“So what do you think?”
“What I always think. You’re amazing!”
A joint venture between Marvel Entertainment, Columbia Pictures, and Sony Animation Studios, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a 2023 film directed by Kemp Powers, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Justin K. Thompson from a story by Dave Callaham, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller. It is a sequel to the incredible Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse released in 2018. We covered the film when it came out and our review can be found here: https://fanboyfactor.com/2018/11/movie-review-spider-man-into-the-spider-verse-sony/ Returning from the first feature are stars Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Shameik Moore, Mahershala Ali, Luna Lauren Vélez and Jake Johnson. They are joined by Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni, Jason Schwartzman, Andy Samberg, Oscar Isaac, and Shae Whigham with cameos by Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, Peggy Lu, Dennis Leary, J.K. Simmons, Cliff Robertson and Donald Glover.
“The romantic tension is so palpable!”
Over a year since returning to her home on Earth-65, Gwen Stacy (Steinfeld) is having a hard time with her secret identity as Spider-Gwen. Her father, Captain George Stacy (Whigham), mistakenly blames her for the death of their world’s Peter Parker and has directed the policemen under his command to hunt down and detain the wall-crawling web-slinger, which makes her daring deeds as a crime-fighter more difficult.
She hears about an attack at the Guggenheim over her pilfered police radio and swings into action only to discover that the museum is being torn up by a da Vinci-esque, steampunk Vulture from another earth. Though seemingly made of paper, this airborne predator is no pushover and he soon has Gwen on the ropes.
With the roar of a motorcycle and the crackle of electricity, aid arrives just in time in the form of Spider-Man 2099, Miguel O’Hara (Isaac), and Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew (Rae), additional alternate spider-incarnations. The trio team up and swiftly subdue the violent vulture variant with a modicum of property damage. At the tail end of the scrum, Captain Stacy confronts Gwen at gunpoint, hoping to finally arrest her. He ignores her protestations that she didn’t kill Parker and fires a warning shot when she won’t comply with his commands. Feeling she has no other option, she slides off her mask and reveals her secret to her father, hoping he’ll believe her. He’s undeterred, but Drew and O’Hara offer her another avenue of escape and ask if Gwen will join their team, a dimension-spanning secret society of Spider-people. She accepts and using a wrist-mounted device, O’Hara opens another portal. The three slide through the walls of reality and disappear, leaving Captain Stacy in the debris, alone with his despair.
Meanwhile, on Earth-1610, Miles Morales (Moore) is maturing in his role as Spider-Man while mooning over Gwen who he misses dearly. His parents Jefferson (Henry) and Rio (Vélez) are pushing him to think about what’s next with his education. He’s on the way to an appointment with them and a guidance counselor when he clashes with the Spot (Schwartzman), who is attempting to steal a cash machine from a convenience store. The Spot’s strange powers catch Spider-Man off guard and it takes him a moment or two to recalibrate his attacks and quips, but ultimately, Spidey is able to web up the weirdo and leave him for the PDNY. The problem is he’s left his parents hanging. He races to the appointment and arrives super-late to face their scowling glares and obvious disappointment with the counselor trying to put together a plan for Miles’ next move with what time remains allotted for them.
The Spot escapes Miles’ webs and runs amok. Jefferson gets the call and Miles’ spider-sense begins to tingle, so both quickly bail on the meeting, leaving Rio to learn about Miles’ many absences dragging down some of his grades. The PDNY and Spider-Man confront the Spot and despite the destruction of several squad cars, they come out on top after the Spot stumbles into one of his own holes and vanishes.
As a member of the Secret Society of Spider-People, Gwen learns that the Vulture fell through a rift caused by the events of the last movie: The walls between worlds were weakened by the use and destruction of the Kingpin’s collider and the Society’s job is to patch any holes that might appear through the dimensional layers. Using her own wrist-mounted space-shifter, she travels to Earth-1610 ostensibly to visit Miles who she bonded with during their short time together, but really she’s on the clock and after the Spot, the powers of whom have grown to a frightening degree. Gwen and Miles share a unique understanding and he can feel her pain. They have a long talk where she warns him against revealing his secret to his parents.
Jefferson is being promoted to Captain. Family and friends throw a party to celebrate his accomplishment. Of course, distracted by Spider-work, Miles arrives late again and mangles the cakes. He is scolded by his parents for being super-tardy and irresponsible. Their argument is absurdly loud and Miles is grounded. As the party peters out, Gwen arrives after searching for the Spot and an intrigued Rio catches her and Miles talking together.
Suddenly alerted to the Spot’s activities by her space-shifter, Gwen apologizes to Miles and his mom and bugs out, darting down the fire escape. Thinking she’s discovered his secret and now understands the source of her son’s erratic behavior, Rio un-grounds her son and tells Miles to move fast and go after Gwen.
She arrives at the Spot’s lair and using holograms, her scanning devices are able to replay what triggered her alarm. Gwen sees the Spot complete the work on his own collider, which when activated, enhances the Spot’s powers to the point where his holes can create pathways between realities. Realizing this, he steps through into another world and is gone.
