Movie Review: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
It's not merely a good superhero movie. It's a work of art.
While reviewing more comic-book movies than I can count, I’ve described this ubiquitous genre in a lot of ways.
Here’s a new one: heartbreakingly beautiful.
I’m not talking about the plot or themes of “Across the Spider-Verse,” though both are effective and a bit moving. I’m talking about the breathtaking artistry of the images on the screen. There is more to this film than the cinematic delivery of a narrative; there is an immense leap forward in animation as visual art, even from the already-lofty perch set by its predecessor. These moving pictures are consistently striking and evocative; they should go from movie theaters straight to museum walls.
It’s a good Spider-Man movie, too, but that feels almost secondary.
After saving the multiverse and meeting quite a few Spider-Folk from other realities in “Into the Spider-Verse,” Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is working as a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and badly missing his counterpart, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). She’s working for a timeline-hopping unit of reality-preserving heroes; he’s dealing with a cartoonish yet effective baddie (Jason Schwartzman).
As it turns out, though, reality is in trouble. All this multiversal madness — yes, there’s a none-too-subtle reference tying the proceedings to a certain series of live-action films — is screwing things up all over the place. A stoic Spider-Man (Oscar Isaac) is determined to correct the aberrations at any cost, even if that means a lot of loss for a lot of Spideys.
If you’re in the mood to be picky, you could point out that the story here is pretty familiar stuff, covered extensively in the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films and a pretty direct repeat of their “Loki” series. (These properties do all fall under the same umbrella, so the connections could well be deliberate). If “Across the Spider-Verse” is slightly repetitive in its subject matter, though, its thematic topic is profound: The acceptance of loss and trauma and an inevitable part of life, without which true maturity cannot arrive.
Don’t worry; it’s also funny. It’s very, very funny. The madcap energy of the original, a controlled chaos that intertwines perfectly with the raucous visuals, is intact and improved. A loaded voice cast — also including Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Rachel Dratch, Jorma Taccone, Jake Johnson and dozens more — keeps the dialogue light and funny even as the stakes get higher.
“Across the Spider-Verse” is the first half of a two-part story, so don’t expect a conclusion. That doesn’t matter in the least, though. It’s too gorgeous — too visually dazzling and remarkable in every frame. I’d watch it 10 times.
My Rating: 10/10
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is now playing in theaters.