Film, Movie Reviews

Movie Review: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE Starring Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jason Schwartzman, Oscar Isaac

Posted: June 2, 2023 at 9:23 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Sometimes the best things in life are surprises.

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’ve never been huge in the comic books/superhero scene. I watched some stuff like the X-Men Animated series, Batman Animated Series, etc., but I never collected comic books or a ton of action figures as a kid. So when Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse came out in 2018, I pretty much ignored its release until my good friend Brad gave it an overwhelmingly positive review. Thankfully, I went in with an open mind and two hours later, I was thoroughly convinced of its genius. The voice acting, the writing, the soundtrack (I’m still playing “Sunflower” on my Spotify): all top-notch. But the visuals.

My god, the visuals.

The movie is so gorgeously rendered in so many different styles, it’s occasionally overwhelming but never anything less than brilliant. I adored the movie and waited for the sequel.

Unfortunately, sequels almost never live up to the standards set by their predecessors. WIth rare exception (Aliens, Terminator 2, The Godfather II), sequels usually tend to be significantly worse (Titanic 2, etc.).

Fortunately, Spider-man: Across the Spider-Verse is that rare outlier that not only manages to match the original, it passes it pretty handily. Somehow, they managed to retain everything that made the original superlative, removed what didn’t, and added a few things. The result is not only one of the best animated movies I’ve seen in a long time – it’s one of the best movies, period.

The star of the film is still Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who’s struggling to meet his parents’ expectations while fighting crime. While trying to get to an appointment with his guidance counselor to discuss his future, he stumbles across Spot (Jason Schwartzman), a surprisingly polite and matter-of-fact character who has the ability to teleport things through space (although he lacks the ability to fully control it). Before he can completely capture him, Spot manages to slip into an alternate universe, where he manages to make himself even more powerful, prompting Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and several other iterations of Spider-Man (Oscar Isaac and Issa Rae) to pursue him, with Miles getting caught in the middle.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoilers (and the fact that to coherently explain it all would likely triple the length of this review), as there are quite a few surprises in store for fans of the first film and Spider-Man in general. To change things up from my usual reviews, I’ll start with the bad first:

It was a surprisingly long film (140 minutes, compared to 117 for the first), and I had to pee by the end of it.

That’s it, pretty much.

You want cool fight scenes? You got plenty of them. Spider-Man vs Spot. Spider-Woman vs Spot. Spider-Man vs Spider-Man? Sure. You want a catchy soundtrack mixed with a beautiful score? I found myself nodding along several times while noting the fantastic composition of the instrumentals. There wasn’t a “Sunflower” track that particularly stood out for me personally, but I’ll be checking out the soundtrack for the next week, probably. You want incredible visual styles amalgamated together seamlessly? You’ve come to the right place. The film at times is near-realistic in its visuals (and in fact shows a few real scenes) and then adds a character who’s literally ripped from the pages of a comic (Daniel Kaluuya as the infinitely-cool Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk). Even having seen the first, I found myself mesmerized during several scenes just admiring the animation. This film deserves a nomination for Best Visuals, easily.

As my ex-girlfriends quickly found out about me, though, a shiny attractive surface doesn’t mean anything if there isn’t any substance underneath it. Thankfully, this isn’t the case for Across the Spider-Verse, as Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and David Callaham crafted a masterful screenplay, weaving sweeping action scenes into some emotional ruminations. As Miles continues to adapt to a life with superpowers, he finds himself struggling with his limits, while both he and Gwen try to navigate adolescence while dealing with parents who don’t know their secrets. The film deals with several heavy subjects, mostly revolving around family and loss, but they manage to keep things from being too dramatic with an abundance of visual gags, cameos, and quick wit. I found myself laughing audibly at times at some of the more clever dialogue; it’s easily one of the funnier movies I’ve seen in a while.

With that in mind, if you’re a parent taking your child(ren), as mentioned above, the film runs north of two hours, so make sure you find a decent showtime. There aren’t any mid- or post-credits scenes, so you don’t need to worry about that. All you need to worry about is buying a ticket and going ASAP.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse gets an A+