Mucking with Movies: ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse’
A Successful Sequel, An Unfortunate Universe
Mucking with Movies
The anticipation for “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” has been building for half a decade — through a presidential cycle, a pandemic, and most newsworthy, my college graduation.
Still, somehow, amazingly, it did not underwhelm. The animation is the best I’ve ever seen — the first comic book movie that actually looks like a comic. Never a dull color and as if somebody ripped pages straight out the book, threw them on the big screen, and started fluttering through them rapidly. If they put speech bubbles in there with the dialogue, I wouldn’t have even blinked. It would have fit right in.
The explanation for timeline jumping is about as understandable as it could have been with all that’s going on. The writers and directors have opened up their brains and dumped their imaginations all over the screen, using source material while providing their own terrific twist.
Universes possess their unique look while still managing to fit inside the overall aesthetic. Three different Manhattan skylines all look better than the real Manhattan skyline, and that’s not just because the real Manhattan skyline looks like a broken snow globe. The designs vary from magical realism to Picasso-like surrealism to a candy-coated, cyberpunk world. American cartoon movies of the past 10 years, including this one, have aped what foreign anime have been doing forever, experimenting with animation while Trojan horsing adult themes into childish settings.
There are problems, of course, but they are mostly due to it being swollen from weighted obligations. Most issues emerge in the third act, where the delicate chainsaw juggling between the aforementioned universes finally loses its rhythm. About 15 different endings make the whole thing feel 15 minutes too long.
The directors — Joaquin Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin Thompson — are burdened with the futile effort of trying to conclude all the ensemble’s arcs while simultaneously working to set up the sequel. And that makes me sad. It is a disservice to audience and artists, alike. Waiting all these years for an honest payoff in the world of franchises is like waiting for a sunny day in this rainy spring.
We are all stuck being fed into this insatiable yearning, yawning maw of modern content creation. It’s hard to hold it too hard against this flick specifically because almost everybody does it. Credit is due, too, for smoothly loading in all these nifty, viral-baiting Easter eggs that cover the spectrum of comics, video games, and movies.
Each audience member gets to walk away touched with personal sentimentalism. Mine was the cowboy-themed Webslinger and his trusty steed Spider-Horse because I’m a sucker for Westerns. My movie-going buddy Matt’s favorite was the sentient Spiderman automobile Peter Parked car because he’s a gear head.
Spider-man isn’t like Superman, Batman, or Ironman, where you have to be an alien or wealthy or a genius. You just have to be a human being. Or a horse or a car, I guess. All you have to be is an autonomous, living thing that gets crawled across by a weird spider. Our heroics could happen in a bite’s time. Go see the movie, and remind yourself.
Jack Simon is a mogul coach and writer/director who enjoys eating food he can’t afford, traveling to places out of his budget, and creating art about skiing, eating, and traveling while broke. Check out his website jacksimonmakes.com to see his Jack’s Jitney travelogue series or email him at email@example.com for inquiries of any type.