Based on the Marvel Comics series by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and the Miles Morales series by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the sequel to the 2018 film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse that has Miles Morales go on a mission with Gwen Stacy to save every other variants of Spider-Man from a mysterious supervillain that threatens the multiverse. Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson and screenplay by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and David Callaham, the film has Morales and other variants not only deal with more variations of the Spider-Man persona including old allies whose lives are being threatened by this new threat. Featuring the voices of Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar Isaac, and Jason Schwartzman as Spot. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a visually-astonishing and gripping film from Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson.
Set 16 months after events in which Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) became Spider-Man, the film follows the character who deals with a new enemy in Spot who holds a grudge towards Morales as he discovers new powers that threatens the entire multiverse with Morales and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) going on a mission to save the multiverse where some revelations occur as it relates to Morales. It is a film that doesn’t just play into Morales dealing with this threat that would destroy many different universes involving variations of Spider-Man but also so much more including the narrative of Spider-Man. Notably as Morales is still trying to find himself as he is trying to be the new Spider-Man but also a kid living in a prestigious high school in Brooklyn who is trying to do good for his parents. The film’s screenplay by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and David Callaham doesn’t just explore Morales’ struggle in his identity but also this new threat in Spot who is revealed to be someone that Morales had unknowingly met in the past who has the power to create portals through black spots as it allows him to go into the multiverse.
The film’s script doesn’t begin with Morales’ story and his connection with Spot but rather Gwen Stacy who not only misses Morales but also is still coping with the loss of her variation of Peter Parker as her Spider-Woman persona remains on the hunt by her father Captain George Stacy (Shea Whigham) who believes Spider-Woman killed Parker whom he cared about. It is during a mission where Gwen is being confronted by her father who would learn about her identity while also meeting other Spider-Man variants in Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) and Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) as the latter is the leader of the Spider-Society that the former is a member of as she invites Gwen into the fold after capturing a variation of Vulture (Jorma Taccone) from a Renaissance-inspired multiverse. Gwen’s return to Morales’ universe has her trying to capture the Spot as she would briefly visit Morales who is struggling on whether to tell his parents that he’s Spider-Man as revelations about the Spot as well as the fact that it was his spider that bit Morales.
Morales would follow Gwen who reluctantly invites him to her mission to stop the Spot as they travel to a multiverse known as Mumbattan where its Spider-Man in Pavtir Prabhakar (Karan Soni) is dealing with the Spot as they’re aided by another Spider-Man variation in Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya). Despite not capturing the Spot, the Spider-People would save Mumbattan with Morales invited to the Spider-Society where he reunites with Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) and meets O’Hara where revelations about Morales’ role comes into play. Notably in his actions and a narrative that all versions of Spider-Man have to follow in order for them to become who they are.
The direction of Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson is wild not just in the many different animated styles they put in but also in creating something that raises the bar of what animated films could do. Aided by a team of supervising animators in David Han, Nick Kondo, Jeff Panko, Mikaela Pfeifer, Daniel Pozo, Philip Rudolph, and Siggi Orri Thorhannesson in creating different worlds and animation styles ranging from comic-book inspired animation, hand-drawn 2D animation, and computer-based 3D animation. Dos Santos, Powers, and Thompson would also maintain this glitch-based style as it plays into the multiverse breaking apart while doing a lot in playing up these different locations that all of these characters go into. The direction also infuse a lot of unique compositions along with shots that play into the drama and suspense such as the scene where Captain Stacy walks into a rubble where he finds Spider-Woman where he would learn of her identity.
With the aid of production designer Patrick O’Keefe, along with art directors Dean Gordon and Araiz Khalid, and visual effects supervisor Mike Lasker in creating the backdrops for the many worlds. The direction also does a lot to establish the stakes as well as what their respective Spider-Man variations have to endure as part of a grand narrative that all of these variations follow. It is something that Gwen is dealing with knowing as being forced to reveal her own identity to him as it creates a lot of conflict for her when it comes to Morales and his role as a Spider-Man. Even as his own father in Jefferson Morales (Brian Tyree Henry) is about to become a police captain with Morales dealing with the fact that his father could be part of an on-going narrative that he’s not ready to deal with. Its third act that is filled with these dazzling visuals and set pieces as well as many Spider-Man variants with a lot of attention to detail on its look with costume designer Brooklyn El-Omar helping to create a different look for all of these variants. Even as they venture into these alternate universes with the Spot being this major threat who will destroy everything as Morales is forced to confront realities he isn’t prepared for. Overall, the trio of Dos Santos, Kemp, and Thompson craft a visually-grand and audacious film about young superhero dealing with new realities and a new foe who threatens to destroy the multiverse.
