Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Guest Post: Spider-Man Across the Spider-Verse (2023)




Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Suffers from Middle Child Syndrome

 

By Jonas Schwartz-Owen

 

 

The original Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse from 2019 delighted in blowing audiences' minds. The animation was revolutionary for a major film studio, even if they borrowed from tried-and-true Asian tropes. So, it's not surprising that audiences went crazy for the second in the Spider-Verse trilogy, as the box office receipts of $663 million internationally in less than three months prove. Even though most critics had much to crow about, this critic (who was dazzled by the first film) found this one whiplash-inducing, with most of the animation an off-shoot of what was so magical the first time. Plotwise — a downside of some penultimates in a trilogy — the film takes too much time maneuvering all the characters into position for the upcoming climactic final episode: Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse.

 

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) continues to navigate the life of a superhero, especially when his folks (Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Velez) are still in the dark. From another parallel world, Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) has joined a super society of Spideys, including Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) and leader Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac). Miles has been purposely banned from the group, and Gwen has already broken rules by remaining in touch. Meanwhile, a casualty from a Miles escape in the first film has built his shame into a rage, and is now Miles' arch-nemesis, Spot (Jason Schwartzman), who has the power to slip in and out of parallel worlds and is becoming more and more formidable. 


 

New directors to the franchise, Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson, overload the screen with images and plot details. The end result appears to be one TikTok colliding into another for 140 minutes. Many of the visuals of the different Spider-Verses — which include a Studio Durga influenced world, a character based on Jamie Reid's punk graphics for the Sex pistols, pastel worlds, Lego worlds, etc. — are all inventive, but not as much after watching that concept already in the first film. 

 

Miles's story arc is compelling, and one wishes the filmmakers had given it time to breathe. Having your life mission stripped away, and your calling invalidated is so relatable, as is being faced with how your actions do destroy whole worlds (metaphorically in real life, literally here). Miles is such a well-drawn (sorry for the pun) character that the movie could have lost a few bells and whistles and worked much better. So much information is constantly being thrown at the audience to prep them for the third film, that one eventually uninvests to protect their brain. 

 

The voice work is strong as always. Most of Miles' empathy with the audience is thanks to Moore's talent. Isaac is autocratic as the leader, while both Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya, as the punk infused Hobie Brown, and Karan Soni, as the heroic Indian Spidey, have hilarious line readings.

 

Writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, (this time with Dave Callaham as well) lend that spoofy energy they had to the first film and Tthe Lego Movie, which lends a breezy appeal.


 Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is an accomplished film, with creative energy to spare, however, there's a chaos that doesn't vibe with the flow of the film, that left this reviewer drowning in graphics instead of being sucked into a story

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