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya)—each one is their own distinct person and there is no danger of confusing one with another. The screenwriters have done a great job of respecting the characters they created, a characteristic that is rather surprising to see now in the Marvel universe.

You can’t do everything 

However, every masterpiece has its fair share of caveats, and Across the Spider-Verse is held to the same limitation. 

The most glaring flaw would be the movie’s rather abrupt ending—it accomplished the job of having the audience on tenterhooks for the last movie in the trilogy, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, a little too well. And wait we must, as Steinfeld had just recently revealed that she has yet to film any of her parts for the last film. She shared in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter that it took her four years to finish her work for Across the Spider-Verse, making the projected date of the final film, March 29, 2024, unlikely to be met. 

A more pressing and alarming cause for Beyond the Spider-Verse’s delay lies not in the content itself, but behind its scenes. Reports have surfaced of animators quitting the project after being forced to work 11-hour days, every day of the week, for more than a year to regain the time lost because of alleged indecisiveness of a producer. 

By the same token, it sets a dangerous precedent for animators in the industry, that they have to keep churning out art to meet the strict deadlines of higher-ups. Rather than it being a product of their passion for the art of film, their creations have simply become a means to an end. Although the delay may serve as a major disappointment to the fans of the movie franchise, the animators and writers need to take all of the rest and recuperation that they need—only then can the trilogy be capped off with a satisfying end. 

Never forget where you came from

Across the Spider-Verse stands out as one of the best animated films to ever grace the silver screen. It is obvious that the animators and writers put all their love and hard work into every millisecond of the movie and they deserve to be respected and lauded for their craft. If anything, the film sends a clear message: give our animators and writers the credit and appreciation that they are entitled to. 

The animation and story are so intricately interwoven and have redefined the potentials of animation. Although a glaring difference between the first Spider-Verse film and this sequel is that the latter cannot be deemed a standalone, viewing it is still an awe-inspiring experience that deserves avid rewatches.

Rating: 3.0/4.0
Marie Angeli Peña

By Marie Angeli Peña

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