Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse marks the tenth major Spider-Man film to hit cinemas since Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi first propelled the hero to the big-screen in 2002. That number goes up if you count films like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. What is it exactly that makes the web-slinger Marvel’s most popular and bankable leading man?
Well, most importantly, he’s relatable. And Spider-Verse proves that relatability isn’t limited to just Peter Parker. Miles Morales is a Spider-Man for a new generation, and lucky for us, Across The Spider-Verse slings its way to the top of the web as one of the best Spider-Man films we’ve ever gotten.
Miles Morales is just a typical teenager. Well, with one minor exception. He’s also Spider-Man and he’s saved the world from a multi-universal attack. Following the events of Into The Spider-Verse, the sequel picks up with Miles struggling to balance his normal life with that of being a superhero. It’s a struggle we’ve seen the web-slinger battle many times before. But when the multiverse finds its way back to Miles, the implications could be far more disastrous than anything he’d ever imagined.
Reaching ten solo-films is an impressive feat for any cinematic character. It’s a landmark typically reserved for horror icons like Jason Voorhees; however, achieving such a significant milestone as gracefully as Spider-Man has is nearly unheard of. Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man films weren’t initially received with a wave of praise, but those films have gone on to garner a significant boost in support with Garfield’s portrayal of the hero being hailed in particular.
Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse carefully weaves the thread of telling a strong and poignant story while also delivering a powerful punch of nostalgia and fan-service. Make no doubt about it, there is plenty of fan-service and more Easter eggs than a comic fan could dream of; however, the story never suffers and the characters of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) remain front-and-center. Miles is still the star, but Gwen is given a significant share of the focus this time around.
The family dynamic has always been central to Spider-Man’s journey. Uncle Ben’s iconic delivery of, “With great power, comes great responsibility” acts as the launching point for Peter Parker’s transformation into the web-slinging hero. Across The Spider-Verse is all about relationships, exploring the toll that being a hero takes on the individual. Gwen — just like Miles and Peter — sacrifices the normality of a life she deserves in order to serve the greater purpose of being a hero. This isn’t a new concept, but its one that we haven’t seen explored this well since Raimi’s Spider-Man 2.
Into The Spider-Verse and Across The Spider-Verse are unique in a variety of ways. The first film’s animation style was hailed for its painterly aesthetic and imagery that closely mirrored that of a graphic-novel. The sequel takes this concept and advances it, using watercolor pallets to paint vibrant and engaging visuals unlike anything else we’ve seen. The series’ use of the multiverse as a crucial plot-point was somewhat unique upon its release; however, in recent years the multiverse — and even the Spider-Verse — have found their way into popular entertainment with great frequency.
It’s the manner in which Across The Spider-Verse uses the mutliverse that makes it stand out. No other film — with the exception of Everything Everywhere All At Once — has taken full advantage of the creative liberties afforded to a story with infinite universes, and therefore, infinite possibilities. Here, it truly feels like the possibilities are endless, one of the many benefits of telling a story in animation.
Another perk of taking Spider-Man into the world of animation is being able to lean full-force and without hesitation into the comedy. Spider-Man is a comedic character, and through animation the full extent of his comedic chops can be explored more freely. Across The Spider-Verse is a genuinely hilarious film. Even better, is its ability to keep its audience smiling in-between bouts of laughter through the pure joy and exhilaration it delivers.
Spider-Man is like Batman, a constant presence in the world of entertainment. And as long as the movies continue to be good, fans will continue to swing into the cinema to spend their hard-earned cash on another super-hero adventure. If Across The Spider-Verse is any indication, the spandex wearing, universe jumping hero is still swinging with full momentum. We’re nearly half-way through the year, and I can say in full confidence, that this is my favorite movie of the year so far. Let’s see if Barbie can knock it from that slot.