The animated Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse may be the most significant Marvel movie since the last Avengers movie.
The writing is brilliant, the animation is the best I’ve ever seen (though they still too often use the boring, blocky triangle body shape for men), and there are more than enough Easter eggs in this film to satisfy even the crankiest of old time comic fans.
Adults and kids will love it.
The movie is the sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which established that there are Spider-Man variants throughout the multiverse, from a sentient pig (Spider-Ham) to a dinosaur Spider-man.
The main Spidey in both films is not Peter Parker, but Miles Morales, the well-meaning Spider-Man of Brooklyn. Everything seemed fine after the first film, but now we learn that is not the case. It turns out Morales, (Shameik Moore) became Spider-Man by accident, robbing that dimension’s Peter Parker of his destiny. What happens to that Peter Parker is a main plot point of the movie and the reason why everything goes crazy again.
But this time, Miles is more of a hinderance than a help to fixing it.
A standout character in the film is a Grade C bad guy from the comics called the Spot, that’s it, the Spot, who can teleport through portals that are somehow created by his body. Spot is played by Jason Schwartzman, but the real credit does to the writers and animators who took this potentially silly bad guy and made him a powerhouse. And there are secrets to Spot which won’t be revealed here.
The militant Spider-Man of the 2099 universe, Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), and his outrageously huge collection of Spider-Folks from across the multiverse have taken on the task of making sure anomalies are returned to their correct universe. They also make certain that everyone fulfills the Spider-Man “canon” in their dimensions. They make sure critical events like the death of Peter’s Uncle Ben and other sometimes horrible occurrences happen as they should.
Miles, who was created by Cleveland native Brian Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, is an executive producer of the film. His Spider-Man is a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican teenager who lives in Brooklyn.
In this film, Miles is aided by a Spider variant from another world, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). Gwen was the paramour of Spider-Man in the Marvel comic universe who died at the hands of the Green Goblin (and Spider-Man, quite by accident). Her role in the movie is wonderfully conflicted and complicated.
Other standout characters in the film include the anarchistic British Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya), who also voices Hobie Brown. And the movie also features the best version of the Spider-Man classic villain The Vulture since Michael Keaton’s version in 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
I can’t wait to see some ambitious fan identify each of the hundreds of alternate Spider-Men (and women) featured in the film, some only for a split second in a massive crowd scene. I was thrilled to see the version of Spider-Man based on a few panels in one comic decades ago where he lost his mask and used a paper bag as a disguise. Yes, the influences go that deep.
Finally, this film is by far the ultimate adaptation of comics into the big screen. Fans who grew up watching clunky cartoon super-heroes on television will be thrilled.