Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse Spoiler Review
Five years ago, I was lucky to get to see Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse on the big screen, and it became my definitive Spider-Man film. Then we got word about the long-awaited sequel, Across the Spiderverse, coming out in time for Summer 2023. So, naturally, I bought a ticket to an opening night screening, then left to watch it after work. Then, as if mirroring the infamous “Parker Luck” that afflicts the webhead, I found out I bought tickets to the wrong movie theater. Rather than bemoan my bad fortune, I took this as a sign that the film would be great and exchanged tickets for the theater I was at. The film wasn’t just as good as the first one; it somehow did even better.
I’m RJ Writing Ink, and if you’re here, that means you’ve seen the movie and want to hear my spoiler review of Across the Spiderverse. If not, then go read my spoiler-free review of the film.
Gwen Stacy Takes On a Larger Role
One of the most surprising aspects of this film is that it starts focusing on something other than Miles Morales. Instead, Gwen Stacy and her world serve as the setting for the opening that goes on for close to twenty minutes. Some people might complain, but I don’t for three reasons.
Firstly, we get to see Gwen Stacy’s Earth, and it’s fantastic to look at. Her Earth evokes a lot of soft colors that can best be described as akin to watercolor or pastel paintings, visually distinct from Miles’ world and all the more interesting for it. I said in my spoiler-free review that the film uses multiple animation styles for each universe visited. Each of them alone is like a painting in motion, but the moments where the characters crossover from their worlds make them stand out more. The opening villain, a Vulture from a Renaissance world, is drawn in the Da Vinci style a la Vitruvian Man. It shouldn’t work in Gwen’s world, but it does!
Secondly, the extended prologue makes the film feel structurally similar to the comic books that inspired it. Many crossover events in Marvel and DC Comics will have a prologue comic that sets everything up for what comes next. It serves as a good way of establishing the premise and the stakes of what’s about to happen before diving into the meat of the story. The fact that the film follows this narrative framework also hints at how the movie’s structured. Across the Spiderverse is, for all intents and purposes, a comic book crossover/miniseries in animated form, which only enhances its narrative.
Gwen Starts to Crack Under the Stress
Lastly, the prologue gives us a better look at Gwen Stacy, one of my favorite characters from the first film. For the longest time, Gwen Stacy got to being Spider-Man’s friend or love interest, who met a tragic end. It wasn’t until recent years that an alternate version of her became a Spider hero, bringing her back into the spotlight. I enjoy seeing her have this rebirth and come into her own as a hero. Sadly, as we learned in the first film, this cost her her best friend, Peter, and the unknowing enmity of her Dad, who’s convinced Spider-Woman killed him. It’s bad enough that she already feels guilty for not realizing Peter got bullied so bad he thought turning into the Lizard was the only way to fix things; a way to make her feel more guilty, Captain Stacy!
All this stress comes to a head in the prologue when Gwen can’t take it anymore and breaks that cardinal rule of being a Spider-Hero: she reveals her identity to her Dad. And Captain Stacy reacts in the worst way possible by still trying to arrest her for something she didn’t even do. She’s so heartbroken by this that when Miguel O’Hara and the Spider Society leave to bring Vulture back to his reality, she goes with them. Thus, Across the Spiderverse begins in earnest.
The Pressure’s Starting to Get to Miles, too.
Back in Miles’ world, he’s been Spider-Man for about a year-and-a-half now, and he’s gotten good at it. He’s fighting his own villains, becoming popular in New York, and perfecting his powers. Everything’s come up for Miles…except it isn’t. He’s starting to deal with the downsides of being Spider-Man.
Like many other incarnations of the hero, Miles struggles to balance his life as a superhero with his life as himself, and it shows. His grades start slipping; he’s making excuses to his parents that he can’t explain; and worst of all, he can’t forget the other Spiders. It’s even shown that his motivation for school is to become a scientist so he can find a way to reunite with them since he thinks they’re the only ones who can understand his plight.
