Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is another spectacular Spidey outing

miles morales, gwen stacy, the spot, spider man across the spider verse
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse reviewSony Pictures

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse had a high bar to live up to thanks to the huge success of Into the Spider-Verse, the anticipation only increased by the nearly four-and-a-half year wait for the sequel.

The first movie was beloved by Spider-Man fans and by the critics too, standing as the best-reviewed Spider-Man movie ever on Rotten Tomatoes, and grossed nearly $400 million worldwide. Oh, and it also won Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, becoming the first non-Disney/Pixar movie to win since 2011.

It's a tough ask to match that, especially as Marvel fans might be getting a bit tired of the multiverse by now. But like the first movie, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse takes something that feels stale and freshens it up.

The sequel is another visually spectacular blockbuster that'll have you swinging back for a repeat viewing.

miles morales, gwen stacy, the spot, spider man across the spider verse
Sony Pictures

If you haven't seen Into the Spider-Verse recently (and, really, it should be a monthly watch), Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse starts with a couple of handy recaps. We catch up on Gwen Stacy's (Hailee Steinfeld) life first, before reuniting with Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) over a year since the events of the first movie.

Where the first movie stayed in Miles's world with glimpses of the other universes, the sequel's opening gives a sense of its increased scale. Here, we get several fully-realised worlds that we spend time in, but despite the sequel going bigger, it hasn't forgotten its beating heart: Miles and Gwen.

The sequel sees them tangled up in different ways with the Spider Society, a huge team of Spider-People from across the multiverse. Led by Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac), aka Spider-Man 2099, they're charged with protecting the very existence of the multiverse from those who, unwittingly or not, could collapse time and space as we know it.

And when Miles learns that maybe he doesn't entirely agree with this all-powerful group of Spideys, Miles will have to decide on what he believes makes a hero – whether Gwen is on his side or not.

miles morales, gwen stacy, spiderman across the spiderverse
Sony Pictures

The only place to start is with the animation and, clichéd though it may be to say, Across the Spider-Verse is a visual feast. The sequel utilises multiple animation styles, often with several in the same frame, to make its various worlds and Spider-Men distinctive. It's an astonishing feat and endlessly breathtaking.

Even if it wasn't for the multiple Easter eggs throughout, you'd want to watch the sequel again just to catch everything. There's guaranteed to be a visual flourish or deep-cut reference you've missed in background details. It's such a richly crafted world that you often forget there's a plot going on, so distracted by the vibrant, inventive design.

It's not just pretty for pretty's sake though. Across the Spider-Verse uses its visual as a storytelling device, not just as colourful wrapping for the plot. Without the need for expository dialogue, the world designs tell you all you need to know about that universe, as well as being used for character's inner thoughts, heightening the emotion.

When it's needed too, the animation is used to just show something very cool. An early battle between multiple Spideys and a Renaissance-era Vulture sets the bar for the sequel's action sequences. They're thrilling and innovative in ways live-action just can't be (or hasn't been, recently), but are used sparingly so as not to overwhelm the story.

miguel o'hara, vulture, spiderman across the spiderverse
Sony Pictures

It all comes back to the story in Across the Spider-Verse. The 140-minute runtime might feel too long for some, but the extra time is used to invest in Miles and Gwen's arcs rather than for a splashy action scene.

Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld continue their excellent work from the first movie, enriching the animation and adding more depth. While the sequel might not resolve all its plot (it's a two-parter, after all), Miles and Gwen get full emotional journeys and resolutions to make it feel satisfying all the same.

As with the first movie, there's a terrific supporting cast led by Oscar Isaac's serious and driven Miguel O'Hara. Even he's upstaged by Daniel Kaluuya's brilliant turn as Hobie Brown, aka Spider-Punk, who will be everybody's new favourite Spidey. It's just a shame that Issa Rae doesn't get as much of an impact as Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman.

Once the sequel delves fully into the Spider Society world, there are countless fun cameos that we wouldn't spoil here. It's the one sequence that leans hard into fan service, but you can forgive it for the care given to the story elsewhere.

jessica drew, miguel o'hara, spiderman across the spiderverse
Sony Pictures

Where Across the Spider-Verse lets itself down slightly is in its finale. Unlike Fast X and its multiple cliffhangers, the sequel does feel like a complete story even without a full resolution, but its final sequence is dragged out. It's not a Return of the King situation, yet it picks an underwhelming reveal to end on.

It won't stop you wanting to see the sequel again straightaway though. Whatever issues with the finale, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is another towering achievement that will restore your faith in comic book movies.

4 stars
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Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out now in cinemas.

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