Spoiler alert: "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" ends on a cliffhanger. This shouldn't be too much of a surprise since a third installment is set to debut in theaters in 2024. But I let you in on this secret because the cliffhanger ending in this sequel is high energy and leaves you wanting more from a character that has been portrayed by a handful of actors in more than ten high-profile films in just the past 20 years. It's impressive that after hundreds of hours of watching the same character go through the trials and tribulations of his daunting life as an unlikely spider-based superhero, I am left wanting more after this one ends.
Solid work, Sony.
"Across the Spider-Verse" is the long-awaited sequel to 2018's "Into the Spider-Verse," which introduced a newcomer to the canon, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), as high schooler Spider-Man. A rebellious figure who represents just one of many diverse characters added to the Spider-Man tale, Miles is prideful of his Brooklyn life and heritage. Through computer animation and hand-drawn graphics, "Into the Spider-Verse" deals heavily with multiple dimensions where he meets other Spider-People, including Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson). Eventually, Miles' uncle Aaron turns out to be the supervillain Prowler, and Miles makes decisions that affect his family and ultimately save the multiverse.
Cut to "Across the Spider-Verse," and Miles is living his secret life as Spider-Man while attempting to juggle school, his family dynamics, and his long-distance love for Gwen that cannot be tamed. Although the two live in different dimensions, their appreciation for each other knows no bounds. That is until The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) shows up in Miles' dimension, wreaking havoc in the local criminal element. A former scientist from Alchemax that turned into a supervillain due to Miles' actions from the first film, The Spot holds a grudge against the teenager. He is being tracked through the multiverse by Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) and ninja vampire Spider-Man Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac). This husband-and-wife duo leads a Spider-Society tasked with protecting the multiverse. A multiverse that Miles will soon be reacquainted with, which could spell doom for all humanity.
Long story short is that a lot is going on in this movie. Like…a lot.
However, I promise it's worth it. "Across the Spider-Verse" takes a formula and animated structure built from the first movie and elevates it with new characters and complex physics. It is a jolt of energy that thrusts the sequel into franchise mode with mind-bending animation and a reunion of characters with profound emotional depth. Many of the favorites from the first film make their way into this one, and it becomes an exciting combination in what is ultimately a complicated comic book movie. The stakes are raised in this sequel that takes elements from Tobey Maguire's, Andrew Garfield's, and Tom Holland's previous iterations without dwelling on them.
The focus on The Spot is a curious choice. It is a bit overwhelming in addition to Oscar Isaac's mysterious character alongside other revelations in the pivotal third act. But, all of this is sure to pay off in the future third installment, and judging by the amount of applause from the screening I attended, the desire from moviegoing audiences for a continuation of these Spider-People storylines is fully there.
"Across the Spider-Verse" pits Miles Morales against friends and new foes but honors its main character with hints of what Marty McFly experienced in "Back to the Future Part II." In fact, there are a lot of similarities between both sequels, except that I doubt Miles will make his way to the Old West in the next installment. This movie appeals to film nerds and comic book aficionados in a very positive way. It expands on the first film's legacy and creates space for the reinvention of a somewhat tired Spider-Man trope that's been introduced repeatedly for the past 20 years onscreen.
While the abundance of animation and plethora of characters surrounding Miles might seem daunting for a comic book movie about a teenage Spider hero, the good outweighs the bad in "Across the Spider-Verse." The runtime goes by in a flash. At times you swear you're watching anime and realize there's a variety of visual techniques baked into this comic book cake. Film noir, deadpan comedy, and graphic violence are mixed into a traditional comic book tone, unlike recent Marvel and DC movies that pretend to be invested in the comics but end up being popcorn entertainment.
Just don't be too disappointed when all of your questions aren't answered once the credits roll. Also, there isn't a mid-credits or end-credits scene to worry about staying for.
Ticket Rating: 🎟🎟🎟🎟1/2