Review: Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse


When I saw Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at New York Comic Con 2018, that was one of the early highlights in my professional career. I was floored by virtually everything I saw in the first 30 minutes of that movie and I wanted to shout to the hills how great that movie was, but couldn’t for two months. Looking back, I firmly believe that Into the Spider-Verse was one of the best films of that year and probably of the decade. The ambition in virtually every frame of that movie was palpable and became what I considered to be the best Spider-Man movie of all time.

Five years later, my thoughts on the first film still haven’t changed. It’s an excellent animated movie and undeniably peak super-heroics. The prospect of a sequel had me excited, but when it was announced that it would actually be a two-part film, that had me interested. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew that Across the Spider-Verse would have a tough time following up on Into the Spider-Verse. 

I didn’t think it was possible, but Across the Spider-Verse surpasses that high bar and then some. This is now the best Spider-Man movie, plain and simple.


Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Directors: Joaquim dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Release Date: June 2, 2023 (Theatrical)
Rating: PG

One year after the events of Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) has become pretty comfortable assuming the role of Spider-Man. He’s having some difficulties outside of being a superhero, mainly with the increasingly frayed relationship between his parents, but life is good for the most part. That is until Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) visits from another dimension to reconnect with him. Unbeknownst to Miles, Gwen is actually part of a multi-dimensional group of Spider-Men led by Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) who was sent to track down a villain named The Spot (Jason Schwartzman),  a former scientist who has the ability to travel through dimensions. Miles tags along with Gwen, but slowly begins to discover why he’s never heard of this group of Spider-Men and why The Spot hates him so much.

Across the Spider-Verse is a very consistent film visually. I’m not really talking about the aesthetics, which is frenetic and samples multiple different animation styles, but more so just how the entire film looks so visually impressive all the time. While I don’t think there is a single individual shot that is quite as powerful as some frames within the first film, most of the film has more style and flair than the first film, which helps to improve a lot of the emotional beats within the story. I didn’t think the multiple animation styles would work, but it actually does, most notably whenever Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) is brought on screen with his British punk vibes.

As the film begins, we follow Gwen Stacy in her original dimension, a world filled with soothing hues that evoke a watercolor painting. While we only got a snippet of her development in the first film, Gwen feels a lot more fleshed out and we really see the pathos her character has gone through. The scenes with her father are beautifully poignant, especially thanks to the gorgeous backgrounds that change with the mood of the scene. Miles may be the main character, but Gwen embodies the film’s emotional core as she grapples with the ramifications of her decision to continue to be Spider-Woman. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Review: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Copyright: Sony, Marvel

On the surface, a lot of the emotional beats of the film hit the exact notes you would expect from a Spider-Man movie. However, Across the Spider-Verse is able to recontextualize them into a larger commentary on the nature of the character and predestination. Miles is frequently trying to fight against destiny and the way that things are expected to play out, but the film doesn’t actually paint his optimism as positive. His actions to save everyone actually cause further harm and it poses the ever-classic question of if the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Can you actually save everyone?

The film doesn’t really answer that question, but that’s mostly because the film is clearly part one of a two-part story. Many plot points and characters are introduced and some are reintroduced but don’t have too much to do yet. Peter Parker (Jake Johnson) returns towards the end of the film and Miguel O’Hara gets a little bit of development once the multiversal shenanigans begin, but it’s clearly all set up for something more to come. It’s wonderful set-up to be sure, but set-up nonetheless. Because of that, the overall impact of Across the Spider-Verse will have to be re-examined after Beyond the Spider-Verse comes out next year, but if that film succeeds, we may have a masterpiece of a trilogy on our hands.

Getting back to the film itself, there isn’t as much action as in the previous film, but when it’s present it’s still quite good. There’s so much happening in each action scene that I was constantly admiring the scale of what was being attempted. Whether it be a skyscraper collapsing, Miles and the Spot bouncing around New York, or hundreds of Spider-Men mobbing Miles, the action was always entertaining and exciting. It’s also nice to see a more in-control and relatively more mature Miles than the one who was present in the first film. As much as I enjoyed Into the Spider-Verse, the film spent a bit too much time portraying Miles as a newcomer trying to gain control of his powers. Now, I can comfortably say that Miles is a superhero and he feels like one.

Review: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Copyright: Sony, Marvel

As the film went on longer and longer, I kept on becoming more enthralled by the twists and turns that the film was making. There isn’t a happy ending here and there were numerous mic-drop moments that would have served as a perfect endpoint for the movie. I counted at least four times that the film could have ended, but unlike something such as Return of the King where all of the possible endings felt like the film was spinning its wheels, Across the Spider-Verse was just setting up the pieces for the next film to utilize.

Even if the next film turns out to be a disaster, which I highly doubt, I still have to admire just how much Across the Spider-Verse loves and respects the entire franchise. There are numerous nods and winks to previous films, animated series, video games, and comics that made my eyes light up and were handled in the best way possible. They didn’t detract from the story that was being told because it wasn’t their story. This was the story of Miles and Gwen and the film never lost sight of that.

One of the reasons I’m not quite as positive towards Spider-Man: No Way Home was mostly because of how reliant on fan service it was. It felt like it was designed to have crowd-pleasing moments, but not really do anything substantial with them. I didn’t care about having the other Spider-Man villains present in that film since they mostly were just there for name recognition and took away from Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. When Tobey Macguire and Andrew Garfield’s versions of the characters showed up, the film suddenly began to center on them and not the hero we spent several films following. Here, the cameos are exactly that, and they were entertainingly little bits at that.

Review: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Copyright: Sony, Marvel

I knew when I was leaving the theater that Across the Spider-Verse was going to be one of my favorite films of the year. I think it’s a bit too soon to tell about the overall impact of the film, especially given that Beyond the Spider-Verse now has even more to live up to, but damn this is a great film. The animation is consistently better, the returning characters have more depth and development to them, the spectacle is well done, and the ways that the film pays homage to everything that the franchise has established in its 61 years of publication is nearly perfect. I loved almost everything that was present in this film and I encourage you if you had to see one superhero movie this year, make it Across the Spider-Verse. Hell, if you have to see one animated movie this year, make it Across the Spider-Verse. 

Just see it.




Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse manages to be an ever more breathtaking film that its predecessor, setting up plenty of new plot points masterfully and with as much style as humanly possible. Easily the best Spider-Man movie.

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.