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Review - Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Look, many of us have been feeling the superhero fatigue as of late. The films from both Marvel and DC studios have been lacking a certain punch recently. This makes it easy to forget just how jaw-droppingly stellar Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is when Sony Pictures Animation released it five years ago. Heck, a Spider-Man trilogy of films featuring Tom Holland has wrapped up in that time. So I don't hold it against anyone if their excitement for another Spider-Man film is low. However, you should be very excited. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a stunning sequel that beats every other superhero film in the last 5 years.

The script by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Dave Callaham builds on everything that was great from Into the Spider-Verse but they deepen the emotional stacks, build every character further, and push the already exciting story to new places. We get to further explore both Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) and Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) here. In fact, the film does a wonderful job of balancing these leads making sure Gwen doesn't get lost in everything. She is given a wonderful opening here to establish the emotional weight she carries with her for much of the film.

Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson match the script's ambitions by pushing the already ground-breaking animation into new amazing places. They also stage some of the most impressive action sequences of the year. Every frame here feels poured over to create the most impact and wonder possible. The result is an emotionally driven epic that consistently wows your eyes. Seriously, the visual style has lost none of its impressiveness since the first film and has been maximized here.

Gwen's opening establishes the complicated feelings she has about her time with Miles, her father, and her role as a superhero. Both she and Miles are dealing with the loneliness that comes from keeping a huge part of their lives a secret. When an alternative Vulture (Jorma Taccone) lands in her universe, she fights him alongside to new Spider-people. Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) and alt Spider-Woman (Issa Rae) are on a multi-dimension mission to clean up the resulting mess from Kingpin's super-collider explosion from the first film. There is a permanent time hole resulting in random villains popping up in the wrong universes. Gwen is enlisted into an Elite Society of Spider-People.

Meanwhile, Miles and his secret are pushing him away from his concerned parents (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Vélez). One of the film's themes is around parents letting their children grow up, into whatever they are. The first hour of the film gives a lot of attention to these parental relationships. Gwen and her father can't talk about what happened to Peter Parker in her world. Miles' parents can't help but know that something is weighing heavy on their son and it is pushing them away. The complexity of these superhero lives is unique, allowing the movie to explore the costs of being a young teen with so much going on.

The film also deals a lot with the consequences of Miles and Gwen's actions in the first film. Spot (Jason Schwartzman) is a new villain that was created from Miles' actions in the first film. Spot is a faceless guy with black holes all over his body. At first, it is tough to take him seriously. Schwartzman is great here as he takes Spot from a frustrated yet

silly villain into something truly dangerous. This leads the plot towards a giant climax but fair warning here, this is clearly a "Part 2" of a trilogy. Much like Empire Strikes Back, Across the Spider-Verse leaves things on a major cliffhanger.

From the excellent voice acting all around to the exciting soundtrack to the stunning animation, this sequel is everything a Spider-Man fan could want. Even if you are a casual fan, you will get caught up in the emotional story here. The film may not stand on its own given how integral it is in telling this larger, three-film story but that doesn't mean it isn't a satisfying watch. In fact, I can't wait to watch it again. There is so much going on all the time that it is easy to miss a visual reference or a witty joke. The ambitious animation ties in with the story so well that it never feels showy. We get to visit all kinds of wonderful worlds here and they often mix and match in delightful ways. If I have one gripe, it may be the running time. At 2 hours and 20 minutes, the film may be a bit much for little kids. It is also a bit much for a film full of such sensory overload. Still, I am thrilled at what we got and can't wait for the next one.



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