A star rating of 5 out of 5.

One of the great animated movies of the past decade, 2018’s Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse rebooted the story of Marvel’s wall-crawler in unimaginably brilliant and inventive ways. The focus wasn’t Peter Parker, but Brooklyn high-school kid Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), who was similarly bitten by a radioactive spider and developed arachnid-like powers, only to discover there was a whole universe of Spidey incarnations out there. Cracking open the multiverse before Doctor Strange and others, it more than merited its Oscar for Best Animated Feature. They couldn’t do it again, could they?


Happily, they have. Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is a giant amongst animated sequels. Think of Toy Story 2 or Finding Dory or The Incredibles 2 – this tops them all. As emotional as it is funny, as balmy as it is serious, this follow-up reunites us with Miles just over a year on from Into The Spider-Verse. All the multiverse manipulation in that has left a gaping hole in the universe, causing all manner of strange occurrences, not least the arrival of The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), a wannabe villain from Miles’ past who is desperate to be taken seriously as his nemesis.

A rather hapless criminal – "I’m like Robin Hood, if he gave to himself," he claims, as he fails to rob a convenience store ATM machine – The Spot has black holes all over him that can be thrown down to create portals. At first he seems them as a curse, but gradually he learns to use this unique ability. Foolishly brushing him off, Miles is more concerned about placating his parents (Brian Tyree Henry, Luna Lauren Vélez) who are fretting about his grades, which have taken a dive since he’s been secretly crime-fighting as Spider-Man.

Also back is Miles’ love interest Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld), who first appears in the film’s huge pre-credits sequence. She’s met other Spideys, including the super-cool Jessica Drew (Issa Rae), a pregnant African-American Spider-Woman, and Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), aka Spider-Man 2099, the leader of the Spider-Society, a group assembled to protect the multiverse. This being Gwen, she immediately mocks the po-faced O’Hara, calling him "Dark Garfield", as he arrives to help expel Vulture – a winged Renaissance-era creature (beautifully designed, Leonardo DaVinci-style) that’s popped through the space-time continuum.

Eventually, Gwen pulls Miles into this world, with a trip to Mumbattan to meet Spider-Man India (Karan Soni), who likes nothing better than correcting Westerners on phrases like ‘Chai tea’ (you’re saying "tea tea", he cries). Then there’s musician/political activist Hobie (Daniel Kaluuya), aka Spider-Punk, who looks like he’s been ripped from the pages of a Sex Pistols fanzine. And, yes, Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), who fans will remember from Into The Spider-Verse, returns with a super-cute addition to his life. And yet this is just scratching the surface of a film jam-packed with incident and characters.

Scripted by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie), who are joined by David Callaham (Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings), the film has a new trio of directors on board: Justin K Thompson (the production designer on Into The Spider-Verse) and animation veteran Joaquim Dos Santos and Kemp Powers (Soul). Thankfully, the Lord-Miller brand of irreverent humour remains from and centre, while the exhilarating blend of animation styles (from water colours to stop-motion to the original Grantray-Lawrence animated Spider-Man series) feel mesmerising.

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Some may carp that Across The Spider-Verse is a Part 1, leaving narrative threads hanging to be resolved with 2024’s forthcoming Beyond The Spider-Verse. But with the sheer invention going on here, it’s hard to be churlish. A film with some major revelations that deepen your feelings towards the characters, as it tears apart the Marvel universe as if it were an animated Being John Malkovich, this is simply a mind-boggling, untouchable achievement. No live-action superhero movie comes near it.

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Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is in cinemas from 2nd June. Visit our Film hub for more new and features, or find something to watch with our TV Guide and Streaming Guide.

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