After reuniting with Gwen Stacy, Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is catapulted across the Multiverse, where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. However, when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders. He must soon redefine what it means to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most.

Editing: Mike Andrews
Daniel Pemberton

Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Vélez, Jake Johnson, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Karan Soni, Daniel Kaluuya, Oscar Isaac

Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Writers: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, David Callaham

Back in March, Guillermo Del Toro was accepting his Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film and declared that ‘Animation is cinema, animation is not a genre’. This statement was incredibly true of 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and equally so with Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. He also said ‘Animation is ready to be taken to the next step’, something that Across the Spider-Verse may have just done with a bigger and bolder film that showcases just what the form of animation is capable of.

Picking up a year after the events of Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is struggling with juggling his personal life with the responsibilities of being Spider-Man. The biggest struggle proves to be keeping his secret from his parents Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) and Rio Morales (Luna Lauren Vélez). After a confrontation with a new enemy The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), whose origin ties to Miles, Miles is visited by Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) who has joined an elite strike force of dimension-jumping Spider-People who protect the multiverse. Miles soon finds himself travelling across the multiverse himself, meeting old friends, like Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), and making new ones like Pavitr Prabhakar / Spider-Man India (Karan Soni) and Hobart “Hobie” Brown / Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) before coming face to face with the leader of the Spider-Society, Miguel O’Hara / Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac).

While the animation in Into the Spider-Verse was game-changing with its style influencing other recent films like The Bad Guys and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Across the Spider-verse takes it to the next level. The film moves beyond just combining computer animation with traditional hand-drawn comic book techniques as they did in the first film, this time introducing individual art styles and colourings depending on the Spider-person and the universe in which the scene is taking place in. We visit Gwen’s home universe at times and it utilises watercolours to incredible effect.

Add on top of this each Spider-person’s own unique movement and fighting style as well as The Spots abilities, there is so much happening so much to take in. The action sequences in this film are the equal of any in the best superhero films we’ve seen in the past decade. Cleary so much love, care and creativity is put into each frame that I can’t wait to own a copy so I can take in each moment fully and pick up so many of the incredible details.

While Into the Spider-Verse was a fantastic origin story, Across the Spider-Verse feels like a multi-issue event comic series. It is filled with fantastical big ideas that tie into the lore of Spider-man and what ties all these Spider-people together but it also finds time to delve into Miles and Gwen’s family relationships and their own friendship. For as bombastic and crazy as the film can get, there is always that superb emotional core keeping everything in check. The film does have some pacing issues, with it feeling bloated at times with so much in it, and it takes its time to get to anticipated team-ups but these are minor quibbles. Across the Spider-Verse is also hilarious with an incredible number of laugh-out moments which made watching it with a large audience feel very special.

Shameik Moore continues to be fantastic as Miles while Hailee Steinfeld sees her character brought up to co-lead and justifies the extra screen time with her performance which leans far more into emotional territory than before. While Into the Spider-Verse was more focused on the father-son relationship, this film highlights the relationship between Miles and his mother with Luna Lauren Vélez delivering the performance of the film, quickly oscillating between furious and loving as only a mother can. Oscar Isaac plays Miguel, who is described as the one Spider-Man without a sense of humour, brilliantly while Jake Johnson and Jason Schwartzman bring plenty of laughs as the proud new father bringing his young daughter along on Spider-Man missions and the doofus villain who doesn’t have complete control over his abilities.

Back in 2018, I hoped that Sony would double down on this series and my wish has been delightfully fulfilled. Across the Spider-Verse is one of the best adaptions of comic books to date, an incredible achievement in the art form of animation and a clear love letter to the lore and legacy of Spider-Man. It feels like an epic comic book event series but crucially, we are only at the halfway point so I will now be eagerly counting down the days until Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse hits cinemas. Until then, I will just happily make do with going back to watch this film again.

Ashley Hobley attended an advance screening of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse thanks to Sony Pictures Australia and Event Cinemas.