Miles and Gwen return in another multi-verse masterpiece.
I gushed over Into the Spider-Verse awhile back, and Across the Spider-Verse is the rare sequel that actually outshines the original. Amidst a glut of multi-verse this and multi-verse that, the Spider-Verse shows how to do it right. It's not just a good superhero movie, it's just a great movie by any measure.
All the things that made the first film great are back. The animation is next-level, seamlessly blending together different animation and art styles. I normally prefer live-action films, but this one leverages the strengths of the genre to give each world in the multi-verse a wholly unique flavor. It's eye candy and symbolism all rolled up into one.
The soundtrack and sound design are equally amazing. While it's hard to top the "What's Up Danger" scene from the first film where Miles finds his inner strength, this one had great musical choices throughout. Just as each character has their own visual style, they each have fitting musical themes. From Miles' hip-hop to Hobie's punk to Pavitr's traditional Indian beats to Gwen's soft melancholy... it's all over the map, and yet somehow it works. The highlight of the soundtrack came near the end. No spoilers, but the ominous build up to the climactic resolution was just perfection. Check out this interview from composer Daniel Pemberton about designing the score for some cool insights:
What really sets this movie (and its predecessor) apart from other recent superhero films is the story. It's been a year or so since the first film, and Miles is struggling to balance his spider antics with school and family responsibilities. PeterB has a baby daughter to contend with, and Gwen has cut herself off from just about everyone. The sequel is as much Gwen's story as it is Miles'. We see flashbacks to the traumatic loss of her best friend, and the fraught relationship with her police chief father. Miles and Gwen are both struggling to find their place in the world, a relatable theme that grounds all the cross-universe high adventure.
Added bonus, the friendship between Miles and Gwen is front and center in this one. While there is some crushing/flirting, they're friends first and foremost, united in a unique shared experience. It's sweet the way they care and look out for each other.
Spider-Verse gives the grown-ups their due, too. Rio and Jefferson are great parents, but their worry makes them overprotective. Captain Stacey is unknowingly hunting his own daughter. PeterB frets adorably over whether he'll be a good dad, as he treks across dimensions sporting a bathrobe and baby carrier. It's a nice counterpoint to the adolescent point of view that Spiderman stories usually center around.
There are visual gags, in-jokes, and genuinely funny moments galore, but at its core the movie has a heart. It reminded me of this video essay I saw recently about the state of the MCU by Abbie Emmons.
Many want to blame the recent string of lackluster MCU offerings on wokeness, but I think Emmons is right on. It's not about the gender of the protagonists, it's about whether we care about the characters. Captain Marvel was a fun movie, but I wasn't invested enough in Carol as a character (especially after Endgame, ugh) to really care about the sequel.
We care about Miles, Gwen, and PeterB because their stories are human stories. And that made the movie awesome.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Borderline
Learn about my Ratings System.
- Violence/Scariness: A bit heavier than your typical animated family film, with flashbacks to the death of loved ones and near-constant peril.
- Language: A few mild swears.
- Romance/Sex: Tame crushes and affection between married parents.