Review for Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse
The cynic in me has been working overtime lately. I loved the Oscar winning Spider-man Into the Spider-verse film when I first saw it; a film that did something completely new with the well-trodden (8-live action features not including the Avengers and Captain America character crossover movies) Spider-man movie mythology. The comic book movies have of late all been delving into the idea of the multi-verse, DC and Marvel both. Into the Spider-verse with its stylistic animation approaches and sheer effervescent originality offered the greatest degree of satisfaction when it comes to the trope. But hot on the heels of the first film, a sequel was announced, which soon became two sequels.
I was having visions of The Matrix at this point, a wholly original and satisfying first film followed by sequels and spin-offs that felt like mercenary cash-ins. It didn’t take long with this disc before I learned that the Across the Spider-verse sequel was actually green-lit for production before the first film was released theatrically, and it turned out that there was just so much sequel, that it only made sense to split it in two, and what was originally called Spider-man Across the Spider-verse Part 2 has now been renamed as Spider-man Beyond the Spider-verse. And while there was a five year gap between the first film and its sequel (not helped by COVID), you won’t have to wait as long for the conclusion to the story.
Being bitten by a radioactive spider and taking on the mantle of Spider-man turns out to be not quite as unique a story as you’d think. But Miles Morales had a baptism of fire when it happened to him, and he had to defeat the machinations of Kingpin, intent on punching a hole into the multi-verse. Fortunately, he had the help of Gwen Stacy, Peter B. Parker, Peni Parker, Spider-man Noir, and Spider-ham to get him up to speed on web-slinging and crime-fighting, Spider-people from other realities. He saved the multi-verse, and closed the door to the other realities, but was left alone to deal with issues of being a super-hero. And it’s really hard to get over someone like Gwen Stacy.
Only the door has now reopened, and Gwen Stacy wants to visit. There’s a lot to catch up on, including the fact that there is an elite society of Spider-people from countless universes, who now work together to preserve the integrity of the multi-verse from anyone who would threaten it, and Gwen is a member. She’s also got an ulterior motive for visiting, one of Miles’ foes, a villain named Spot who is on the verge of figuring out how to travel through the multi-verse. Miles wants to help, but it turns out that for the Spider-Society, Miles Morales is the last Spider-man that they’d want as a member.
Spider-man Across the Spider-verse gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer and the choice between DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, and DD 2.0 Stereo English Audio Descriptive, with subtitles in these languages and Estonian, Finnish, Latvian and Lithuanian. The image is clear and sharp, a nigh on perfect presentation of an inventive and delightfully immersive animation. The first film presented seven Spider-people with different animation styles, but this movie offers six worlds and countless Spider-people with different approaches to the animation. Miraculously, it all gels together as one, exciting whole. There are no signs of compression, aliasing or banding, and it’s a vivid and breathtaking, action packed movie. The audio too makes the most of the action and effects, as well as the music. If there is one issue, the dialogue might be a little low in the mix, still audible, but if you’re watching the film late at night, and don’t want to annoy the neighbours with excessive LFE, you’ll be spending a few minutes altering the balance on your home cinema (or using the subtitles).
You get one disc in a BD Amaray style case, which boots to an animated menu. You’ll find the following extras on the disc.
Creating the Ultimate Spider-man Movie (14:49)
Obscure Spiders and Easter Eggs (5:39)
“I’mma Do My Own Thing” Interdimensional Destiny (8:26)
Across the Worlds: Designing New Dimensions (7:52)
Your Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-cast (13:09)
Designing Spiders and Spots (12:31)
Raising a Hero (8:56)
Scratches, Score and the Music of the Multi-verse (5:17)
Across the Comics Verse (8:03)
Escape From Spider-Society (8:14)
Miguel Calling (5:33)
Lyric Videos x3 (9:07)
Filmmaker Commentary with directors Justin K Thompson, Joaquim de Santos, Kemp Powers and producer/writers Christopher Miller and Phil Lord
You wait for one superhero multi-verse movie, and two come along at once. Just one week separates the release of this film, and DC’s The Flash, and had you asked me six months ago, it would have been the latter that I was most anticipating. Only now, I wish I had saved Spider-man Across the Spider-Verse to watch last. I absolutely loved this film last night, and I do believe it is one of the best superhero movies I have seen, maybe the best.
These films work best when the story is relatable, and Across the Spider-verse makes family at the heart of its story. Miles Morales is balancing being Spider-man with being a normal high school student, living up to his parents hopes and dreams for him. With that comes a fair bit of angst and guilt at having to lie to them about his secret life, and trying to explain away the absences and sudden disappearances. It’s even worse when it happens at the celebration for his father’s promotion to police captain. That’s what makes it so important that he have someone who knows about all this to talk to. He had thought that was impossible, until the door to the multi-verse opens again, and he’s reunited with Gwen Stacy. And it turns out that her relationship with her father is even more dysfunctional, so much so that she has left her home reality to join the Spider Society to protect the multi-verse.
Miles’ current nemesis is a villain named Spot; created when Kingpin’s dimensional machine was destroyed, and who can now manifest holes in reality to pass through (useful when pilfering from an ATM). Gwen is there because Spot is close to being able to use his powers to travel the multi-verse at will, and as per usual for all super-villainous nemeses, he’s declared vengeance on Miles Morales for ‘creating’ him. When Spot escapes, Miles follows Gwen back to the Spider-Society, where he encounters a cornucopia of Spider-men, women, girls and boys, and horses and buggies. Moreover, he sees a chance to be a part of something bigger than himself, something to distract from his domestic woes. Only it turns out that he’s not really welcome there, given his unique origins compared to the others.
In a bit of metafiction, the leader of the society, a Spider-man named Miguel, calls protecting the multi-verse, preserving canon. And it seems that Miles’ very existence lies at the heart of the threat to the multi-verse. One essential bit of canon in every Spider-man’s story is the loss of someone they love (which usually precedes the great power and great responsibility quote), and Miguel is determined that canon must be protected. Learning that someone he loves is in danger, Miles is determined to save them, regardless of what effect it would have on his reality. It turns out that the fine line between letting history take its course through inaction, and acting to preserve a narrative history, is almost as fine as the line between hero and villain in this instance.
Spider-man Across the Spider-verse has a great story, amazing animation, breathtaking action set-pieces, and a great sense of humour. It also has an annoying cliff-hanger ending, although thankfully Beyond the Spider-verse is set for a Spring 2024 theatrical release and we’ll get to see the conclusion. The film gets the presentation it deserves on this Blu-ray, with great picture and solid audio, and plenty of extra features to keep you occupied.