Saturday, January 13, 2024

REVIEW: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

After numerous sequels, reboots and Marvel Cinematic Universe crossovers, you'd think audiences would be tired of seeing Spider-Man on screen. I would be one of the first to admit a certain level of superhero fatigue. But when "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" introduced the animated interpretation of Miles Morales as our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, this enduring IP was thoroughly reinvigorated. Five years later, the sequel "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" has further solidified a lofty pace in the canon, with an extraordinary piece of art that stands as one of the very best comic book adaptations. 

"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" picks up where things left off for Morales' new companion and fellow Spider-person Gwen Stacy. Having returned to her alternate universe where she is now separated from Miles and suffering the loss of her best friend Peter Parker, Gwen feels despondent about her life. But an unexpected chance to reunite with Miles and a vast network of Spider-People appears on the arrival of a new villain named Spot, whose revenge-driven plans threaten the entire multiverse. With their various worlds at risk, the Spider-Society must band together before it's too late. 

At it's core, "Spider-Man Across the Universe" uses a familiar formula. Namely, a select group is tasked with saving the world from destruction by a slighted villain. Indeed, even the multiverse concept was already explored by "Spider-Man: No Way Home" before it. And yet, the film still manages to feel fresh by interpreting the well-worn narratives in exciting and inventive ways.

Most notably, the animation mesmerizes with its array of styles - sometimes mixed within the same scene - ranging from painterly tableaux to more directly comic-influenced sketches. Those dazzling visuals and the epic soundtrack set the tone for the film's fast-paced energy, as Miles' adventure explores myriad settings and characters. Yet miraculously, the complex narrative never feels convoluted, which is a credit to the excellent voice performances that give the film its palpable human characters to care about. They truly feel more fully realized than many of the bland live action heroes we've seen over the years.

Ultimately, it's this grounded humanity that sets "Across the Spider-Verse" apart. The sincere relationships between family and friends. The relatable challenges of coping with parental expectations. The thought-provoking ideas surrounding fate and the butterfly effect of our choices. It all comes together for a film that's both incredibly thrilling and emotionally resonant. I can't wait to experience the next chapter of this monumental cinematic journey.

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