Genre: CG Animation
Director: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Jason Schwartzman, Brian Tyree Henry
Runtime: 2 hr 20 mins
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Released By: Sony Pictures
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 1 June 2023

Synopsis: Miles Morales returns for the next chapter of the Oscar®-winning Spider-Verse saga, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. After reuniting with Gwen Stacy, Brooklyn’s full-time, friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is catapulted across the Multiverse, where he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. But when the heroes clash on how to handle a new threat, Miles finds himself pitted against the other Spiders and must redefine what it means to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most. 

Movie Review:

Is that such a thing as too much Spidey? We didn’t used to think so, not even when we journeyed ‘Into the Spider-Verse’, but we sure felt a sense of Spidey fatigue when we traversed ‘Across the Spider-Verse’.

Five years back, ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ dazzled with its unique brand of sheer, breathless inventiveness, channelling the look and spirit of the comic books into a Pop-Art extravaganza that redefined mainstream animated movies. Its Best Animated Feature win at the Academy Awards the following year was a testament to its bold ambition and wild achievement.

Any sequel would need to be bigger, bolder and perhaps even darker; and to be fair, that is exactly what the new directing trio of Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson have done with ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’. Whereas its predecessor was content with about five Spidey characters including Brooklyn teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), a Looney Tunes-style pig called Spider-Ham (John Mulaney), and a brooding 1930s vigilante, Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), the sequel now boasts hundreds of Spider-people that are all part of a Spider Society.

In case you’re wondering, only Miles and Gwen remain from the previous movie; the supporting players here are a pregnant, motorcycle-riding Spider-woman named Jessica Drew (Issa Rae), a preening, Bollywood-fabulous Spider-man named Pavitr Prabhakar (Karan Soni), a guitar-toting, Mohawked Spider-punk named Hobie Brown (Daniel Kaluuya), and a gruff Spider-Man of the year 2099 named Miguel O’ Hara (Oscar Isaac). Though the plot is ostensibly about how these Spider-heroes team up against a super-villain known as The Spot (Jason Schwartzmann), it is in fact a much more complicated reality, not least because Miles’ fundamental objection to the canons of the Spider-man story puts him at odds with Miguel and the rest of the Spider society.

This is also where the screenwriting team of Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and ‘Shang-Chi’ scribe Dave Callaham gets bolder. From the watercolour environments of Gwen’s Earth-65, to Miles’ Earth-1610 (which we would be used to from the previous movie), to the India-inspired Mumbattan, and to the futuristic Nueva York, the team unfurls a sprawling story dealing with such weighty themes as fate, free will and sacrifice. Most intriguingly, it does so with complete self-awareness, and is prepared to confront its very canon to teach us a thing or two about not being afraid to challenge the status quo.

And yes, it does get much darker along the way. Sure, Miles and Gwen still share a will-they-or-won’t-they-romance; and for that matter, both Spideys also have to grapple with the decision as well as the consequences of letting their respective parents know about their superhero identities. Yet we also see the over-zealousness and self-righteousness of the Spider Society taken to discomforting extremes, blinded by their conviction over what they need to do to preserve the greater good. Without giving too much away, the last 15 minutes also show a shocking alternate reality that will leave us on a cliffhanger (for the uninitiated, this is the first of a two-part sequel, with ‘Beyond the Spider-Verse’ due next year).

Sadly, as noble as all that ambition may be up on the big screen, the movie ends up drowning itself in its own excess. There are in-jokes galore, the callbacks and audience-pleasing cameos rife to the point of being overbearing, and sometimes even at the expense of story and narrative logic. But the visuals are what truly prove disorienting, strangely uninvolving, and eventually exasperating. There is no measure of restraint or nuance to the animation, playing with colour, composition and texture as if every palette, mode and mash-up were at its disposal. Where others see an extravaganza, we see only disarray, with little method to the madness.

Like we said, it wasn’t until ‘Across the Spider-Verse’ that we realised that there was such a thing as too much Spidey. Maybe we ain’t hardcore fans enough to lap up all the winkingly playful Easter Eggs, but we suspect that we won’t be the only ones that find the self-indulgence more exhausting than exhilarating; and at two hours and 20 minutes, it is quite frankly overstuffed. It is bigger, bolder and darker all right, but also louder, messier and more excessive. It might be pure nirvana for some, but this journey across the Spidey multi-verse will ultimately prove an unremitting assault on the senses for many others.

Movie Rating:

(As exhausting as it is exhilarating, this bigger, bolder but darker sequel is also louder, messier and more excessive)

Review by Gabriel Chong

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