Reviews are flooding in for Sony Pictures Animation’s spidey-sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, and so far they’re overwhelmingly positive.
A social media embargo imposed on anyone who has already seen the film was lifted last week, so today’s reviews aren’t surprising, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive.
In Across the Spider-Verse Miles is reunited with Gwen Stacy and thrown across an increasingly unstable Multiverse. On his extra-dimensional journey, he encounters a team of Spider-People charged with protecting its very existence. Unable to agree on how best to do that, Miles butts heads with the other Spiders and has to figure out what it means to him to be a hero so he can save the people he loves most.
Of course, the main question that any reviewer had to answer about Across the Spider-Verse was if this film stacks up to its Oscar-winning predecessor. And, at least in the dozen critiques that we read, each critic answered that question with a resounding “yes.” Most also claimed that the sequel improves and evolves on the stylistic foundations laid by Into the Spider-Verse.
At the time of publishing, Across the Spider-Verse has a Rotten Tomatoes critical score of 94% from 70 reviews and a Metacritic score of 87 with 32 reviews accounted for.
Here’s what the critics are saying about Sony’s latest animated feature, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Rogerebert.com’s Brian Tallerico, after explaining that his nine-year-old called Across the Spider-Verse the best movie they’ve ever seen, was similarly gushing:
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse explodes onto screens this week, building on the foundation of the masterful Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with stunning animation, unforgettable characters, and complex themes. The first note I took after seeing it was “so much movie.” Like the work of a young artist who refuses to be restrained by the borders of the frame, Across the Spider-Verse is loaded with incredible imagery and fascinating ideas. It is a smart, thrilling piece of work that reminded me of other great part twos like The Dark Knight and The Empire Strikes Back. Like those films, it leaves viewers anxiously anticipating the next chapter (which will come in March 2024), and it earns its cliffhangers by grounding them in a story of young people refusing to submit to a concept of what a hero’s arc needs to be.
In her four-star review for the Independent, Clarisse Loughrey was impressed with Across the Spider-Verse’s ability to build on the expectation-defying nature of the first film:
Into the Spider-Verse’s comic book style – with its split-screen panels, cross-hatches, and Ben-Day dots – has since been copied across the rest of mainstream animation (see February’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish). Across the Spider-Verse readdresses its own legacy. What’s revolutionary about this franchise isn’t that it created a new look, but that it dared to push the boundaries of what was possible. As we visit new dimensions, the film reinvents its own look.
IndieWire’s Kate Erbland held up Across the Spider-Verse as what superhero movies “should be,” even more so than most of the live-action films studios are putting out, explaining that:
Much of that is surely due to their distinct animation style, which in its second iteration, looks even more stunning, more tactile, more real in its distinct unreality, because all that jaw-dropping animation is truly in service to the story and its emotions. Colors and shadows, a flick of an eye and the flex of a hand, comic book panel-styled intertitles and zingy asides, all of it exists to advance the tale, not distract from it. Action sequences unfold with their own kinetic logic yet remain fully coherent (something the vast majority of our current crop of live-action blockbusters can’t claim) and engaging to the point that audiences might forget to breathe during them.
Owen Glieberman at Variety was effusive in his praise of the latest Spider-flick and unwavering in his assertion that it’s on the same level as the first film:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse set the bar high, and one reason I wondered if Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse could live up to it is that the original film’s co-directors (Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman) have returned only as executive producers, replaced by three other directors (Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson). Could the new trio reproduce that heady combustible mutating pop-art magic, that sly storytelling finesse, that understanding of the inside-out logic of comic books that seems to elude almost every live-action comic-book film?
They’ve done it. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse doesn’t just extend the tale of Miles Morales. The film advances that story into newly jacked-up realms of wow-ness that make it a genuine spiritual companion piece to the first film. That one spun our heads and then some; this one spins our heads even more (and would fans, including me, have it any other way?).
Writing for The Wrap, William Bibbiani dedicated a significant portion of his review to praising the film’s animation:
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse experimented with mixed formats and varying frame rates, and while the movie didn’t touch the sky-high box office grosses of the live-action Spider-Man films, it probably had the most profound artistic impact. Many animated films in Into the Spider-Verse’s wake have taken its cues and run with them, like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and (judging from the trailers) the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem.
Across the Spider-Verse just keeps on running, opening with striking, expressionistic scenes that mirror music with teenaged moodiness, and then segueing into bizarre action sequences between heroes of varying artistic styles, and a villain who seems to have emerged directly from a Renaissance sketchbook. Characters like Spider-Punk look like they’ve been ripped from album covers and collage zines. Reality warps not because it’s on the brink of collapse but because it ecstatically realizes the inner worlds of the characters. There are no limitations to animation as an art form, which makes it an ideal medium to explore the limitless possibilities of space and time.
Directors: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
Screenplay: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dave Callaham
Editor: Mike Andrews
Production: Sony Pictures Animation, Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions, Lord Miller Productions, Pascal Pictures
Voice Cast: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Jake Johnson, Oscar Isaac, Jason Schwartzman, Daniel Kaluuya, Issa Rae, Shea Whigham, Amandla Stenberg, Karan Soni, Rachel Dratch, Andy Samberg.