‘Across the Spider-Verse:’   Extravagant animation

Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy are voiced by Shameik Moor and Hailee Steinfeld.

By Wendell Gaa

“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” is not only a great superhero film or a marvelous animated one, it is a cinematic masterpiece period. In my mind the greatest animated story yet about the iconic web-slinging hero to hit the big screen. 

The sequel to 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” the film continues the story about Brooklyn high school kid Miles Morales (voiced by actor, singer and rapper Shameik Moor)  as he further matures into his alter ego the superhero Spider-Man.  Miles is an everyday New Yorker just working to balance his life between being Spider-Man and living a plain normal life as a high school student.

In his own universe called Earth-1610, Morales shares similarities with the more well-known Queens-born Peter Parker of Marvel Comics lore, aka the original Spider-Man.  Even though Miles may come from a different part of town, just like Parker, it is a loss in his family which thrusts him to take on the responsibilities of becoming a crimefighter. 

In the first film, “Across the Spider-Verse” expands the world of Morales, who continues to realize just how there are so many more “Spider-Man” heroes are in different parts of the globe and even in different “multiverses” of the very same city-reality he lives in. 

Miles first meets his friend Gwen Stacy, who is also Spider-Woman from another universe called Earth-65. In the sequel, she is once again brilliantly voiced by the attractive and vivacious actress Hailee Steinfeld, a rising young star in Hollywood whose maternal grandfather, Ricardo Domasin, is half-Filipino and a native of Panglao, Bohol. Hence we can happily lay claim that she is one of our own.   

On Earth-65, we find that Gwen is working hard to become a successful superhero crimefighter as Spider-Woman in order to live up to the standards of her father who is a New York City police captain.

In a flashback sequence, we see how Gwen is accidentally responsible for the death of her best friend, the Peter Parker of her universe.  In the present day, as her Spider-Woman works to make amends on this tragic incident, she is caught in the vigilante act of fighting off bad guys by her father who discovers her true identity. 

Meanwhile, Gwen appears in Earth-1610 to reconnect with Miles.  Both of them embark on a mission to capture a mysterious supervillain known simply as “Spot.” What they first assume to be a routine crackdown on crime soon evolves into a sinister threat with potentially far-reaching consequences which can impact the multiverse itself. 

Watching the first film in this series, “Into the Spider-Verse,” is not necessarily required viewing, but I do highly recommend it in order to understand how the plot threads in “Across the Spider-Verse” interconnect because this sequel is loaded with “Easter Eggs” which may baffle you at the very least, if not outright confuse you especially if you have no familiarity whatsoever with any story material connected with the Spider-Man lore. 

That said, “Across the Spider-Verse” is the incarnation of what a powerful superhero story with a message that resonates is really all about.  At its root, the film so touchingly addresses the values of responsibly finding purpose and destiny in one’s life, while finding equilibrium between looking after your family and fighting for the greater good.   

Both Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy no doubt get the best character development here, and understandably so.  I was particularly happy with how we get to learn so much more about Gwen’s family upbringing here and even more deeply understand  her passion and motives to choosing the path of a superhero. 

The film’s animation alone is extravagant and awe-inspiring enough, and yet there were several moments while watching the film when I had all but forgotten that this is an animated movie, which is testament to the compelling storytelling which “Across the Spider Verse” really is. 

(C) The FilAm 2023

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