Gwen contacts Jessica and they begin tracking the Spot. Miles follows Gwen to the Spot’s hideout and enters invisibly, overhearing Gwen and Jessica who warns Stacy about getting Morales involved. They successfully find the Spot in Mumbattan on Earth-50101 and Gwen’s space-shifter pops open a portal for her. With a wistful look back, Gwen bids farewell to Miles and Earth-1610 before jumping through the strobing gate.
Morales returns to visibility and stands before the gate as it slowly shrinks. He ponders the pathway between realities momentarily, considers how great it was to see Gwen and how much he’s missed her, but that Stacy is clearly keeping secrets from him. It doesn’t matter. She might be in trouble. She might need his help. That’s really all that matters. He comes to what he considers an obvious conclusion and catapults himself through the dwindling door between worlds.
The Spot is searching for the collider on 50101 and heads to the local version of Alchemax, where the machine is located. Miles arrives hot on Gwen’s heels and they are joined in their pursuit by Spider-Man India (Soni). The Spot is two steps ahead of them and three Spider-People aren’t enough. They can’t penetrate the force field the Spot has erected so he can get the collider powered up unmolested so a fourth is called in, Hobie the Spider-Punk (Kaluuya).
Together they crack the shield but they’re too late. The Spot has absorbed the full power of the collider and vastly increased his own. His perceptions become incredibly enhanced. He sees Miles and in an instant is able to learn everything about his identity, including who his parents are and where they live.
Incensed with what he feels is Miles’ dismissals and disrespect, he vows to kill Jefferson and Rio. Only then, he declares, will the Spot be Spider-Man’s one, true nemesis. After declaring his plans for revenge, he disappears again. The collider explodes and ripples in reality lay waste to the infrastructure of the densely populated megapolis causing buildings and bridges to topple.
Can Hobie, Spider-Man India, Spider-Gwen, and Miles rescue the citizens of Mumbattan from their phenomenal peril? Can Miles express his feelings to Gwen? Can Gwen get over her fear of hurting those closest to her? Can George accept who his daughter is? Can Jefferson learn to let his son have some room to grow? Can Rio put aside her fears for Miles’ future? Can Miles be honest with his parents and tell them about his Spider-work? What is the secret of the Spider Society and how many members are there? Why doesn’t Jessica want Miles involved, and what doesn’t she want him involved with? Can the several squads of Spider-people stop the Spot before he destabilizes all of time and space? Watch Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse to find those answers.
“Can you please stop talking about your holes? You’re making people uncomfortable.”
From the moment Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse begins, the viewer is being prepared for the multiversal experience at hand. The Sony and Columbia logos flash through alternate versions, alternate iterations, logos of alternate Earths. The movie is just stunning. It’s sumptuous and visceral, a visual feast of vast proportions. This reviewer has never seen a film that looks anything like this. It should start with a seizure warning. If Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, Richard Linklater’s Waking Life, Peter Greenway’s The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover, the magnificent, color-coded wuxia films of Zhang Yimou like Hero or House of Flying Daggers and Marvel’s own Multiverse of Madness were put in a blender, the result might be Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Gwen’s world, Earth-65 is a lush, beautiful, blending watercolor world with vertical bands of color that shifts with her feelings, brightening and darkening along with her mood. The color bleeds are unique signifiers of Earth-65 and each planet visited has its own texture and art style. Earth-1610 maintains the duotone art board texture established in the first film and sets it apart from the others.
The powers of the Spider-people also offers a different perspective for the picture. There are several scenes where they are standing on walls or sitting upside-down beneath ledges and the camera inverts along with them or turns on its side, giving the viewer a glance at how Miles or Gwen sees the world.
Across the Spider-Verse incorporates comic book panel lines on the screen and uses them to perfection, splitting some scenes, showing cause and effect simultaneously or allowing the characters to share action beats at the same time. The music works very well with the movement and is synched seamlessly with the web-swinging sequences.
Though it is a very funny movie with a dimension-spanning story, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is also grounded in very real things. Henry and Vélez are simply incredible as Miles’ parents, who are dealing with how best to raise a boy who is becoming a man, how to accept his growth and maturity, how to step back and let go but still be there just in case.
There are a whole bunch of fun Easter eggs, a prodigious use of panels from actual Marvel issues, and virtually every Spider-Man who has ever appeared in print, film, or animation has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. There are references galore to games and older cartoons. Video Man from 1981’s Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends makes an appearance. The cameos from Garfield, Maguire and Glover are very nicely done.
The credit sequence is dreamlike and yet another discrete art style. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a gorgeous and spectacular movie.
However, no one in any of the universes visited uses window screens. Spider-people are just able to go in and out of any window they choose. It’s a little weird. There’s also a lot of Spanish spoken in the movie, and there are no subtitles. It’s not a big deal, but several important and emotional conversations take place in Spanish and it would be nice to understand what the characters are saying. The only other thing is a warning: There is an abrupt, old-school, to be continued, cliffhanger at the end.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is in theatres now.
Spider-Man was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
Miles Morales was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli.
Spider-Gwen was created by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez.
The Spot was created by Al Milgrom and Herb Trimpe.
Spider-Man 2099 was created by Peter David and Rick Leonardi.
Ben Reilly was created by Gerry Conway. The Scarlet Spider was designed by Tom Lyle.