After years of anticipation, critics have finally gotten their first look at Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023). And the reactions are much stronger than expected.
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Spider-Man has always been one of the most consistently successful comic book heroes of all time. Not only was he wildly popular in comics, but he inspired numerous successful animated television shows, some of the greatest video games ever made (including the upcoming Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 on the PS5), and even a Broadway musical that was… alright, that was a disaster and actually resulted in half a dozen actors getting injured.
But your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has seen most of his success in a different kind of theater: the movie theater. Since the early 2000s, there have been three different live-action film franchises built around the web-slinger, each starring Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland respectively as Peter Parker. Each is beloved in its own way and stands out from the others.
However, the best Spider-Man movie is easily Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018). Helmed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, the same guys behind Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) and The LEGO Movie (2014), Into The Spider-Verse is simultaneously emotionally stimulating and visually stunning, earning the movie the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Into The Spider-Verse follows Miles Morales as he develops his Spider-Man abilities and meets other Spider-People across Multiverseerse. It includes fantastic voice performances by Shameik Moore as Miles Morales, Jake Johnson as Peter B. Parker, Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, John Mulaney as Peter Porker/Spider-Pig, Kimiko Glenn as Peni Parker, and Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir.
The film is the most critically well-received superhero movie of all time, with a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics and fans alike have been waiting for the sequel, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023), for five years. Looking at the critic reviews for it; one thing remains consistent. Across The Spider-Verse is not as good as Into The Spider-Verse. It’s somehow better.
‘Across The Spider-Verse’ “Puts Every Other Superhero Movie To Shame”
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That’s right. The sequel to what many critics considered the most excellent superhero movie ever made is somehow even better. From what critics have said so far, everything that worked in the first movie was taken and amped up perfectly, all while adding an extra layer of emotional depth.
So let’s take a look at the specific things called out by a majority of critics, including its improvement over the original, the incredible artistry, a bigger and more empathetic role for Hailee Steinfeld’s Gwen Stacy, and the fact that it just might be the best movie of 2023.
It’s Better Than ‘Into The Spider-Verse’
Laura Sirikul from Nerds of Color felt that it was impossible to overhype the film, noting in a reply to her initial Tweet that she wanted to see it again immediately.
“OMG… Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is mind-blowing. The animation, the writing, the music, and everything is simply amazing. I’m not even overhyping it. It deserves the hype. OMG… they did it again”
Ashley Saunders from Comic Book Resources had one of the giddiest reviews, scoping in on the level of excitement maintained throughout the entire film.
“Across The Spider-Verse is EVERYTHING! The animation is next level, every spidey is perfect, the surprises are insanely epic, & the music is fire. You’ll be on the edge of your seat bc this ride is wild. It feels so good 2 back in the Spider-Verse!”
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Yahoo Entertainment’s Kevin Polowy was beyond surprised at how good both movies were, let alone the second one being even better than the first.
“It’s honestly absurd how good the Spider-Verse movies are. Across the Spider-Verse is just as great, if not better, than Into the Spider-Verse. I really don’t know how.”
However, the sequel’s success in improving on perfection was best summed up by Tessa Smith from Mama’s Geeky, who warned audiences to get their expectations in check.
“Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse raised the bar with its unique animation style & way of storytelling. Minds were blown when it was released & fans thought there was no way it could be topped. Think again. Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse raises its own bar, which seemed impossible.”
The Film is a Visual Masterpiece
Steven Weintraub from Collider said that he kept wanting to stop the movie. While this typically means that you didn’t enjoy what was happening, he just wanted to absorb every single frame of animation.
“Absolutely loved Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse. Wanted to push pause about a hundred times to study the incredible artistry on display. Cannot recommend this film enough, and already looking forward to seeing it again. Next time in IMAX!”
The hype was real for Joe Deckelmeier from ScreenRant, who couldn’t stop gushing about how gorgeous the movie was. He also made sure to note that even though it was a sequel, Across The Spider-Verse had plenty of surprises.
“The hype is real! Every frame of Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse is gorgeous. I didn’t want to blink because I didn’t want to miss anything. You can watch this film over & over & finds something new to enjoy. There are some surprises in this film that I truly wasn’t expecting.”
