Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ★★★★★
Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Thompson, Kemp Powers
Starring Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Luna Lauren Velez, Brian Tyree Henry
How do you top a game changer? The original outing for Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) showed us how popular western animation could be. For years the studios have been going for near photo realism, then Sony came along to start the punk rock phase of American animation. So where do we go from there?
The sequel starts with a hefty prologue that is an absolute joy. Gwen's (Hailee Steinfeld) story is told with even more artistic flair than what has gone before and sets us up for another ride of our lives. There is truly nothing like this out there and it is brimming with innovation and care in every frame.
The story itself is fairly straightforward and does take a while to establish itself. Miles is chasing a run-of-the-mill villain, Spot (Jason Schwartzman), when he is reunited with Gwen and an unexpected trip throughout the multiverse begins. When Miles is faced with the reality of the universes, he has to decide what kind of hero he needs to be.
This time we meet even more Spider-Men and the multiverse expands still further. I'm not a big fan of these kinds of stories usually, however the different strands available in this multiverse are treated with creativity, humour and a sense of endless possibility that the MCU has failed to master in the same way up to now.
Just when you think you've got a sense of what's going to happen, another strand to the story comes along, with a new Spider-Man that is just as interesting as the last. What sums up the creativity of this series is the punk rock Spidey, Hobie Brown, played by Daniel Kaluuya; he matches the aesthetics of the Sex Pistols cut and paste font.
There is a real emotional heart to this story too. The relationship each of the Spider's have to their fathers/uncles runs throughout and each time it is moving. The artistry on show in these scenes are breathtaking; using the comic book style to zoom in on the fragile relationship between a teenager and their guardian. It's these scenes that remind you that you are watching a comic book brought to life and it's magical.
If there was anything to criticise here, the run time is a little long. There are multiple possible endings to this story that present itself so you're never sure where it's actually going to end. When put together as a full trilogy, or even on a rewatch, I don't think this will be a problem.
This movie has stood on the shoulder of a giant. The experiment and eventual success of the first movie has allowed the sequel to lean into what makes this Spider-Man so great. It is a comic book movie in every sense of the word. It's pulpy, funny, emotional and showcases a group of artists at the very top of their game.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse available in UK cinemas now