It’s not often we throw around the word ‘masterpiece’ at Stuff. That changes today. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is, by all definitions of the word, a masterpiece. How could it not be? It’s coming off the back of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 2018 film that brought Miles Morales to the forefront of the Spider-Man story, simultaneously changing animation and how the world views Spider-Man forever.
Maybe changed is too strong a word, though it can’t be understated how important Into the Spider-Verse was for the film industry. And, come to think of it, animation in general. It introduced a unique and true-to-the-comics art style that still hasn’t been successfully replicated, using a balls-to-the-walls story that combined Spider-Man’s weirdest variants into an easily digestible narrative).
That’s enough gushing about the previous movie. We’re here to let readers know whether Across the Spider-Verse lives up to the excellence its predecessor demonstrated in 2018. In a word; yes. In more words… well, just read the rest of the review.
Out of the fire and into the Spider-Verse
Of course, the Spider-Verse anthology is known for its animation. It’s the first thing many will ask about and we have an answer. From the get-go, it’s clear that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller weren’t lying about the animation record Sony set during the making of Across the Spider-Verse.
In truth, we were rather thrown by just how good the animation is here. We expected the movie’s most epic scenes to look… epic. What we didn’t expect was for even the most mundane of actions to mimic the real world so effectively, that it made us feel like we were watching live-action scenes if we squinted hard enough. It’s no wonder Sony used more than 1,000 animators to bring these frames to life.
Animation aside, this really is a visually astounding movie. Even in the movie’s slower bits (of which there are a few), you can clearly see that things have been stepped up a notch. Early on, we’re introduced to Spider-Gwen’s home world, which has been given a distinctly different (and still beautiful) art style to what we saw in the last film. And, as expected, in a movie titled Across the Spider-Verse, there are plenty of worlds to go around.
Every character, animation, and style was meticulously laboured over until it fit together perfectly. Not once did we feel taken out of the movie (besides a ten-minute intermission courtesy of load shedding) despite the constantly shifting directions of art style, animation, and story. That’s partly due to the movie’s willingness to let go, have fun and try new things no matter how wacky, and partly due to the story that it’s all built around.
How many Spider-People?! (240)
We couldn’t ask for a better segue into Across the Spider-Verse’s absurd story. Unfortunately, it feels unfair to judge the movie’s story as it stands right now. Why? Because it’s not complete just yet, with audiences being left on somewhat of a cliffhanger. Fortunately, we’re going to do it anyway. It’s no secret that there’s already a sequel to round off this soon-to-be trilogy in the works.
Unfortunately, that lack of closure is this movie’s weakest aspect. Even though the film’s final twenty minutes had our mouths agape, instinct warned us that the movie was drawing to a close, with no route to a “proper” ending in sight. How right we were.
This is still the best Spider-Man tale put to film, hitting every beat that a good Spider-Man story should have. Even in a universe brimming with Spider-People, Miles Morales is singled out, giving us a hero to root for, with radically different goals than the rest and a degree of relatability that makes Spider-Man as popular as he is.
We can’t lie – we were a little apprehensive at the idea of so many Spider-Men in one movie. Sure, Into the Spider-Verse handled the larger-than-usual cast exquisitely but only because it focused so heavily on the trio of Miles, Gwen, and Peter, occasionally dipping into that larger cast. Of course, our worries were unfounded, as the movie does a superb job of keeping the story centred despite the many zany worlds of various Spider-People being tied into the story.
If you’re looking for a more in-depth overview of the story, we won’t be doing that here. Just… go and see it as soon as you can – Spider-Fan or not (though it does help to be a Spider-Fan).
Weaving together the perfect cast
If you couldn’t tell, we were blown away by Across the Spider-Verse. That’s due to the efforts of writers, artists, and animators, though we haven’t yet sung the praises of this movie’s extremely extensive cast. As expected, Shameik Moore delivers a performance so good we forget he’s not stuck in the body of a 15-year-old fledgling Spider-Man. Spider Gwen’s Hailee Steinfeld is convincing as the co-lead and made us relish any time she was on screen (which was, fortunately, a lot).
Of course, the stellar performances surrounding Moore and Steinfeld are what make everything stick. The return of Jake Johnson as Peter Parker is a welcome one, with Oscar Isaac’s Miguel O’Hara coming across as terrifying throughout his extensive run of screentime. We’re keen to hear more from Jason Schwartzman as the movie’s main villain – the Spot – in the next film, alongside Daniel Kaluuya’s Spider-Punk and Karan Soni’s performance as… Spider-Man (you’ll see).
If we had to go through every character in Across the Spider-Verse, we’d be here all day – not to mention treading in spoiler territory. We’ll leave it here, for now.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse verdict
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a masterpiece. Yeah, we said it again. It’s easily the best Spider-Man movie out there – with its closest competition being its own older brother. Sorry, Tobey. We still love you. Just… not as much as we love Shameik Moore and this film.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse hits theatres today, Friday, 2 June.