Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse review — a gorgeous sequel that flies by

Sony's animated Spider-Man sequel raises the bar for animation and packs rich multiverse storytelling.

Spider-Man in Across the Spider-Verse.
(Image: © Sony)

What to Watch Verdict

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a filling visual feast that addresses the density of multiversal storytelling head-on, with minor issues in a third act that's all setup.


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    Next-level animation

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    Pacing is a full-out sprint

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    Loves meta humor but doesn't get lost in its usage

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    Funny, thrilling and sincere


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    A less successful cliffhanger ending

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    Has so much story to tell, which can be overwhelming

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse follows flawless series opener Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with a fearlessness fit for Miles Morales' glass-shattering leap of faith — albeit a blatant trilogy midpoint. 

The movie's animation somehow evolves into an even more visually stunning display of astonishingly individualistic Spider-Verses, making sights worth the price of admission alone. What's less successful is the multiverse storytelling that attempts to focus on both Morales and Gwen Stacy's separate then overlapping journeys, culminating in a third act that doesn't really get going before credits' cliffhanger finish. Although, "less successful" is nowhere near "failure" or even "mediocrity." Its finale issues avoid nearing the egregious franchise soullessness of, say, Fast X

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a dazzling sequel to what's shaping into a stupendous Spider-Man run of movies, revolutionizing computer-animated filmmaking with each miraculously pixelated millisecond.

Screenwriters Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and David Callaham embrace the daunting weight of multiverse storytelling through Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) and Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld). Fifteen-year-old Miles is poorly trying to balance his secret identity as Spider-Man with being a teenager still coming of age. Gwen Stacy, meanwhile, is recruited into a universe-hopping team of Spider-People known as the Spider-Society, led by Miguel O'Hara, aka Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac). They are tasked with fixing anomalies created by the first movie's multiverse rifts. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ultimately sees Miles joins Gwen on her latest mission to defeat a foe covered in interdimensional portals dubbed The Spot (Jason Schwartzman), complete with the deepest meta-storytelling cuts.

The animation under directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson is nothing short of revolutionary. The representation of different multiversal animation styles "clashing" at once is remarkably attractive and artistically hypnotic. It goes beyond Looney Tooney Spider-Ham, black and white Spider-Man Noir and anime Peni Parker sharing the screen. Gwen's Earth-65 as a rich tapestry of moody pastel watercolor strokes, a quill-drawn Vulture (Jorma Taccone) from Leonardo da Vinci's Renaissance doodles, and Earth-50101's Mumbai variation on New York City — aka Mumbattan — are distinctively designed to juxtapose with harsh differentiation. That's what makes the blended majesty that spills like runny paint colors mixing on an artist's palette so impressive, highlighting an unlimited amount of stimulating illustration approaches.

There aren't enough compliments to pay lead animator Nick Kondo and his entire creative workforce. Every Spider-Person stands out with meticulous craftsmanship based on style preferences. Vivid colorization puts 4K to shame as pop-art bursts or cell shading cuts razor-sharp outlines, and the calamity of multiverse heroes crammed into single frames never overwhelms. 

Anarchistic Spider-Punk (Daniel Kaluuya) feels collaged together by newspaper and magazine clippings alongside traditionally comic-book Spider-Man India (Karan Soni), all detailed with the same jaw-dropping level of ingenuity, whether non-traditional computer animation or hyper-realized figure details. We've reached a milestone moment for animated features, as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse just changed the game with a feast for the eyeballs.

Spider-Man 2099/Miguel O'Hara (Oscar Isaac) in costume running towards the camera

Spider-Man 2099/Miguel O'Hara in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Image credit: Sony Pictures)

The movie's action sequences zip and dash with exceptional fluidity, made more interesting as not only heroes and villains collide, but their appearances. Vulture's antique notebook paper bombs versus Spider-Man 2099's red laser web beams contrast with emphasis, infinitely extrapolated when Miles flees the Spider-Society's never-ending ranks in futuristic Marvel 2099 land — where the likes of Peter Parkedcar, Spider-Rex and Spider-Cat stampede in pursuit. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse briskly thrills as fight sequences switch from acid-washed to hand-painted to live-action without sinking momentum, stressing a premium on Miles and Gwen's infectious energy. There's no shortage of high-flying, death-defying, pure-adrenaline superhero goodness that you'd expect from a Spider-Man movie where Miles finds himself in constant danger.

Lord, Miller and Callaham get cleverly meta by turning Spider-Man's canon backstory tragedies into Miles' ongoing lesson about wanting to save everyone, and there's proper development going on with Miles' inability to confess his Spider-persona to moms and pops (Luna Lauren Vélez and Brian Tyree Henry). Plus, new additions like the rebellious agent of chaos Spider-Punk and Peter B. Parker's (Jake Johnson) web-slinging toddler "Mayday" Parker are righteous recruits to the cast.

Where Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse falters is in later structure and storytelling ambitions. Without getting too spoilery, the third act ends on a setup reveal more than a rewarding culmination — an unfortunate symptom of franchise filmmaking. Yet in teeing up an ultimate battle to come in the next movie, it betrays the completeness of the film, slamming into a wall instead.

Thankfully, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has far more to offer, from awards-worthy visions of bustling Spider-Verses to a dominant sense of humor full of comic savvy and meme-worthy in-jokes, letting the movie never feel over two hours. It's guilty of exiting stage-left at the height of excitement but also knocks multiple other elements out of the park. With more Spider-People than 20 San Diego Comic-Con cosplay contests and animation that's obscenely accomplished beyond what was thought to be a reasonable ceiling, Miles Morales' adventure into multiverses of madness is a must-see summer blockbuster.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse releases in movie theaters everywhere on Friday, June 2.

Matt Donato

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.