'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse' is the Best Comic Book Movie
As such, one review won't do. So, we made three.
We can't remember the last time we've been this excited over a comic book movie. Oh, yes, we can. It was 2018, and the film was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. As a result, we've put together not one Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse review, but three. One with zero spoilers, one with so many spoilers, and one that's a rambling mess of excitement pulled together with some help from Miles Morales' co-creator, Brian Michael Bendis.
Our Spoiler-Free Review arrived on our Patreon feed earlier this week after Brad caught a press screening. You can listen to it HERE. Lisa was unable to attend, but this became her superpower. She steered Brad viciously away from spoilers, protecting her ears and your ears in the process. However, this brief conversation serves as a hype machine. How does it compare to the original film? Where does it rank amongst other superhero movies? Should we be worried about next year's Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse? Those questions are answered energetically and rapidly.
On Thursday night, we devoured Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse at the AMC Tysons Corner 16. And we weren't alone. The theater was jammed, including their best bud and In the Mouth of Darkness co-host Darren Smith. Afterward, we took our enthusiasm for the film to the food court and rattled off our thoughts into a microphone. Halfway through the conversation, mall security strolled over and kicked us out. We did not press pause, and you can hear the entire exchange in our Full Spoilers Review of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. That discussion also exists on our Patreon Feed. Click HERE to join the spoiler party.
"With great power, there must also come great responsibility." For Film School Rejects, Brad morphed the food court conversation into an article exploring the film's meta-commentary regarding canon and the stranglehold some fans have on it. You can read the first chunk below, but you must click on the site link for the Bendis bits. They're worth it.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Grabs the Superhero Crown
I was nervous walking into Spider–Man: Across the Spider–Verse. The original film, Spider–Man: Into the Spider–Verse, is one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s utterly perfect; a complete gem, no notes needed. A sequel could not replicate the astonishing sense of discovery that occurred during my first watch of that film. Attempting to do so creates automatic disappointment. The new movie knows this, worries less about wowing you with its innovation and just delivers on what Into the Spider–Verse did by pushing it further. Spider–Man: Across the Spider–Verse is gloriously additive, and the result is the best comic book movie ever made…or it will be once the sequel arrives in theaters in 2024.
So, yeah. Originally, Spider–Man: Across the Spider–Verse was called Spider–Man: Across the Spider–Verse Part I, and its 2024 sequel was supposed to be called Spider–Man: Across the Spider–Verse Part II. Now, Sony Pictures Animation has dropped the numbers and rebranded next year’s follow-up Spider–Man: Beyond the Spider–Verse. However, these films are incomplete when viewed apart from each other. And that might cause some in the audience to experience distress.
Yes, Spider–Man: Acrossthe Spider–Verse is half a movie. But that half-a-movie is phenomenal. I wasn’t mad when it ended, and I was left dangling. I was exhilarated. Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, along with producers extraordinaire Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, celebrate the infinite possibilities capable in animation and expose the banality of live-action. When their movie was over, I found myself wishing animation would dominate cinematic storytelling. Who wants to be bound by physics and human biology? Not me!
Spider–Man: Across the Spider–Verse creates one impossible shot after another and embraces visual metaphors in a way that only its medium could. We witness the characters’ worries and imaginations bleed in and out of their reality. Their surroundings shift with their mood, and the ease with which the filmmakers communicate emotion shames their live-action cinematic siblings.
You will find no better action movie this year, either. And yes, of course, I saw John Wick: Chapter 4. When Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) arrives in Mumbattan, having sneakily followed Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) through her dimensional portal, and tangles with The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), the web-slinging battle is dizzyingly kinetic. Dos Santos, Powers, and Thompson throw an enormous amount on the screen, and much of it fails to register, but the action never confuses. Rather, I’m eager to return to the theater so I can train my eyes on different parts of the screen. The movie is made for home viewing obsession.
The references are equally chaotic and seemingly never-ending. If you’re the type of viewer who enjoys nudging your movie date and whispering who so-and-so is swinging in the background, you’ll tire yourself out pretty quick and certainly annoy the hell out of your partner. My advice? Simply sit back and enjoy the recognition. The film’s beauty, after all, is that those references are merely narrative textures, and the who’s and why’s don’t matter to the plot. So, relax.