Spider Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Featured voices: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Velez, Jason Schwartzman, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae, Karan Soni
Like its predecessor, but turned up to eleven, this animated sequel is endlessly visually inventive and eclectic, almost exhaustingly so.
A brief prologue sets the scene as alternate universe hero and emo drummer Gwen Stacy aka Spider-Gwen (voiced by Steinfeld) is struggling with a tragedy and its effect on her relationship with her cop father. A meeting with a group of multiverse-straddling spider-people charged with patching up anomalies suggests a way out for the troubled teen.
Meanwhile in ‘our’ universe fifteen-year-old Miles Morales (Moore) is juggling college interviews with life as a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. An encounter with a nerdy ‘villain of the week’ The Spot (Schwartzman) snowballs into something more serious as his motivations are revealed. The multiverse-traversing spider-team are called in, which sees Miles reunited with old crush Gwen. Also on the team is the grown Peter Parker (Johnson), cheerfully dealing with new familial responsibilities; a preening Indian Spider-Man (Soni); pregnant Spider-Mum Jessica Drew (Rae); and Daniel Kaluuya’s amusing cockney geezer anarchist Hobie/Spider-Punk, impressively realised as a kind of sentient mural character.
Part narratively complex coming-of-age tale, part dazzling pop art explosion, the picture boasts some extraordinary imagery, referencing among other things old-school comic layouts, replete with blink and you’ll miss them editorial notes (big screen viewers will also note the printing dots on the images), Hip Hop street art, live action footage/characters, even Michelangelo sketches, personified by a sepia-hued take on Spidey-baddie The Vulture. A visit to a teeming Mumbai-style city is another visual highlight.
The numerous nods to other Spidey incarnations will delight fans without hanging around enough to irritate the unfamiliar, but at two hours and twenty minutes, it feels a little overwhelming, or as Hobie knowingly observes when presented with another richly-detailed vista, ‘a bit much’.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is released on 2nd June
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