Sunday, June 4, 2023

SPOILER-FREE: Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse


Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse has two unavoidable flaws.

The first flaw is that it’s only half a movie, and we don’t get the other half until March. This is not a spoiler. The movies were originally announced as Across The Spider-Verse Part 1 and Across The Spider-Verse Part Two before being renamed “Across” and “Beyond” respectively. Unavoidable. They had how much story they had, it was two movies’ worth, this shit takes time to make right. 

The second flaw is that you can’t make a completely unprecedented movie, the likes of which have never been done or seen before, twice. Into The Spider-Verse was that rarest of rarities, a new thing. Which seems odd, since it’s based on what was at the time a character with a seven year history and an IP with around five decades under its webbed belt. But the presentation, the visual language, the music, everything about the movie? Completely new. I’d argue it’s the first mainstream multiverse movie in existence, but it’d be an argument completely unbacked by research I’m not willing to do, so I won’t.

Across The Spider-Verse can’t be that. It extends all the things the first movie innovated with. It expands them. It presents variations on them. But stylistically, it’s of a piece with the first movie, because that’s how sequels work. And I wouldn’t want it to work any other way. But “Into” will always hold a specific, special place in my heart because of the sheer wonder of its newness.

What “Across” can do that “Into” didn’t is tell a bigger, more epic story, now that the first movie has laid the groundwork for the audience to know the characters, the rules, and be more accustomed to the art styles and visual language. That familiarity gives you room to work with, and they work with it. In the first movie, the Sipder-Verse converges on one universe, but in the sequel, the majority of the time is spent outside of Miles’ home universe and move beyond the (perfectly-excuted) origin story of the first movie.

It’s all executed beautifully, with the original movie’s understanding of the importance of character building and quiet, emotional moments alternating with breathtaking action sequences filled with constant motion and shifting perspectives. The twist that sets up the cliffhanger is set up properly, and pulled off in a very clever way. 

Also interesting to me, although I don’t know how intentional it is: the central conflict of the story has, to me, distinct parallels with fandom’s reaction to the introduction of Miles Morales in the first place - a reaction that repeats every time Miles debuts in a new medium. Can’t go into details without spoiling, but I see it whether it was meant to be there or not.

The point is, if you were worried that this might be a Lego Movie Sequel Situation, where it got handed off to other people, who took a very superficial look at what they thought made the movie successful and then just replicated that, missing the magic parts entirely? That’s not what happened here. Go see it. You probably have already, but still. Go see it.

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