If you know Spider-Man, then you know that the role’s both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the powers are incredible, and you get to save countless people. On the other hand, it hampers their ability to enjoy life. I know it’s written that way to help make Spider-Man feel relatable to people in the real world.
Having a hero who’s imperfect and makes mistakes makes him all the more inspiring; that’s how it’s always been. However, after seeing the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home, I started to doubt that. I mean, MCU Peter did so much to help save his universe, and he wound up more alone than ever. It gets to the point where the concept of having Peter endure tragedy starts to seem cruel. And as we see in the film, as Miles leaves his Earth behind, the young hero refuses to accept that.
They Took a D-Rank Villain and Made him Terrifying.
Another big thing to discuss is one of the leading big bad of the film, the Spot. In the comics, the Spot’s someone with the power to generate portals on his body that he can use to teleport anywhere. It’s a useful power in the right hands, but the Spot’s so inept he’s treated like a joke. And while he initially gets treated the same way in the film, that proves to be a huge mistake.
For one thing, the Spot holds a massive grudge against Miles. He was one of the Alchemax scientists working on the Kingpin’s collider, and its destruction turned him into this grotesque freak of nature and ruined his life. So, he’s got natural beef with Spider-Man and wants to be taken seriously, but he gets written off as “villain of the week.” He’s not happy about that; remember, he was a scientist. So when he figures out he can use his powers to travel across the multiverse, he uses them to their full potential.
As the film progresses across the multiverse, we see the Spot unleash the true force of his powers, and it’s terrifying. He continues to gain more control as he goes, and as he does so, he becomes progressively less human. It gets to the point where, by the film’s end, he’s animated as this black-and-white, demonic-looking entity. That’s the kind of thing that could give most people nightmares!
The story’s moral here is that, in the hands of skilled writers, even a character treated like a joke can become something downright terrifying. People working on future superhero movies should take notes on this! This is how you make a good villain!
The Spider Society: Ultimate Fanservice or Heroes with a Dark Side?
Once the film leaves Miles’ Earth behind and travels across the multiverse, we finally see the Spider Society in full force. The results are both fantastic and also concerning.
Firstly, the fantastic and spectacular parts of the Spider Society. Formed by Miguel O’Hara after the events of the first film, they’re dedicated to keeping the peace across the multiverse, or spiderverse, and it includes Spider-People from almost every incarnation of the character’s decades-long history. There are plenty of original versions, but the best part is that we see the return of many past incarnations that fans have met. For instance, we get a quick cameo from the Insomniac Games version of Peter Parker at one point. At another point, we get a line from the Spider-Man from The Spectacular Spider-Man TV show that aired on Kids WB and later Disney XD. This is the first time in years that fans have seen these characters’ versions, and it serves as some great easter eggs.
The Spider Society’s job of protecting the multiverse consists of two main goals: retrieving anomalies and protecting the canon. As it turns out, Kingpin’s collider wound up shunting people all over the multiverse, with many of them being villains who wreak havoc, like Renaissance Vulture. They have to round them up and return them to their worlds to keep the spiderverse from breaking further. It seems like a noble goal, and it is. However, as Miles quickly learns, there’s also a darker aspect. A part of that involves the factor of being Spider-Man that fans prefer to refrain from actively thinking about.
If You Let Bad Things Happen on Purpose, Are You Still a Hero?
For sixty years, the history of Spider-Man has been one of triumph and tragedy. Tragedy was why Spider-Man became a superhero in the first place; that doesn’t change across every incarnation. First, they lose a loved one who inspires them to be heroes. Then, they end up losing another loved one, which makes them further commit to being a hero for the good of all. That’s how it always seems to go, and fans seem to accept that. But Across the Spiderverse plays with this trope and deconstructs it. It makes us look at something we’ve taken as a fact of being Spider-Man and ask, “Does it really have to be?”
