MOVIE REVIEW: Across the Spider-Verse Tees Up the Biggest Spider-Man Movie

Imagine every Spider-Man everywhere all at once.
by Anton Reyes
June 01, 2023
sony pictures / across the spider-verse

( With the nature of being one of the most popular figures in comic book history, alongside Batman and the quintessential superhero Superman, Spider-Man has had many wildly varying adaptations to the big screen. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character of Spider-Man is a mantle and role that has continuously been passed from actor to actor, from creative to creative.

With the release of Spider-Man: No Way Home, we’ve come to a point where the three live-action Spider-Men can all share the same screen, alongside a totally separate Spider-Man headlining his own franchise with the Miles Morales animated features. Now, with the release of Sony Animation’s sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse—the fourth “Spider-Man 2” movie we’re getting in the past 20 years, funnily enough—Sony has finally come to the point where they can explore the timeless question, “What does it mean to be Spider-Man?” with not just one of their Spider-Men, but all of their Spider-Men. No, literally.


Also read: Wait, Why Are There So Many Spider-Man Universes Again?

Here is’s review of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse:

While the 2018 animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse introduced both the character of Miles Morales and the concept of multiversal Spider-Men invading his own universe, its sequel Across the Spider-Verse takes the natural escalating step by having Miles travel across the multiverse and meeting pretty much every Spider-Man known to media.

In this respect, the sequel immediately blows any and all expectations you have preconceived from watching the first film out of the water. You thought putting together a group featuring an anime Spider-Man, a Looney Tunes-esque pig Spider-Man, and a 1950s noir Spider-Man portrayed by a melancholy Nicholas Cage was wild? Well, here’s Miles hopping between worlds with different art styles and intrinsic rules of the medium that he has to abide by.

Once the film shifts into high gear with all its multiversal elements, it moves at a breakneck and frenetic pace, with an unmatched confidence that the audience can keep up with the sheer volume of spider-content literally lunging at the screen. It’s a bold choice to take this large of a step up on the soon-to-be trilogy, but it’s an earned choice, with its grandiosity anchored on humor and a much more intimate first act.

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The animated film clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, making it the longest American animated film to date (Collider), but interestingly, a good half of the runtime is dedicated to the story’s first act; a cold open centered on Spider-Gwen’s personal life and another chapter on catching up the audience on what Miles has been up to since the first film.

PHOTO BY sony pictures / across the spider-verse

These two family-centric storylines both stab at the heart of who and what Spider-Man is, the personal burden of a hero’s responsibility, as well as just trying to figure out one’s self, one’s story, while navigating life as a teenager. The early scene of Miles and Gwen sitting upside down on a rooftop, all dressed up in their spider-outfits, talking about the difficulties and pressures they’re feeling from their parents and mentors is, of course, a call back to the upside down leap into self-discovery Miles committed in the first film. Only, this time, our protagonists are diving deeper into their introspection.

It truly exemplified that while Peter Parker may be our timeless representation of a teenager learning to handle newfound power, Miles and Gwen of the Spider-Verse hit closer in depicting the modern-day teenager’s struggles with the self and the learning of how to find that in other people.

PHOTO BY sony pictures / across the spider-verse

Also read: No Affiliation, We Swear: The Next Spider-Verse Villain Is Called The Spot

The evocative first half of the film is astounding, on both an emotional and technical level that we really haven’t seen in comic book films since the first Spider-Verse film. It’s almost unfortunate that the film just has to pivot to unveiling its whole multiversal conflict, which is admittedly not as inspired. Miles essentially meets a large society of Spider-People who, let’s just say, have taken the mantra of “With great power there must also come great responsibility,” too far. 


It’d be hard to call this conflict gripping or exciting, because it’s the same exact multiverse-scale “trolley problem” conflict we’ve seen play out in other superhero titles like Loki, No Way Home, Multiverse of Madness, and almost surely The Flash later this year. The hero wants to save everyone, but “fate” says some people cannot be saved or the universe will tear apart. 

The only difference in Across the Spider-Verse’s case would be that it, inherently as the first part to a two-part story, doesn’t present a conclusion to this conflict. The film plays like the first half of a show prior to the intermission, like a song where the beat doesn’t drop. The feeling that the story is saving a lot of its more cathartic and exciting moments for the third film is definitely palpable, but that’s not a huge knock against the movie. It just solidifies Across the Spider-Verse’s future placement in the trilogy as the “tee-up to a great Spider-Man movie.” Hopefully speaking, of course, but who are we kidding, they’re going to stick the landing.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Spots

Also read: What the Morbius Post-Credits Scene Means For the Rest of the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is now showing in cinemas. Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse drops 10 months from now, in March 2024.