It is impossible to believe that the 2018 animated "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" could be improved upon. "Hold my web-shooter," says its sequel, the new "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse."
A lot of big words get thrown around in movie reviews, but I can confidently say this: I have never, ever seen a more visually ambitious movie - animated or otherwise - than "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse."
Go see it at all costs...it's one of the best, most crowd-pleasing films, of 2023.
The sheer ambition and achievement of this movie is nearly unfathomable. Even to me, a "movie guy" who reviews and watches films for a living, any single sequence from "Across the Spider-verse" seems miraculous, from concept to execution. How the heck did they come up with this? Who thinks of this? The first "Spider-verse" film was ground-breaking, but "Across the Spider-verse" somehow perfects and evolves the nonstop EXPLOSION of colors, action and controlled chaos that ends up blasting our eyeballs nonstop for over two hours.
There is a sort of hypnosis that sets in watching this, a wonderment of the senses. It's a technical masterpiece dripping with movie magic, and watching it feels as if a firehose of creative energy is being pointed and unloaded point-blank in our faces. It doesn't matter if there is anything in it that doesn't work. The audience is disarmed, all of our faculties numbed with pleasure and stimulation This must be what it feels like to take a transcendent acid trip.
Best of all, it isn't just visually stunning, it's endlessly witty, inventive and fun. I laughed more than I have at any other film so far this year. The plot - too insane to spoil here - manages to be both complex and easy-to-follow all wrapped into one. More than all of this, it contains heart, tapping into commonalities that we all share in regards to family, loss, friendship and love.
It's also as diverse as a movie can come, but never in a preachy or forced way. It's hard to imagine anyone not walking away having liked it...or even loved it.
A movie of this size, it's no surprise to find out that it has not one, not two, but THREE directors. What is almost breath-takingly surprising is that between the three of them, they have a total of one previous directing credit. Joaquim Dos Santos and Justin K. Thompson both have years of experience working in animation, with Thompson having been a production designer on the previous "Spider-verse" film. Only Kemp Powers, who directed Pixar's "Soul," has ever helmed a film before.
I'm not sure why parallel realities and multi-verses are so popular at the moment...the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes are heavily leaning into them...but the Spider-verse films are where it's at. This is how it's done, and let's hope some of its live-action counter-parts take note.
In interviewing director Guillermo del Toro last year for the astounding stop-motion achievement, "Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio," he made it a point over and over to stand up for animated films, not as simply a "genre" but as a structure of storytelling more powerful than live-action movies. "Across the Spider-verse" is another example of a film that - even in 2023 - would simply not be reachable by modern live-action technology.
I hope you go see "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse." In case you can't tell, I quite loved it...and days later, after scouring my mind, I couldn't think of a single thing I didn't like about it. Bravo, to one of the best films - animated or otherwise - of 2023.
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure.
Run Time: 2 hours 20 minutes.
Starring (voices of): Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Jake Johnson, Issa Rae, Brian Tyree Henry, Rachel Dratch, Daniel Kaluuya, Taran Killam, Andy Samberg, Jason Schwartzman, Amandla Stenberg, Luna Lauren Velez, Shea Whigham.
Written by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dave Callaham.
Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos (feature film debut), Kemp Powers ("Soul") and Justin K. Thompson (feature film debut).
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" is in theaters on Friday, June 2nd, 2023.
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