Editor Mike Andrews does amazing work with the editing in creating some unique fast-cuts for some of the action but also knowing when to slow things down in the dramatic scene and suspenseful moments with some split-screen shots to help play into the drama. Sound designers Alec Rubay and Kip Smedley do brilliant work with the sound as its creation of sound effects and sparse sound textures add to the sense of urgency into the action and suspense. The film’s music by Daniel Pemberton is incredible for its mixture of electronic music, hip-hop rhythms, and orchestral flourishes that help play into the suspense and action as well as some themes including using Indian-based instruments for the scenes in Mumbattan while music supervisor Kier Lehman creates a fun music soundtrack that features contributions from Coi Leray, Nas, Swae Lee, Future, Don Toliver, James Blake, Offset, Wiz Kid, Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Lil Wayne, A$AP Rocky, and 2 Chainz.
The casting by Mary Hidalgo is great as it features a massive ensemble voice cast along with a few live-action appearances such as Peggy Lu as the convenience store owner from the Venom films who has a brief encounter with Spot. Other voice cameos including J.K. Simmons as various versions of J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Sohn as Morales’ school roommate Ganke Lee, Melissa Strum as Peter B. Parker’s wife Mary Jane Parker, Elizabeth Perkins as a variation of Aunt May and the Quippy Spider-Person, Josh Keaton as Spectacular Spider-Man from the late 2000s TV series, Ziggy Marley as a Jamaican convenience store owner, Rachel Dratch as Morales’ school principal, Amandla Stenberg as Margo Kess/Spider-Byte who is a Spider-Person from a virtual reality, Jack Quaid as Gwen’s version of Peter Parker, Greta Lee as the Spider Society AI assistant Lyla, Andy Samberg as a variation of Spider-Man in Ben Reilly/Scarlet Spider, and Jorma Taccone as a variation of Vulture from a Renaissance-based universe whom Gwen tried to capture with help from Miguel O’Hara and Jessica Drew.
Shea Whigham is superb as Gwen’s father George Stacy as a police captain who is trying to hunt Spider-Woman over the death of Peter Parker as he copes with Spider-Woman’s identity. Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez are fantastic in their respective roles as Morales’ parents in Jefferson and Rio Morales who both deal with their son’s absences as well as his struggles in school with the former pondering his faults as a father just as he is about to become a police captain. Daniel Kaluuya and Karan Soni are excellent in their respective roles as Spider-Man variants in Hobart “Hobie” Brown/Spider-Punk and Pavtir Prabhakar/Spider-Man India with the former as this British punk rocker with a Cockney accent who is rebellious while the latter is this Indian-based figure who got his powers through magic while wearing Indian-inspired clothing for his own costume. Issa Rae is brilliant as Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman as a pregnant Spider-Woman variant who mentors Gwen and rides a motorcycle that she uses as a weapon where she brings a lot of humor but also is the second-in-command to Miguel.
Jake Johnson is amazing as Peter B. Parker as Morales’ former mentor who has managed to get his life together while being accompanied with a baby girl in Mayday Parker who also has powers of her own where he tries to help Morales over dealing with the Spot. Oscar Isaac is great as Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 as a ninja-like, muscular version of Spider-Man who doesn’t have a sense of humor as he is someone who takes the security of the multiverse very seriously as he sees Morales as someone that could ruin things despite the fact that the Spot is an even bigger threat. Jason Schwartzman is incredible as Dr. Jonathan Ohnn/the Spot as a former scientist whose creation makes him into a villain that can travel through holes until he gains new powers that would allow him to destroy the multiverse as he has a grudge towards Morales.
Hailee Steinfeld is phenomenal as Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman as a teenager still coping with not just the death of her version of Peter Parker but also what is at stake where Steinfeld brings a lot of emotional angst as well as someone filled with a lot of conflict about her friendship with Morales and saving the multiverse. Finally, there’s Shameik Moore in a tremendous voice performance as Miles Morales/Spider-Man as a teenager who is still dealing with growing pains in both as a regular kid and as Spider-Man while dealing with this new villain in the Spot as he also becomes aware of what is at stake where it is this great voice performance that allows Moore bring a lot of nuances to Morales as someone that is just still trying to find himself.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is an outstanding film from the trio of Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson that features a phenomenal ensemble voice cast. Along with a strong and gripping story, visuals that takes animation to new heights, grand set pieces, and an exhilarating music score. The film isn’t just this enthralling superhero film but it is also a film that really raises the bar of what animated films could be as well as how to present something with a story that plays into all sorts of issues such as identity, growing pains, and what it means to be a hero. In the end, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a magnificent film from Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson.
Spider-Man Films: Spider-Man - Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man 3 - The Amazing Spider-Man - The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - Spider-Man: Far from Home - Spider-Man: No Way Home - (Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse)
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