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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, September 25, 2023
Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) take on The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation's SPIDER-MAN™: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE.

‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ is a web-slinging, dimension-hopping masterpiece

"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" lives up to the high bar set by "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" released in 2018. The movie is a dazzling spectacle with fantastic voice acting, animation and writing which culminates in one of the best multiverse stories played out on screen in modern cinema.

Written by Chris Miller, Phil Lord and David Callaham and directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Justin K. Tompson and Kemp Powers, "Across the Spider-Verse" is set one year after the events of "Into the Spider-verse" when Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is struggling to balance family obligations, school and the responsibilities of being Spider-Man. 

After trying to stop an initially weak villain, Spot (Jason Schwartzman), Miles misses important family events, straining his relationship with his family. Miles begins to question his purpose as Spider-Man and the dilemma of being with his family or saving others.

At the same time, Spot becomes a more formidable villain who threatens all of the multiverse, leading the Spider-Society to send Ghost-Spider Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) to Miles' world to deal with the situation. Gwen’s arrival leads to Miles getting involved in another multiversal adventure that results in him being introduced to the head of the Spider-Society, Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac). But after things go south, Miles must outrun Miguel and the rest of the Spider-Society before they can prevent Miles from stopping a tragedy. 

One of the best features of this movie is the unique animation style first seen in “Into the Spider-verse.” For the past two decades, animation has shied away from stylistic and “risky” animation in exchange for photorealism. 

However,  the Spider-Verse series has innovated arguably the most high-profile alternative to photorealism. The movies blend 3D and 2D animation styles with a hint of comic book aesthetic to create a unique, never-before-seen animation style. The movie is truly a spectacle to watch. 

A huge amount of credit should be given to the Sony Animation team that worked on this movie. Not only did they reutilize a distinctive animation style for Miles' world, but each of the four other universes he visits also has a unique look. The aesthetics of each of the universes were built with the help of the original comic book artists who first envisioned them. Each universe has a different color scheme, character design and animation style which keeps the movie feeling fresh and new.

The best example is Gwen’s homeworld of Earth-65, which predominantly uses a cool-color palette with a comic book aesthetic. When more emotional scenes play out, the detail of the background is lost to blobs of colors that work to enhance the character’s feelings and show clashing ideologies. The world truly demonstrates how the animation is not just for a fresh aesthetic but is also used to enhance the story’s mood.

Another critical item to note about the film is that the movie does not rely on easter eggs and nostalgia to carry the plot. Whereas many modern Hollywood films and Television shows have become over-reliant on nostalgia and familiar tropes to carry a weak plot, “Across the Spider-Verse” has a plot that can stand on its own with great character growth and themes elevated through easter eggs and nostalgic moments.

The voice actors and actresses in this film all deliver their lines in a way that adds something to their characters. Moore elevates Miles' internal conflict regarding what it means to be a hero through his dynamic voice range. Similarly, Steinfeld continues to deliver fantastic voice acting for Ghost-Spider that compliments the more dramatic moments her character faces in the film. 

A standout in this film is Daniel Kaluuya as Spider-Punk, who is portrayed as a wild card throughout the film. Kaluuya plays his character with a fun wittyness that adds natural humor to the film while still keeping the viewer intrigued as to what his character may do.

Oscar Isaac and Jason Schwartzman both do stellar jobs playing the villains in the film. Isaac delivers his lines with a power that establishes his dominance on screen while also pointing out the authoritarian nature of the Spider-Society. Schwartzman has an interesting way of delivering his lines, with his voice slowly becoming more confident throughout the movie showing how his character is a growing threat. 

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“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” clocks in at 2 hours and 19 minutes, but the movie does not feel that long. It has excellent pacing that allows for the dramatic scenes to be fleshed out, and the dramatic moments impact the plot and audience while still allowing for enough action scenes to keep the audience engaged. With a proven track record of two excellent movies, I can't wait to see what the next movie in the Spider-Verse franchise will add to the universe.

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