[Film review] Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

Review by John P. Harvey.

In nearly every universe of the entire multiverse, an unknown bright U.S. lad named Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man, a young superhero with a special attachment to a girl named MJ — in nearly every universe but the one in which the spider bites a bright young Puerto Rican, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) instead.

Miles has a doomed attachment to Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), another who was bitten by a radioactive spider and consequently attained arachnoid abilities.  Both Miles and Gwen secretly and effectively fight crime, although not without some worrying consequences to each personally.  For no clear reason, both Miles and Gwen hide their special identities from their parents, with whom each has a stereotypical U.S. model of parent–teen tensions in which parents and offspring are unnecessarily at odds.

The storyline in this animated Spider-Man movie, as in most of the live-action ones, offers little complexity or sophistication in the personal journeys of Miles and Gwen.  What this comic-book style does do well, though, is to suggest the size of the canvas upon which it paints its tale, conveying a sense of enormous numbers of universes that contain different types of Spider-Men.

I’m not convinced that the storyline in this film is entirely clear even to the movie’s creators.  It certainly is a little confusing at times.  Its rapid-fire dialogue is often overwhelmed by the even faster sound track; fleeting scenes and revelations don’t connect well with voiceover; at times its electric soundtrack even overpowers the action.  The story holds together well enough, though, to make it a fun ride.  That the film ends on a cliffhanger pending part two comes as something of a disappointment though the soundtrack and other clues in the final few minutes do suggest that this is what will occur.  But if part two is to fully succeed, it will need to carry itself with more stateliness in order to let its audience remain in its slipstream.

Screening at Palace, Dendy, Limelight, and Hoyts cinemas.

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