FILM REVIEW — Spidey swings to new heights (again)

Published 12:04 am Friday, June 2, 2023

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“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”

Sony Pictures

Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson

Starring Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Oscar Isaac, Daniel Kaluuya, Jason Schwartzman, Issa Rae, Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren

Rated PG

3 1/2 Stars

I am getting a little tired of the multiverse worming its way into every comic book movie lately.

Sure, I get how it motivates filmmakers to let their creativity run wild in service to a gonzo story, and I appreciate it allows them to explore different story-tangents, but I’m getting a little bored by the whole concept.

I’m ready to see what comes next.

Or at least I thought I was. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is such an exhilarating exploration of the Spider-Man version of the multiverse that I’m champing at the bit in anticipation for more. Fortunately, I won’t need to wait long, as the third film, “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” arrives in theaters next year.

As was the case with the original movie, this is an artistic triumph in that is a love letter to graphic design styles. Each Spider-Man inhabits a distinct world where the animation is tied directly to their personas. Gwen Stacy’s world (Hailee Steinfeld) is rendered in watercolor pastels that change colors as her mood changes, whereas Spider-Punk’s world (Daniel Kaluuya) looks like a collage from 1970s music zine. It’s very cool.

The original movie won the Academy Award thanks to that attention to visual artistry, and I absolutely assume this film will win the Best Animated Feature Oscar as well.

Of course, the film also needs a compelling story to make it work. This one begins in Gwen Stacy’s world where she is struggling with a secret that she’s keeping from her parents, before moving into Miles Morales’ world (Shameik Moore), where he’s also struggling with his secret identity.

There is plenty for these two Spider-Teens to bond over, but they don’t get a lot of time to talk before we’re whisked away into the multiverse, where there’s an entire plane of existence populated entirely by Spider-People. And then there’s a villain known as the Spot (Jason Schwartzman), who is covered with tiny portals he can use to transverse the multiverse.

I’m not going to lie, it’s an overly complicated plot, but to the filmmakers’ credit, it moves so quickly it doesn’t matter if you understand all the story minutiae or not. This is a film that will reward multiple viewings, both for the story as well as the cameo appearances and easter eggs scattered throughout. I don’t consider myself to be a huge Spidey fan (although I did wear the Underoos back in my youth) but even I could sense there are many tiny details that should thrill ardent Spidey-Fans.

I also loved the music. Composer Daniel Pemberton brings an energetic mix of hip-hop, electronica and soul music to the score that keeps the energy high.

It’s so fast-paced and energetic that I started wondering if the film was actually directed by Red Bull.

It’s not all perfect. It ends too abruptly for my tastes, and the old man in me would have appreciated a few more intimate character moments, especially as the voice cast is so uniformly strong.

But those are very minor quibbles. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is an artistic triumph — a treat for comic book nerds and general audiences alike.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Orange Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at