Now this is how you do an animated Marvel film.
Spider-Man aka Mile Morales (played by Shameik Moore) travels across the Multiverse, where he meets the Spider-Society—an organisation of multidimensional Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. It's all fun-and-transdimensional games until Morales is confronted with the truth of his origins.
I didn't think that the sequel would improve on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse but there you go. The film has equal parts action and a more intimate unpacking of the characters. Despite being 28, Shameik Moore, who voices Morales, nails that teenage register; there's that gung-ho front that's anchored with that adolescent uncertainty. We get to see the dynamics of the Morales and we are reminded about how we, as teenagers, tend to butt heads with our own parents and widen the generational gulf.
It's great to see Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld) take her place in the spotlight. In the last chapter, we just got a quick recap of her origins—bitten by a radioactive spider; joined a band; saved her dad; couldn't save her best friend, Peter Parker—which gives us what we needed to know her in 30 seconds. For Across the Spider-Verse, we get more depth to her character and how she has to wrestle with her relationship with her policeman father, George Stacy (Shea Whigham), as a daughter and as the police's most-wanted vigilante, Spider-Woman.
The new antagonist, the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) goes against the mould of your classic Marvel villain and that's refreshing. This is a dude, who resorts to robbing ATMs because that's all he can do. He starts out as a wannabe crowing for Spider-Man's attention and eventually becomes worthy. There are cameos galore, especially, when we get to the Spider-Society. There, we meet the many versions of Spider-Man that range from the brooding Ben Reilly (Andy Samberg) to the happy-go-lucky Pavitr Prabhakar, there is not a wasted minute introducing each of the Spider-Person.
And the visuals... let hosannas ring around this eye candy. When Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was released, critics crowed about their pushing the envelope in the animation field. With Across the Spider-Verse, the envelope is now pushed off the table, rolled down the hill and opened up to reveal the winner of next year's best-animated film. Eye-popping and ground-breaking, the art comes at you fast and furious. Each dimension and its characters come with their own style: Stacy's universe is more hand-painted with changing colours to reflect her emotions; Brown's universe is, according to the filmmakers, 'hand-cut, pasted, drawn, glued together' to evoke the DIY look of punk rock posters; O'Hara's world is like a 'Syd Mead-style illustration of what the future might look like'. These different styles give a more varied and believable layer to this world- I mean, universe-building.
Also, please more of Pavitr Prabhakar and lessons in grammatical redundancy:
No Spider-Man Noir? For shame!
There are a host of cameos at the Spider-Society, some as a one-note joke and others, surprising. Aside from the fire soundtrack and visual narrative touches, look out for the two narrative turns in the film: the first is a gut punch when we find out more about Morales' origin but the second twist sets up what's the come in the next chapter.
Then, there's the scene where the Spot travels to a real-world convenience store where he talks to the owner Mrs Lu (Peggy Lu). If you're like me and have wasted your time watching less-than-marvellous adaptations of anti-hero IP, you'd recognise the set from Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is now out in theatres.