The year is 2023. You can place an order online and get your product delivered to your doorstep on the same day. There is a chatbot that can write your entire University essay for you in 5 minutes, with minimal need for alteration. You can put any, literally any question, into an online search engine and likely have an answer back within 2 seconds that is, at the very very least, relatively helpful.
You can do all of these things, and yet, I still had to wait 5 years for the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Consumer culture really has done nothing to teach us the value of patience. But hey, clearly that’s what the film industry is for.
Our neighbourhood friendly spider-teen Miles Morales is back, with just a teensy bit more confidence, extra height, and the same goofy charisma that made us fall in love with him half a decade ago- but this time spider-society is exponentially bigger. Since the release of the first film back in 2018, the multiverse is a concept that has become far more familiar to audiences following MCU releases like Spider-Man: No Way Home and the latest Doctor Strange.
It’s probably because of this that the writers room for Across the Spider-Verse seems to have plunged even further into a creatively boundless space, matching only the ceaseless imagination of a primary school project. “Can our superhero be a pig with a wooden mallet?”, the teacher’s response is encouraging: “of course!”. “Can he be made of lego?” cries another, “yes!”.
As the requests rapidly form into ideas more acutely outrageous in an effort to expose the limits of their freedom, the kids soon realise that there aren’t many. Similarly whilst the first Spider-Verse film was outlandish, the potential for new alternate universe spider-men and women forced the writers to up the ante in order to prove a sequel was worth making. And prove it they did. Can we have a spidey-dinosaur? Yes, it seems, we can.
However, whilst still a wonderful standalone film, Across the Spider-Verse is clearly a setup for the trilogy’s grand finale. The film is still full of comic battles and eccentric characters galore. But writers Phil Lord, Chris Miller and David Callaham spend well deserved time fleshing out their world and its inhabitants, rather than relying on easy Easter Egg gratification to keep the audience entertained. It feels like there are a lot more scenes where the characters just talk- which is far from being a bad thing.
The more screen-time spent amplifying the dynamic between Miles and his parents or him and Gwen, the higher the stakes are for Beyond the Spider-Verse. But despite creating a world that is visually so distinct from reality, the struggles each of the characters face always remain deeply authentic and relatable. Miles is not simply figuring out his place in the Spider-Verse, he is figuring out his place in the world as a young man. It is this juggling act that grounds the fantasy in the film, and pushes us into even greater emotional depth than the original.
The writers also embraced the variety offered by the Spider-Verse by creating a cast that feels even more effortlessly diverse than the first; with a Cockney Spider-Punk, an Indian Spider-Man and a pregnant black Spider-Woman being a few of the characters to join this year’s roster.
I am also consistently astounded by how they manage to make each character’s comedy so minutely different in a way that is instantly recognisable, but simultaneously sets the stage for some hilarious back and forth. But it was the new villain, The Spot, that really stole the spotlight for me. Jason Schwartzman nails not only the comedic timing but the casual hilarity of much of The Spot’s dialogue, creating a villain that bounces perfectly off of Miles, and has juuuust enough reason to be evil that you can surrender entirely to his antics.
Into the Spider-Verse is an incredibly hard film to follow, but the many people that worked on this project have managed to produce a sequel with the flare and passion that ensures us this world is one that is worth diving into again and again. I don’t know how many times in my life I have encouraged people to watch either of these films now, but it seems that a good Samaritan’s work is never done. If you’re looking for a reason to throw your childish illusion of adulthood to the wind and have some real fun, then please. Don’t make me beg. Just- just do it. Watch the Spider-Verse films. How many more reviews is it going to take?