As Miles discovers what the Spider Society already knows, there are immutable, fixed events in each of their histories. One of them is losing a friend on the police force, someone who’s either related to them or related to a loved one. And when Miles travels to Spider-Man: India’s world, he ends up saving the father of India Spidey’s girlfriend, who happens to be a Police Captain. That…wasn’t supposed to happen, though. Later, Miguel O’Hara tells Miles that doing things like that goes against the established canon of being Spider-Man, and could lead to events that could destroy an entire universe. We’ve seen it before in Marvel’s What If…? with Doctor Strange, and it could happen to them, too.
Miles Refuses to Fall in Line
As Miles realizes, that means that the same thing will happen to his father, whose about to become a Police Captain, in two days. The Spot will attack, and his Dad will end up dying. He rightfully wants to prevent that from happening, but almost everyone else in the Spider Society won’t allow him to return home to stop it. Not Gwen, and not even Peter B. Parker, his mentor! They accept it as a cost of being Spider-Man, even though they hate it. Miguel refuses to let it happen because he tried defying a canon event, and it destroyed an alternate version of his reality.
On the other hand, Miles refuses to accept this and attempts to defy his so-called fate. And you know what? He’s right to do so.
A Spider-Man that Goes Against the Grain
There have been hints of it sprinkled across this, and the previous film, but this version of Miles Morales might be different from other incarnations of Spider-Man. As it turns out, there’s a reason for all of this, one that Spider-Man 2099 brutally reveals. The spider that gave him his powers wasn’t from his world but one Alchemax brought from another universe. As a result, that universe never got its Spider-Man, while the Peter Park of Miles’ world died protecting Miles. Simply put, Miles Morales was never meant to become Spider-Man. He’s an anomaly that Miguel wants to fall in line with, or he’ll correct it himself.
At this point, Miguel’s dangerously close to being a villain, or at least someone who, despite saying he is, isn’t a good guy. He’s willingly allowing bad things to happen to other people because he thinks it’s the only way to keep the multiverse intact, but he’s letting his past trauma cloud his judgment. If Miles is an anomaly, who’s to say his story will turn out like every other Spider-Man? He could end up being the one version of Spider-Man that can break the canon, and maybe that “canon” isn’t as set in stone as Miguel thinks.
This isn’t mere wishful thinking, either. When Miguel banishes Gwen back to her world for standing up for Miles, she returns home to find her Dad a wreck. More to the point, though, she discovers that, having had time to cool off, he realizes he can’t arrest his daughter. So, he quit his job as a police captain. As a result, he could avert what was supposed to be his canon death. To Gwen, this is proof that Miguel might be wrong. That the Spider-People can change their fate.
An Epic Cliffhanger and Uncertain Future
Sadly, we won’t know whether or not Miles can change his story since the movie ends on a cliffhanger. However, before the film ends, it also shows the consequences of what could happen when going against the “canon.” When Miles thinks he’s returned to his own world in time to save his Dad, he learns that, to his horror, he ended up on the wrong planet. He got sent to the dimension where the spider that gave him his powers came from, which was a nightmare.
His Uncle’s still alive in this world, but New York’s controlled by criminals, and his Dad is dead. Worse, this world’s Miles has taken up the mantle of the Prowler. Meanwhile, Gwen, now fully against Miguel’s ruthless actions, forms her own team of Spider-People made up of allies made in the films to find Miles and help him. And that’s where the movie leaves off.
I usually don’t like cliffhangers, but this might be an exception to that rule. When the credits started to roll, I couldn’t stop clapping and cheering, and neither could the audience around me. This was such a huge twist! Such a fantastic story and an amazing ending!
Pushing Spider-Man to New Heights
I already said it in my spoiler-free review, but Across the Spiderverse did the impossible. It took everything good about Into the Spiderverse and cranked it up to eleven. I was practically on cloud nine as I drove home! The best part is that we can learn what happens next quickly. The next film, Beyond the Spiderverse, is set to come out in March 2024. And given what the thousand+ people who made this film did, I’m hoping the finale will be one for the history books. Spiderverse has changed the game for animation, and the world’s all the better for it. I can already see it winning many Oscars next year, and I hope the sequel is even better.
What do you guys think, though? Is this one of the greatest films ever made? Is anything worth nitpicking about it? Let me know in the comments below.