What makes a spider-person the hero they are? Or the person they are? Just as Miles Morales feels like an anomaly among his own, this film is very much that in both today’s comic book movie and cinematic landscape. Utilizing every element at its disposal to convey character feelings and better distinguish each of the many universes it creates, every aspect feels organic despite being completely constructed out of oblivion. Themes resonate more than the sometimes confusing plot, but the care and love evident in every decision makes all the multiverse talk more semantics than linchpins. It’s something special even if it’s not completely clear what it is; though, instead of considering it the anomaly it is we might simply recognize (appropriately) that it goes beyond anything we’ve seen before. 

As breathtakingly beautiful and boundary-pushing as it is visually it also attempts some rather daring narrative choices by upending the peace Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) found in becoming Spidey at the conclusion of the previous film and more specifically, the peace in being part of a tribe that finally understood him. Speaking of conclusions and daring narrative choices, this is definitively part one of a two-part story and thus there isn't a resounding completeness to all of the themes and arcs that Across the Spider-Verse puts forward (and it's a lot). Knowing this is set-up for a third film due next year the cliff-hanger of an ending didn't bother me but feels worth mentioning due to the multiple groans heard in my screening when that "To Be Continued..." hit. It was the only part of the experience that evoked the current state of comic book movies.

Miles Morales (voice of Shameik Moore) encounters Miguel O'Hara (voice of Oscar Isaac) in Across the Spider-Verse.
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The contrast in the strength of the storytelling and emotional resonance of the themes in spite of the inherent "comic-bookness" of the plot (which is to say, this is a movie that has its cake and eats it too in terms of appealing to both avid and casual fans) is maybe the most impressive thing this sequel accomplishes which is saying a lot for a movie that looks as dazzlingly distinct as this and features just an all-timer of a soundtrack from METRO BOOMIN. While the meta-commentary approach is nothing new for writer/producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, the Jump Street movies) Across the Spider-Verse is notable for how it both fully delivers on what comic book fans or should I say, "fans of the canon", want from a Spider-Man multiverse movie while simultaneously holding up a mirror to the oftentimes toxic mentality prevalent in such circles where outrage is frequently the first reaction when a beloved character is treated differently. As Spider-Gwen states herself when commenting on some Jeff Koons balloon animals, "It’s more a meta commentary on what we call art, but it’s still art.” Yes, there are certain events key to the Peter Parker mythos that make him both the person and the hero he becomes, but this is Miles' story and - as Oscar Isaac's Miguel O'Hara tells us - Miles was never meant to be Spider-Man. As that is what came to pass though, Miles can't help but to inherently lean toward breaking the chains of said "canon" (and maybe the fabric of the multiverse) in order to write his own story. 

Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson bake in the idea of not only how this is different from past Spider-Man films, but why it's necessary to divert from said "canon" in order to create something new and different that still carries the soul of what made fans fall in love with Spidey in the first place: figuring out the balance of being a hero to everyone and being everything to those closest to him. That basic DNA still resides in Miles Morales, but where some see holes in his story he sees the answer to his own future as the web-slinging hero; likely not the only connection he has with new supervillain Spot (voice of Jason Schwartzman). Coupling this level of commentary with these themes of the events we let define our lives, the way parents tend to mess up their children even when hoping to help them, as well as the sheer level of execution at work here Across the Spider-Verse is indeed a work of art, an achievement, and not simply another movie but an experience that doesn't have to do much convincing to have you run the gamut of emotions it is prepared to take you on.

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