2018 might as well be a different universe. We Marvel fans were still processing the death of our Fearless Leader, Stan Lee (Excelsior!), no one outside the boardroom had heard of Zoom, dreamed of COVID lockdowns, or had any idea how in the hell the Avengers would defeat Thanos. Ah, a simpler time. It was in that universe that a portal into the “Spider-Verse” opened for the first time. Expectations were low for a Sony Animation Spider-Man movie. They were probably just making something to hold onto their license, we collectively thought. How wrong we were. Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse was a unique, visually stunning, unexpected hit that introduced the world at large to oddball characters like Spider-Ham, Spider-Man Noir, and most importantly Miles Morales. Though the odds were stacked against Miles, he won. Not just in the story, but at the box office and in the hearts of fans and critics alike.
Today, our universe is a different one.
In 2023 we are jaded by years of struggles. Pandemics, recessions, insurrections, and AI… We sure could use a vacation in the Spider-Verse again, so the timing seems right. However, can another web-slinging adventure around Brooklyn with Miles possibly live up to the first masterpiece? Surely we should expect diminishing returns, no?
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse is good, might be the understatement of 2023. I would put this movie on the top shelf, this is “first time you watch Empire Strikes Back” level good. It rocketed into my number 1 slot for the year so far and is going to be a tough cookie to dethrone. Frankly, I was BLOWN AWAY. Spider-Verse is what going to the movies is all about. Action, excitement, romance, adventure, love, danger, and art, art, ART! Spider-verse is a living breathing, moving piece of art. It is about art, it uses art, and it oozes art. Finally, we truly have the first-ever comic book movie. Where so many have failed to try to capture that innocent giddy of cracking the cover on a new issue, Spider-Verse nails the landing and does a superhero pose to boot.
This time around, we begin with Spider-Gwen in her universe. She misses her buddy Miles, and is having some teenage problems relating to her dad, when suddenly she gets wrapped up in a new universe-hopping adventure, with Miles, Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood, Spider-Man. Gwen and Miles team up with a slew of new and familiar Spider-People but the heroes soon clash on how to handle a new threat and Miles finds himself pitted against all the others. The humor, angst, and sadness of the Spider-Man mythos are represented more perfectly than any entry has even come close to, and I love me some Spider-Man movies. What really swings on a thread, however, is the art style. Each Spider-Person and each universe are represented with a unique art style. One example is my personal favorite Spider-Punk whose aesthetic matches that Sex Pistols collage of cut-up newspaper clippings. Even his character model is surrounded by rough edges where you can imagine his image ripped and pasted onto the screen. You may think this would be garish, but it works. Again, art.
It’s a rare sequel that surpasses a groundbreaking original, I mentioned Empire, I’d throw in Godfather II, a very exclusive club and SMAtSV belongs in it. Visually and creatively this is the best thing I’ve seen since Everything Everywhere All At Once.
When the movie ends you’ll be sad. Not because of any plot points or character deaths, but because you have to leave the Spider-Verse again… for now.
Jaw Drop: Gwen and Captain Stacey in the Gweni-Verse
Best Comic Book Movie of All Time
4 Jaws out of 4!