I had quite the dilemma when I left the cinema after seeing the visual feast that is Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. I wasn’t debating whether or not I liked it. I wasn’t bothered by the cliffhanger of an ending. I simply wondered whether or not I could immediately rank this as a superior film to the damn fine Spidey movie that preceded it. After wrestling with my conscience for a short while, I have decided that I can. Others may hold that ending against it. I won’t. In fact, the way the ending promises even more great Spider-Man adventures in this format means that I view it as a bonus. This is a perfect movie.
We’re back in the company of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), but we only reconnect with Miles after an extended opening sequence that shows us the ongoing adventures of Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld). Viewers are brought up to speed about, or reminded of, the various incarnations of Spider-characters throughout the multiverse, and it isn’t long until Miles Morales is battling a foe (Spot, voiced by Jason Schwartzman) who puts multiple realities in serious danger.
That’s all I want to say about the plot of the film, but I could write so much more here and still feel as if I was just scratching the surface. Let me just add that there is still a great energy to this material, a great blending of various animation styles, and characters depicted onscreen that many fans thought they would never see in a major movie.
Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are back on writing duties, alongside Dave Callaham, and they bring their patented brand of humour with heart, once again seeming to relish the chance to craft great moments for even the most minor Spider-figures. It also shows how to create a picture of great impending peril while keeping the focus on characters, real emotional turbulence, and natural and rewarding personal developments.
Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson may all be new to their roles in this particular movie series, but they all work in service to material that effortlessly (well . . . seemingly effortlessly) feels livelier, cooler, and more colourful and diverse than any other superhero movie we’ve seen so far. The only other film that comes close is, well, the previous Spider-Verse adventure.
It’s impossible to narrow down the praise for voice performances that are such a good fit for the animation, especially Moore and Steinfeld being so perfect in the lead roles, so I will just reel off the many names of the core figures: Jake Johnson (another welcome returning player), Oscar Isaac, Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Shea Whigham, Issa Rae, as well as some live-action incarnations, shown in archive footage very familiar to us Spidey fans.
As already mentioned, the ending didn’t bother me, but I know some will be frustrated by the idea of another superhero film ending on a note that leads in to whatever the next instalment is due to deliver. I relish the potential ahead, because this movie series keeps delivering on that potential, and far beyond it. Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse crashes on to screens as one of the best ever superhero movies, one of the best ever animated movies, and simply one of the best ever movies, period. And to think . . . I didn’t ever seriously consider that anything would be able to supercede the first film.
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