Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
By: Adam Freed
Phrases like “visually stunning” and “compelling animated cinematography” will be hurled into the landscape of film conversation in an attempt to capture the experience that is Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Those phrases prove insignificant in describing what can now be argued to be the most captivating animated visual experience in history. One of the many joys of Across the Spider-Verse is that it is a modern art installation disguised as a sure fire blockbuster film sequel. Hundreds of frozen frames of this film could hang with prestige on museum walls expounded upon for generations by knowing docents. The praise heaped upon Sony Pictures and directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson is both apt and simultaneously insufficient.
Much has been made of the goliath tug of war waged between Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios over the rights to the “Spider-Verse,” yet both production companies have found footing and market share in the delivery of satisfying film adaptations of mutually owned intellectual property. To Marvel’s credit, recent stand alone MCU iterations of the web slinging teenager have been revered by both critics and audiences alike. Spider Man: No Way Home (2021) threaded the needle between nostalgia and sentiment with ease, which is significant in that it was Marvel’s return volley to Sony’s Into the Spider-Verse (2018), which not only revolutionized modern animation, but drew the eye of the Academy for which it webbed an Oscar for best Animated Feature Film.
Across the Spider-Verse expands the complex worlds of a now 15 year old Miles Morales, compellingly voiced by Shameik Moore, in all directions simultaneously. Additions of vocal mega talents Oscar Isaac, Issa Rae, Hailee Steinfeld and Daniel Kaluuya make this animated jewel more than a visual marvel, but an emotionally compelling joyride. Thematically, Across the Spider-Verse proves equally comfortable exploring the complexities of raising a teenager as it does diving into the reality that the scariest villains are iterations of ourselves that we suppress in polite company.
Stunning visuals are only as good as the method and care by and with which they are presented. This undeniable fact is why the editing team at Sony Pictures deserves every accolade imaginable for fostering a breakneck pace without compromising on storytelling prowess. Criticism of the iconic style and redline rapidity of visual information are a possibility here, yet would be shamefully callused. Not all installations of modern art will speak to every audience, but those who enter Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse thirsting for a transcendent experience are sure to walk away satiated.