Let’s get this out of the way: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was the finest comic-book film of the previous decade.
With an animated blizzard blasted right from the pages of comic books, “Into the Spider-Verse” takes a supercollider to all the tropes of the superhero film. Solemnity was no longer present. The concept of a chosen one was also gone. Spider-Man may be anybody, including a graffiti-tagging Brooklyn teen and a pig called Spider-Ham. The possibilities for a comic book movie were now infinite. The vibes were impeccable, as Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower” thumped.
There’s a lot to live up to. Despite this, the Spider-verse continues to develop in exciting ways five years later. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is the uncommon sequel that outperforms the original. It’s breathtaking. Colours drip, invert, and spatter in a dazzling pop-art swirl.
If “Into the Spider-Verse” revelled in the head-spinning collision of realms, “Across the Spider-Verse” takes the multiverse blender up a notch, or ten. Worlds collide like shoppers in a crowded store. Spider-Men and Spider-Women emerge like unloaded clown vehicles. The sheer amount of what’s in the picture may be nearly overpowering in this frenzied, freewheeling creature that challenges you to keep up with its web-slinging speed.
Despite this, “Across the Spider-Verse” is a surprisingly realistic coming-of-age story. The artistic flare of writers-producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who co-wrote the screenplay with David Callaham, resides in how they dynamite convention and then assemble the residual, fractured pieces to make something deceptively charming and simple.
The directorial crew has been completely changed. In this second part, Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson take over, with Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) now a 15-year-old with a greater grasp on his crime-fighting abilities. He’s less good at communicating with his parents, Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio (Luna Lauren Vélez), who are still unaware of their son’s hidden identity and are getting more worried about his peculiar behaviour.
Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) is dealing with similar concerns after announcing to her police captain father (Shea Whigham) that she is Spider-Woman. (He blames her for Peter Parker’s death.)
When Miles and Gwen meet again and swing in tandem around New York, they’re less a romantically attached Spidey duo and more a couple of kids whose parents simply don’t get it. When they sit together on the bottom of a ledge on the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, staring at an upside-down Manhattan, hazy and blue in the distance, the lingering picture wonderfully embodies an electrifyingly upside-down movie series.
“Across the Spider-Verse” continues to explore with these ideas in a chaotic and jumbled manner. Miles and Gwen are correct in believing that their challenges are unique to being very bright children. But the film repeatedly emphasised that, although they are very brilliant, they are far from alone. “I’m Spider-Woman,” Gwen exclaims as a pregnant heroine (Issa Rae) rides in on a motorcycle. “Me, too,” she responds.
There are more than a few Spider-Men roaming about in this “Spider-Verse” movie. There are a slew of them, each from a different globe. (Among these are a Mumbai-style New York, a Lego country, and a nightmare parallel reality.) The portals begin to open owing to The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), a supervillain-in-training who resembles a splotchy blank paper with ink drips on him.
Spot’s abilities expand, attracting the notice of the Spider-Society, a group of Spider-People who keep the universe in order. Some of them are very amazing, most notably Daniel Kaluuya’s Spider-Punk, a British rocker who looks like he fell out of The Clash. Others, like as the commander Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), are more serious and tormented.
When worlds collide, predetermined stories are disturbed. In these multiple regions, it seems that everything is possible, but Miguel warns us that there is Canon that must be followed. Certain fundamental story beats, such as the sacrifice of a loved one, must occur in some manner for every Spider-Man.
When Miles puts these beliefs to the test, he sparks a cataclysmic conflict throughout the Spider-Verse, and a film series hellbent on deconstruction clashes with formula. It’s a fight Lord and Miller, the postmodern creators of “The Lego Movie” and “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” have been preparing for their whole lives.
The risk in all these crisscrossing dimensions is that no reality seems to mean all that much. By rapidly expanding planets and Spider-Men, “Across the Spider-Verse” risks becoming dizzy. Despite this, it remains remarkably, even movingly authentic to the adolescent emotions at its heart, as well as the parent-child ties that drive all of these multiverse convulsions.
It’s the first Marvel film that left me with a genuine sense of disappointment when it ended. (“Across the Spider-Verse” is a two-part sequel that concludes here on a cliffhanger.) That “Across the Spider-Verse” elicited such a reaction is undoubtedly owing in part to its exuberant design, as well as its belief that we all contain multitudes. As Rachel Dratch’s principal explains in the film, “every person is a universe.”
The Motion Picture Association has classified “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse,” a Sony Pictures Animation movie, PG for animated action violence, some language, and thematic themes. Running time: 117 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.