“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” introduced us to Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a Spider-Man from a parallel dimension who, thanks to some multiverse madness, learns that Spider-Men (Spiders-Man?) come in all shapes, sizes and species.
The animated feature was fun, heartfelt and introduced Miles to some near-and-dear Spider-Buds like middle-aged Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) who becomes a bit of a mentor and Spider-Woman Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) who becomes a best-friend-maybe-love-interest.
In the sequel “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” everyone is tucked safely back within their own dimension dealing with their own, normal Spider-Problems. But interdimensional rifts are still causing chaos, so a moody, brooding Spider-Man Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) recruits Spider-Men from across the multiverse to help keep things in order.
Miles’ universe becomes the focus of everyone’s attention when a quippy villain named The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) acquires the power to wreak havoc across the multiverse fueled by a personal vendetta against Miles.
In addition to reuniting with some old friends, Miles’ trip across the Spider-Verse introduces him to some new allies like a very pregnant Spider-Woman (Issa Rae) and the beyond-cool Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya).
While the inventiveness and creativity of the story are enough to make you want to come back for more, what takes “Across the Spider-Verse” to the next level is the way it takes advantage of the medium of animation to deliver a visually-spectacular feast for the eyes.
Different animation styles pop across the screen depending on what universe you happen to be in as directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson push beyond what you would expect from a conventional animated film with backgrounds that melt into beautiful watercolors, or stop-motion colliding with computer animation colliding with live action.
At times “Across the Spider-Verse” borders on visual assault which you do feel the weight of across an almost two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Really that’s my biggest critique of this movie in that it’s close to being too much of a good thing; especially as the lore mounts up and a jarring cliffhanger makes it clear that this is just a middle chapter to be resolved in “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” due out next year.
Even though superheroes and multiverses might be reaching peak saturation in our pop culture landscape, Miles’ story and the bold use of animation make the “Spider-Verse” stand out against what has quickly become very well-worn territory.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is rated PG for sequences of animated action violence, some language and thematic elements.