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Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse – not all spider-men are created equal

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a stunningly animated film, beautifully woven with punchy, emotional storytelling and a killer soundtrack.

It’s rare these days that you can call a comic-book film a great film (as opposed to ‘just great for a comic book film’) – but Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a great film.

With a peerless animation style that only improves on Into the Spider-Verse, the first entry in the trilogy, and a frenetically paced story that will leave you gasping for air, Across the Spider-Verse, directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson, has quickly become the must-see film of the year.

To get you up to speed, it’s been a few years since the interdimensional events of Into the Spider-Verse, and Miles Morales is back in his home world with no way to reach out to the other worlds of Spider-People. Gwen Stacy, who is known as Spider-Woman in her world, is facing the same fate and is lonely without the other Spiders. Both Stacy and Morales have matured since the first film, but they haven’t quite grown up. Struggling with parallel narratives in which their super identities must remain hidden lest they be misunderstood, Morales and Stacy yearn for a connection that only others like them can provide.

Read: What to watch in June: new to streaming, cinemas and film festivals near you

So when a mysterious Spider-Man named Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) jumps into Stacy’s dimension with a proposition to join a secret society of Spider-People, she naturally accepts. Meanwhile, Jason Schwartzman’s The Spot is causing havok and distraction in Morale’s world.

The medium is the master

First off, not enough can be said about the animation. It’s a blend of 2D and 3D style that takes what comic books do best and brings it to life on the big screen in such a jaw-dropping way. I was often whispering ‘how?!’ during the action sequences, and also during the moments of quiet in between. I learnt recently that Spider-Punk, AKA Hobie Brown, had parts of his body animated separately and with varying framerates, which creates that inconsistent, haphazard look when he moves. Very anarchic.

There’s a term that’s mentioned briefly in Across the Spider-Verse‘s opening sequence: that being ‘hammerspace’. For those that don’t know, hammerspace is a ‘fan-envisioned extradimensional, instantly accessible storage area in fiction, which is used to explain how animated, comic, and game characters can produce objects out of thin air’ (courtesy of TV Tropes).

This concept is the key in unlocking how Across the Spider-Verse works – because what’s really on show here is the things animation can do that live-action can’t. Dazzling cartoon-bright colour palettes, along with concepts like hammerspace and superhero onomatopoeia (Bang! Whizz! Pow!) just don’t translate as well to live action, especially when the current comic book movie trend is to go for a forced grey/biege palette to evoke ‘gritty realism’.

In Across the Spider-Verse, the comic-book art style is king, and it greatly benefits from it.

A sound idea

It’s worth mentioning that there have been complaints about the sound in the film. I personally couldn’t hear a lot of what was being said between Gwen Stacy and Miguel O’Hara in the opening sequence, nor could I parse most of Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk’s (Daniel Kaluuya) dialogue.

I don’t want to fault the film for this, though, because it appears this might be a worldwide projection issue (the producers Chris Miller and Phil Lord have said they had specific instructions for how loud to play the film that many projectionists may be ignoring).

It is disappointing, but not worth knocking off a star for, because the sound of Across the Spider-Verse is equally as astonishing as the animation. From Daniel Pemberton’s sweaty, pulsating soundtrack to some of the slickest needle-drops in action-film history, the sound is guaranteed to have you nodding your head and tapping your knee (in a non-embarassing way, trust me).

But aren’t we tired of the multiverse?

Everywhere you turn, we’re getting another glimpse into the multiverse.

Read: Everything Everywhere All At Once in three key scenes

Across the Spider-Verse is yet another multiverse movie, which is definitely on trend for mainstream flicks right now (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: No Way Home), but just like Everything Everywhere All At Once showed us, if you do it right you can make a beautiful, affecting multiverse movie that transcends that trend pigeonhole. Across the Spider-Verse accomplishes such a feat because, as Miles Morales might put it, it does it’s own thing.

Rated PG

Across the Spider-Verse is in cinemas now.

Silvi Vann-Wall is a journalist, podcaster, and filmmaker. They joined ScreenHub as Film Content Lead in 2022. Twitter: @SilviReports