“Approved by the comics code authority”, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse picks up where Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse broadly left off. Sure, a few years have passed but things are basically the same. Miles Morales is still Spider-Man. He still hasn’t told his folks about it and he’s still fighting crime. However, a new foe has arrived in the shape of The Spot. A being who can straddle the multiverses at will, he’s out to exact revenge on Spider-Man for an act he has yet to commit. Elsewhere Gwen, she of Spider-Gwen fame, is struggling with her uber-determined police chief dad. Intent on bringing Spider-Gwen to justice he is shocked to discover that Gwen is actually Spider-Gwen, all before she skips off into the Spider-verse to do what Spider people do., i.e. thwart crime and spin webs in the different timelines.
So, when she later drops into Miles’s reality, it’s not really a social call. She’s on the hunt for bad people with her new Spider people buddies but sidelined Miles tracks them all back to the Spiderverse where he makes two shock discoveries. One, there are more people being Spider-Man than he ever imagined possible and two – the even harder pill to swallow – he has to accept its not possible to save everyone he loves from fate, just because he can now jump dimensions. Not only is it unadvisable but the damage it would do to the space-time continuum / multiverses is incalculable.
So, here we are, arriving at the same hoary old question, we always do when it comes to multiverse movies. If you could change time / reality and save the people you care about – could you? Or even, should you?
You see, the problem with a lot of Marvel’s phase 4 output is that they keep returning to same old question. So, it could be argued that after Spider-Man: No Way Home, Wandavision, Loki, Dr Strange and The Multiverse of Madness and others I’ve probably forgotten), the interest in knowing the answer, may well have been tapped out by now.
So, where does this leave the Spider-verse’s screenwriters and producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller? Well, after witnessing some of the best – no, even better than best – animation you could ever hope for, I’d say in a pretty similar place as the first movie. Whilst, I admire Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse I wouldn’t call it a compelling storyline. It starts well with an easy to follow revenge arc involving The Spot, but by the time we hit the the third act, it’s far more than it’s 140 minute runtime that is being stretched.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots to enjoy and marvel at and a few nods and cameos that pepper the movie’s duration. Yet, as a film that is completely wedded to a break-neck pace of action – and dialogue – you might want to watch it twice so that all the jokes land properly.