Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

A year after Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) became Spider-Man, then learned there were alternate versions in alternate universes, he’s still incognito from his police officer dad Jeff Spider-Man and mom Rio (voice of Luna Lauren Velez) and the only rendition of the superhero in his world.  Miles doesn’t yet understand the threat his latest foe, The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), poses, nor will he understand the ramifications of a visit from Gwen Stacy (voice of Hailee Steinfeld) until pregnant, motorcycle-riding Spider-Woman Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) and vampire ninja Spider-Man Miguel O’ Hara (Oscar Isaac) come to retrieve her in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

Laura's Review: B+

First things first - Sony Animation originally had a ‘Part One’ added to this title, then dropped it, so many were surprised to find this ending on a ‘to be continued…’ cliffhanger, “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” arriving on March 29, 2024 to complete the tale.  It was a disappointing shock at the end of an overlong 2 hour and twenty minute film, so forewarned is forearmed (and let’s hope someone realizes the reported live action version may wear out the franchise’s welcome).

Those two issues dealt with, everything else about this film is a head tripping blast of originality, its take on Marvel’s multiverse better than anything dealt with by Doctor Strange.  The film begins with a stunning prologue, a visit to Gwen’s ‘verse that finds her battling Vulture (Jorma Taccone), a supervillain-by-way-of-sepia-Da-Vinci-drawing who sticks out against the backdrop of a modern art museum, a pink Jeff Koons’ poodle his polar opposite.  She’s assisted by her best friend, Peter Parker, no Spider-Man in her world but a giant lizard, but when he’s killed in battle and her cop dad (voice of Shea Whigham) finds her in her Spider-Woman guise over his body, he believes she killed him, proceeding with an arrest even when she unmasks herself.  Time to step through a portal and visit Miles…

While we witnessed a black and white Spider-Woman slinging her way into a neon night, Gwen’s blue/lavender/pink color scheme changes in Miles’s world in an exhilarating, joyful sequence of shared inner city web-slinging, all the more freeing considering that Miles has been grounded.  But the Spot has been changing his, his white space becoming increasingly black as he gains more portal power (the animators will eventually make him wonderfully abstract), the danger he poses drawing two more visitors, Miguel and Jessica, the former citing Miles for creating this havoc.  They’ll invite Gwen to join them, but Miles, uninvited, follows nonetheless.

A stopover in the city of Mumbattan on Earth-50101 will introduce us to Pavitr Prabhakar, aka Spider-Man India (voice of Karan Soni), a vain yet colorful superhero who prizes his luxurious hair.  But a catastrophe in this world will find Miles’s heroics messing with ‘a canon event,’ something which Miguel insists should never, ever be done, losing beloved folks like Uncle Ben (look, there’s Tobey Maguire!) necessary for superhero growth.  Miles will discover some shocking truths in the world of the Spider Society, where myriad iterations from the multiverse gather (a Spider-Cat!  A cowboy Spider-Man astride a Spider-Horse! Gwen’s fabulous bandmate Hobie, aka Spider-Punk (voice of Daniel Kaluuya)! Miles’s mentor Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) along with his baby daughter Mayday and the rest of the gang!).   The last thing he learns, though, will start a ticking clock and find him on the path to breaking rules yet again.

New directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson along with “Into’s” producer/writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” cowriter David Callaham have, perhaps, given us too much of a good thing here.  While this one eventually wears you down a bit only to leave you hanging (albeit with quite a new twist), its animation is even more inventive, more dazzling.  The multiverses contain a Lego version and a live action version.  Animation ranges from eye-popping op-art to Hobie’s ‘Never Mind the Bullocks’ graphics to Roy Lichtenstein comic book dots complete with insert panels providing definitions for such things as Cockney slang.  Quirks of personality, such as Miles’s irritation over the repetitive phrase ‘ATM machine,’ are carried over to others, Spider-Man India annoyed by ‘chai tea.’

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is the type of jam-packed experience that is so dazzling, you may need to visit it multiple times in order to appreciate its multitudes.  Just be prepared to wait for an ending.

Robin's Review: C

It has been over a year since Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) went “Into the Spider-Verse,” Now, the subject of his affection, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), needs his help to save the Spidey-populated universes in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

OK. Spider-Man and the Spidey-Verse have a huge fan base around the world. Unfortunately, I am decidedly not a member of that base. I did an IMDB search for matches to “Spiderman” and there are dozens, even a 40 minute short, “Italian Spiderman (2007).”

This one, the second animated version of Spider-Man and the Spider-Verse, clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes and to me the non-fan is a cacophony of bright lights, noisy action and more Spider-persons/things than you can shake a stick at. Good for the fans, but not for me.
Basically, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), our Brooklyn, NY based Spider-Man, is called upon by Spider-Woman, Gwen, to help combat a new, even more threatening foe – the yet to be fully formed, universe-shifting super-baddie named “The Spot.”

But, it is not two good guys against one bad guy doing battle here. We also have a cast of thousands (millions?) of Spideys from all across the Spider-Verse joining Miles and Gwen in their mission to protect and serve.

To me, the story, by a trio of directors and a triumvirate of writers, should have been 90 minutes, 100 minutes tops. So, a movie that is 40 minutes or more longer than it should be constitutes a plus for the fans – who will, I think, enjoy it immensely – and a big minus for me

Sony Pictures releases "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" in theaters on June 2, 2023.