“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” Review – Not Great

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was a phenomenal animated film. A beautiful hero’s journey of Miles Morales, an instantly likable protagonist thrust into an adventure he’s completely unprepared for. He learns not only how to handle his powers, but the responsibility of being a Spider-person and that Spider-Man is more than the mask; anyone can emulate what he represents. It’s a story full of hope, optimism, heart, tragedy, excitement, humor, and all the things that make for a wonderful adventure film. The script is ingenious and nearly immaculate, full of wit and clear love for the source material. Its animation was more than groundbreaking; it shook the industry and ended the reign of the Pixar style. Overall, an incredible feat.

Now, 5 years later, comes its long-awaited sequel “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” and it breaks my heart to say that this was a massive disappointment. I genuinely don’t understand the rave critic reviews or that insane 95% Rotten Tomatoes score. This is a deeply, tragically flawed mess of a film that’s too ambitious for its own good. The level of overhyping and ridiculous praise is borderline shameful from some of these “critics.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I respect the vast majority of people who enjoy this film, but there are some who just go too far. Here’s an example tweet from one critic who will remain anonymous:

Seriously? Let’s be real for a second. If you’re a critic and you claim that this is not only one of the best Spider-Man/comic book/sequel films, but also one of the best films in general, you need to reevaluate yourself. It’s dangerous for movies to be overpraised like this. Just look at last year’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” That’s a film which is at least 30 minutes too long with hit-and-miss humor and a sappy, soap-opera climax. Yet because people on Twitter and Letterboxd claimed it’s the best movie ever made, it won 7 Oscars including Best Picture. We can’t keep doing this.


Anyway, let’s get back to Across the Spider-Verse (I want to apologize in advance because this is going to be a very, very long review). Do I think this is a terrible film? No, not at all. It’s generally entertaining and shares many of the great elements of the first film; it has the same youthful, vibrant energy and comic-booky sensibilities. The performances are stellar across the board. I also think the Spot is an incredibly entertaining and unique villain. He’s simultaneously hilarious and frightening, and the animation style used to illustrate his abilities is insane (in the best way possible). It’s basically the same technique used in the comic Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.

There’s a perfect 30-40-minute chunk within the first half of the film which focuses on Miles and his family that I thoroughly enjoyed. Miles Morales is by far this film’s best character, and it needs him more than it wants to admit. His struggles balancing his personal life, family, and Spider-Man is just so entertaining and heartfelt. I’d rather see a non-multiverse movie that’s just focused on a regular Miles adventure.

Whenever the film sways away from that heart it free-falls. It starts out with a 15-minute Gwen-centric prologue which I couldn’t stand. For one thing, its story was abysmal. Peter Parker died because he made himself a Green Goblin serum to get big muscles or something. Then, Gwen encounters a giant wooden vulture that looks laughable. She meets a couple Spider-people, fights the wood, and flees her universe. The worst part of this cluttered opening is the introduction of Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman, who’s riding a motorcycle while pregnant, endangering her unborn child. What’s the point of having this in the film? This is far from empowering. It makes the character instantly unlikable and puts a sour taste in the viewer’s mouth.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Miles Morales

Then the movie goes back to Miles and fresh air flows back in again, as mentioned previously. But as soon as he dives into the Spider-Verse, the film nosedives with him. Specifically, it’s when the plot holes start to appear. There are too many lapses in logic and plot-breaking ideas to list in this already overlong review, so I’ll just briefly cover the big ones:

  • Miguel/Spider-Man 2099: How does he have access to all this multiverse jumping technology? Living in the future is not an excuse; the film never explains how he got ahold of it or invented it, and considering how significant it is to the story, that’s a pretty big issue.
  • During the chase scene between Miles and the other Spider-people, why didn’t he just turn invisible? He said that he was trying to lure them together, implying that’s why he stayed visible, but that still doesn’t make any sense. Why go through all that trouble when you could just slip away unseen?
  • Mentioning the MCU was a colossal mistake. Now it’s established that all the multiverse shenanigans in the MCU are canon in this franchise, so why aren’t other Marvel characters around? Where’s Kang? How come Doctor Strange wasn’t glitching when he traveled to other universes in Multiverse of Madness?
  • Why would Miles be sent to the universe where his radioactive spider originated from? Miguel’s goofy machine scans the DNA of an individual (ANY individual, not just a Spider-person) and returns them to their corresponding universe. Miles is still almost entirely made up of DNA from his own universe; the spider DNA is only a minuscule portion of him. Wouldn’t he be sent back to his own universe, or at least have his atoms split between both universes?
  • Now for the biggest plot hole: why, WHY would Miguel tell Miles about the police captain cannon event? By telling Miles this, he fuels Miles to rebel and try to prevent it. If he never revealed this to him, Miles wouldn’t know or be prepared for his father to die. Therefore, if Miguel just kept his mouth shut, he wouldn’t have to worry about Miles inadvertently destroying that universe. The entire second half of the film rides on this moronic and forced decision.

Another problem here is the runtime. At 2 hours and 20 minutes, the movie feels at least 20 to 30 minutes too long, especially in the third act when every scene could’ve been the last.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Chase

Yet the writing isn’t this film’s only issue; on a technical level, it’s far less sophisticated than its predecessor. While Across the Spider-Verse has a wider range of styles, it doesn’t hold up to the first film’s look. I commend the filmmakers for attempting something new, but it feels like the animators were spread too thin to give sufficient detail to each art style, so the main art style from the first film looks significantly weaker here. The polygons are visible and some of the movements are off; for some reason, characters’ shoulders particularly look wonky. The sound editing is also a downgrade. The first film had AMAZING music and sound cues, especially the Prowler’s theme. This movie shares the same great sound, except it’s mixed by Christopher Nolan. I couldn’t hear what the characters were saying in the film a third of the time. It got to the point where I stupidly leaned in toward the screen.

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is the newest film in the long line of overrated, forced cult movies that have been perpetuated by Film Twitter. I was left heartbroken by how much this movie disappointed me, and I hope people will eventually come around and see the film’s faults.


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