REVIEW: Spider-Man Across The Spider-Verse is the best movie of 2023 so far
Don't worry, we won't be going across the Spoiler-Verse in this review...
It is probably fair to say that Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse took everyone by surprise when it arrived in 2018. An animated movie dropping in between two Tom Holland live-action Spider-Man features, but completely unrelated to the mainline MCU? With the movie-going world so completely caught up at the time with the events of Thanos and his Infinity War, why would we want to be distracted by this cartoon?
Of course, one Best Animated Feature Oscar, nearly $400 million worldwide at the box office, and a firm entry as one of the best movies of the 2010s later, Into The Spider-Verse proved everyone wrong with its absolutely stellar quality. That sense of surprise is obviously going to be missing as we head in more prepared for Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, but that has been replaced by a grander, almost overwhelming sense of scale and incredibly jaw-dropping visuals.
About a year after the events of the first movie, we kick off with Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) forced to come out to her police officer dad (Shea Whigham) as being Spider-Woman, and him still trying to arrest her for being a vigilante. Heartbroken, she finds herself being inducted into a multiversal world of Spider-People, including Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac) and Jessica Drew's heavily pregnant Spider-Woman (Issa Rae), who are attempting to right the multiversal wrongs that began with the collider accident in the first movie.
Now able to freely travel through dimensions, Gwen decides to check in on her old pal Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), who is doing a poor job of balancing being a friendly neighbourhood superhero, trying to get good grades in school, and keeping his mom (Luna Lauren Velez) and dad (Brian Tyree Henry) happy. He is also caught up in the actions of new oddball villain The Spot (Jason Schwarzman), who was accidentally created in that same collider incident.
If you're thinking "That is a lot of plot", we should probably point out that all of this is barely within the first 15 minutes of the movie, and doesn't even include the re-introduction of Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), and important new additions to the Spider-folk, including Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) and Spider-Man India (Karan Soni). And considering the film runs to 140 minutes long, there is A LOT going on here. But it hits the ground running and never lets up for a second.
Without getting too far into the details, co-writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller really put what it means to be Spider-Man - not a superhero, but Spider-Man specifically - under the narrative microscope, upending the character's well-worn cliches and turning them into necessary, Sisyphean evils.
While that does sound a bit heavy (and it is), they also never forget to keep it funny. Filled to the brim with zippy one-liners, endless sight-gags and brilliant recurring gags, Across The Spider-Verse manages to walk that tonal tightrope of knowing when to bring the comedy and when to dial it right back to let the feels land properly.
Those feels are aptly supporting by a visual style that, even compared to the eye-popping first movie, is practically unparalleled. From the impressionistic watercolour look of Gwen's home reality to the stark neo-futurist design of Miguel's base of operations, your eyes and brain will barely be able to comprehend the gorgeous aesthetics throughout.
And then there's Daniel Pemberton's fantastic score work, which zips from the hi-octane BPM of the action scenes to some purely bone-chilling dread, as well as the stacked soundtrack which features plenty of tracks to go toe-to-toe with the hit "Sunflowers" from the first movie.
Add it all up, and we've got the best movie of 2023 so far, and providing an ending that will have viewers clambering for trilogy-ender Beyond The Spider-Verse, which arrives in March 2024. Until then, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse will arrive in cinemas on Friday, 2 June.
- Netflix has quietly added 10 big movies to its library
- 9 must-watch movies coming to cinemas in June
- "Whatever genre of music you think there is not queer people in, I promise they're there..."
- Amazon Prime Video has just added 30 huge movies to its library
- Head of HBO gives Succession sequel update
- Netflix reveals all of the new series and movies arriving in June