Plot: “Miles Morales catapults across the Multiverse, where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. When the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles must redefine what it means to be a hero.” -IMDB
Review: As a kid, on trips to the grocery store with my mom, I would plant myself in front of the magazine stand. While my mom shopped, I would rifle through the newest comic book releases. Often, I would finish an issue or two before she reached the check-out stand. Occasionally, I would hide issues between the rack and the wall. With enough allowance on my next visit, I would pull out the issue and purchase it with my money.
I gravitated to issues about Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men. As a nerdy little kid with thick glasses, I saw myself in the normalness of Bruce Wayne, the youth of Peter Parker, and the special talents of Charles Xavier’s crew. In these stories, I would escape. In the backyard with my brothers, we would construct magical worlds based on my favorite characters. Playing pretend, our imaginations were the only limits.
With the explosion of comic book inspired movies on the big screen, I have longed for a story that matches the imagination of my childhood. No movie has come as close to matching that power as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
As a critic reviewing an animated film such as this, I struggle with finding something new to say. People will write countless reviews and think-pieces about this movie. People will discuss, debate, and appreciate the impact of a story that centers on the trials and tribulations of a BIPOC superhero for years to come. But how do I add something new to the conversation? The answer, for me, is to write authentically about how this film made me feel.
Foremost, the animators once again knocked it out of the park with this movie. When the credits rolled, I felt as if the entire industry had taken a giant leap forward. Blending styles seamlessly and beautifully, it literally took my breath away. Their choices give vibrancy and life to the story. It often feels as if the movie is jumping from one of those comic books I used to devour (still devour).
Next, beginning this story focused on Gwen Stacey (Hailee Stienfeld) emotionally grounded, a film that easily gives way to organized chaos. Make no mistake, no Marvel movie has made clearer use of the multi-verse, but still chaos reigns supreme. By focusing on Gwen before turning our attention to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), we grow to understand the weight of the secret these heroes carry, as well as the sacrifices required to save the world and attempt a normal life.
Of course, the north star of this story is Miles. Reuniting with Gwen, we understand the full breadth of the multi-verse and all the Spider people who look after it. In Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) and the Spider Society, Miles discovers a genuine challenge to overcome. Focused on the canon that is Spider-Man, the anomaly in the Spider-Verse Miles represents, and a villain who purposefully supports the story, we get a rich storyline with stakes that feel authentic.
Finally, this film ends with a misdirection. I will not spoil it, but it genuinely fooled me. It felt so good to not easily predict the end. Relishing in this moment made the cliffhanger that sets up the third film even sweeter.
Thinking more broadly about this film, it delivers on the promise of what a wonderfully conceived story about superheroes can be. It is not perfect, but it felt redemptive. Comic books possess rich stories with complex characters facing impossible challenges. It was about time one of these movies treated the source material with the respect it deserves.
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