New ‘Spider-Verse’ Movie Is Great And Surpasses The Original


The first of the animated series Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was so good, so innovative that I thought it would be one of a kind. Sequels are never as good, right? Well, this time I am happy to write that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse actually surpasses the original. The story is more complex, more personal in many ways, and brings the film to a new level of artistry. It is stunning, using the comic-book stylization from the first film but also occasionally using multiple panels, which use close-ups and wide angles to make a point. Visually, it is stunning.

The film begins focusing on Gwen Stacy, also known as Spider-Gwen (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld), who is facing issues because her father George (Shea Whigham) believes that Spider-Woman killed Peter Parker and has no idea that he is dealing with his own daughter in disguise. Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) has grown up and is enjoying being Spider-Man except for the problems it causes with his parents (Bryan Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Vélez). In other words, not all that different from Gwen, who he thinks about all the time but she’s in a different universe.

Gwen escapes with the help of Jessica Drew (Issa Rae), who is another Spider-Woman, and Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Issac) aka Spider-Man 2099. She is recruited to join a group of spider folk who monitor multiverse anomalies. Back in his dimension, Miles has his hands more or less full dealing with an Earth 1610 villain called Spot (Jason Schwartzman), who was damaged in the explosion that got Miles bitten by the radioactive spider. Spot hates Miles and wants to destroy him and the entire multiverse. Miles and Gwen chase him along with Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni) aka Spider-Man India and Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya) aka Spider-Punk. Eventually, he is brought to the organization’s huge headquarters with hundreds of different spider folk, many amusing, and learns that all is not as it should be. He breaks away, is chased, and is… Well, the film ends as a cliffhanger with a sequel out next year.

What struck me about this film is that it really worked at being an authentic comic book derivative. It used the comic-book transitions shifting to really wild action sequences but stays true to the spirit of the books. When you’re in the world of Spider-Man India, colors change, providing the feel of the actual country. It uses its watercolor animation to be totally innovative. At times, it is very comic book styled, others so realistic you forget that you are dealing in animation. The whole notion of Spot, now covered in “spots” that are portals to different places, at first is entertaining and eventually really strange.

I particularly liked the way the characters are developed. Miles’ parents become far more than the simplistic characters they seemed in the first film. We see and hear his connection to his Puerto Rican heritage, and there is a wonderful scene with his parents dealing with a school counselor that manages to demonstrate their love, Miles’ determination to set his own path, and a counselor who seems useless turning into a guide. Funny, but moving.

But many of the characters have their different motivations. We learn a lot about Gwen, but also O’Hara, as well as others who, somehow, in a few instants are brilliantly defined. There is a philosophical edge as well. There is a fabric to the universe that Miguel believes must be held together, but Miles refuses to accept it. Somehow an animated film staying true to comic book origins deals with important ideas like how the death of one person can prevent the death of others. Also, the importance and value of free will.

Somehow the film, despite numerous complications, stays true to its commitment to telling the tale. Writers Christopher Miller, Dave Callaham and Phil Lord clearly understood the need to stay true to the old values, and directors Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson and Joaquim Dos Santos have created a classic film.

Marvel films have generally not been brilliant for the last couple of years. This one is. If you have kids, bring them. If you don’t have kids with you, see it anyway. It’s worth the trip and the cost.