May 31, 2023
Review: 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse'
JC Alvarez READ TIME: 3 MIN.
The multiverse: There was a time when only a very close-knit group of insiders could be counted on to understand the complexities of theories about parallel realities. That group of insiders were called "nerds," the often "uncool kids" that huddled around the unpopular table at the school cafeteria, riffling through the latest Marvel and DC comics. Alternate and parallel realities were run-of-the-mill and typical of the arcs explored in the best superhero stories.
Hollywood has capitalized on the "multiverse" idea. It's no surprise that superhero franchise favorites have depended on this notion at the box office; after all, there's no bigger crisis-level event than all of reality collapsing in on itself. In "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," the animated sequel to the 2018 Academy Award-Winning feature-length film "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," to say the stakes have been amplified just doesn't cover it!
While OG Peter Parker claims the high ground as New York City's "friendliest neighborhood" Spider-Man and hails from the borough of Queens, teenage science prodigy Miles Morales, also bitten by a radioactive spider, is Brooklyn's own urban web-slinger. Morales makes his mark across the concrete jungle, leaving his graffiti tag everywhere while navigating the highs and lows of his own heroic mission as a crime fighter. After the consequential first installment, Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore) is his world's only Spider-Man, and he's struck a balance kicking butt and dutifully fulfilling his hard-working Latino family's expectations.
The arrival of a new supervillain, who calls himself "The Spot," sets in motion a series of events that put Miles at the core of a conspiracy that will have far-reaching implications, especially when the "Spider-Verse" is opened to him. His friend Gwen Stacy (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) is the Spider-Woman of an alternate earth, and she is placed in danger when she learns that the multiverse is being compromised. She's aligned herself with Jess Drew (Issa Rae), a kick-ass Spider-Woman from yet another alternate earth who is an agent for an elite organization dedicated to preserving order.
Oscar Isaac voices the darkly brooding leader of the elite agents, the Spider-Man named Miguel O'Hara, and this Spider-Man is determined to reign in the chaos – chaos that he believes has been generated by Miles Morales' presence in the Spider-Verse, and he intends on setting things right. This might set Miles against the entirety of every "Spider-Hero" from every reality!
The pace of this installment moves at a thrilling speed and outmatches its predecessors. Without the constraints of a live-action film, "Across the Spider-Verse" is able to realize a world that's inspired by its comic book origins, and still achieve a kind of realism. The first film beautifully imagined a visual realm that paid reverence to the source material and endeavored to give audiences an inspired visual experience that put the moviegoer in the action. "Across the Spider-Verse" pushes the envelope and is far more dynamic. It enhances the palette from the first film, choosing a delicate watercolor effect for emotional moments, for example, and takes some stunningly original turns that bring it all together.
For all the film's visual excitement, if the story wasn't interesting and the characters weren't engaging, this web-slinging adventure wouldn't have eight legs to stand on. The film exceeds expectations and is impossible to take your eyes off of. You immediately forget that it's an animated film, as the cast of heroes become every bit as real as their MCU counterparts, and Miles Morales emerges as a hero that transcends, on his journey to stay true to the love he's known all his life, and the knowledge that with great power comes great responsibility.
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" is a must-see blockbuster and will undoubtedly emerge as the hottest ticket of the summer, and sets the stage for the next installment which is just a year away, as the third act, "Beyond the Spider-Verse," will likely feature some even more stunning twists and turns.
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" opens in theaters June 2.
Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".