Spider-Man is back with more radiant colors, more witty jokes and even more Spider-people than ever before. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is a thrilling sequel to the Oscar-winning animation “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” taking the endless possibilities of the multiverse to the next level.
While the film still follows Miles Morales, voiced by Shameik Moore, “Across the Spider-Verse” begins with a look into the life of Gwen Stacy, voiced by Hailee Steinfeld. The film artfully portrays the agonizing solitude of being a teen as Gwen struggles to find people who understand her despite her inability to share all aspects of her identity, namely her secret identity as Spider-Woman. When she meets the Spider Society, a specialized team of Spider-people, she proudly proclaims that she has found her band.
Miguel O’Hara, voiced by Oscar Isaac, leads the Spider Society in maintaining the structural web of the multiverse. The multiverse is maintained through canon tropes that are shared among all Spider-people, so anomalies must be contained quickly. As Miles aches to pave his own path against the canon that Miguel fights to protect, Miguel and Miles represent the delicate balance between tradition and originality.
Gwen has also subscribed to the canon, costing her own happiness. Miles has been missing his friends from the original “Into the Spider-Verse” gang dearly, especially Gwen, hinting at his feelings for her when they reunite. Gwen seems to feel similarly, but she says that they cannot be together because Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy relationships in every other universe end tragically. Her learned helplessness reveals the missed opportunities that come with believing in fate over free will, prizing supposed destiny above fulfillment.
Miles grapples with defining his own story, whether for college applications or to prove himself as Spider-Man. “Across the Spider-Verse” seamlessly deals with the universal struggle to set yourself apart in a sea of others like you.
Even the color schemes and animation styles used allude to this core idea of identity. Each version of Earth takes on its own artistic style and its own personality accordingly. “Into the Spider-Verse” carefully curated Miles’s 2D comic book world, but “Across the Spider-Verse” introduces a greater variety of animation. Hobie, voiced by Daniel Kaluuya, is Spider-Punk, a British punk rock hero whose loud lifestyle is conveyed through magazine lettering. Even The Spot, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, gets his own style as a supervillain, with himself and his memories depicted in white with black scribbles.
The new dimensions do not simply stop at animation. Live action actors are introduced in the Spider Society headquarters, including the first Spider-Man, played by Toby Maguire, and a cameo by Donald Glover. This “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” style is a treat for fans and a nostalgic nod to Miles’s predecessors who have previously defined what it means to be Spider-Man.
In addition to the growing pains with coming-of-age, the film shows the hardships of parenting. New parent Peter B. Parker, voiced by Jake Johnson, opens up about the new challenges of raising a baby while Miles’s parents — Rio Morales, voiced by Luna Lauren Velez, and Jefferson Davis, voiced by Brian Tyree Henry — strive to understand their secretive teenager. “Across the Spider-Verse” is truly a movie for everyone, representing people in all stages of life.
Miles is not only relatable but incredibly down-to-earth, prioritizing the safety of Brooklyn’s residents rather than gravitating towards interdimensional threats. He protects bodegas and retrieves stolen purses, showing the time that this film takes to draw attention to smaller communities. In a world that becomes increasingly connected with each day, Miles reminds us to take care of our neighborhoods, our families and ourselves.
In true Spider-Man fashion, the movie is action-filled and hilariously self-aware, a masterpiece juxtaposing modern coming-of-age against a colorful backdrop. “Across the Spider-Verse” ends on a brutal cliffhanger — unfortunately without a post-credits scene — yet a promise for more next year with “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse.”