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TheWrap’s Drew Taylor commended the visual achievements of the film and the realms in particular, but also loved the emotion demonstrated in the movie.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a stunning achievement. Yes, it’s visually dazzling, with expansive, expressive new realms (Gwen’s world is my favorite). But the movie’s real superpower is its emotional depth and its beautiful, melancholic tone. I love this movie so, so much.”
Some of the highest praise came from Sean O’Connell from CinemaBlend, who went so far as to say that the movie is more than a masterpiece. It’s a work of art that deserves to be put in a museum and cherished for generations.
“OK. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse lives one step above Masterpiece. It’s an actual work of art. Every frame deserves to be hung in a museum. The jokes and nods to Spidey lore are perfect. It’s OUTSTANDING. The best Spider-Man movie. Might be my favorite movie ever. Cherish it.”
Gwen Stacy Plays a Much Bigger Role
ComicBook.com’s Aaron Perine was all in on the movie’s leads and greatly admired the amount of heart shown.
“Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse lives up to the hype in every conceivable way! Miles Morales absolutely shines in his second Marvel movie adventure. Gwen Stacy takes her place at the head of this table too. Tons of heart on display in every corner of this one.”
Andrew Salazar from Discussing Film compared the sequel to the original, saying that while the excellent animation was expected, the deeper emotional layers for Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy took it to another level.
“Across the Spider-Verse is yet another milestone for animation. Yes, it’s gorgeous & visually mind-blowing, but this sequel surpasses the first for always putting Miles AND his family front and center. Spider-Gwen also rightfully steps deeper into the spotlight, co-owning the film.”
While Eric Goldman from Fandom loved how the movie found a balance between easter eggs and heartfelt character moments, especially when it came to Gwen Stacy.
“I am very happy to say that Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is fantastic! Deftly juggles deeply heartfelt character beats with crazy Multiverse content just packed with so many delightful Easter eggs. Loved how Gwen’s story is expanded. Can’t wait for the third one.”
Brian Davids from The Hollywood Reporter was particularly fond of Hailee Steinfeld’s performance as Gwen Stacy, especially when it came to her relationship with her father, Captain Stacy.
“Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is yet another resounding win for the Lord Miller-produced universe. Hailee Steinfeld really comes into her own as Gwen Stacy and her scenes with Shea Whigham’s Captain Stacy are truly special. It’s darker and sadder than I expected, but necessary.”
‘Across The Spider-Verse’ is the Best Superhero Movie (and Film, Period) of 2023
Brandon Davis from ComicBook.com was impressed that Across The Spider-Verse was leagues ahead of the MCU and even James Gunn’s favorite movie of 2023, The Flash (2023) when it came to multiversal storytelling.
“What the Spider-Verse movies are doing with their Multiverse storytelling visually and thematically is putting every other superhero movie’s attempts to shame, with The Flash being the closest second but still behind it.”
Davis continued to say that he was blown away that movie could be this good and still not have a definitive ending since the sequel is supposed to release next year. Davis specifically referred to the film as, “a stunning achievement.”
“Across the Spider-Verse is simply an incredible accomplishment. It’s stunning but also very much an unfinished story by its end. Visually, it’s such a stunning achievement. It’s everything a Spider-Man fan could ask for and much more. So good, it’s hard to believe it exists.”
Andrew Salazar analyzed the film even further, loving the fact that even though there were a ton of references to the source material and lots of in-jokes, none of it came at the expense of the story, unlike a certain film involving a beloved Italian plumber.
“This feels like a massive celebration for Spider-Man fans everywhere, whether you love the movies, games, comics, etc. But again, all the cameos and multiversal elements come SECOND to both Miles and Gwen’s story. For my money, this could be the best comic-book movie of 2023.”
Jake Hamilton from ReelBlend loved Across The Spider-Verse so much that he compared it to The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the sequel to the original Star Wars (1977) that many consider to be the best film in the franchise. And you can tell he stood by that sentiment because he shared a poster for the film covered with his praise.
“The moment Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse ended, I knew I’d experienced a cinematic moment I’d cherish forever. If Into is A New Hope, this is Empire – darker, more powerful, and better in every way. It’s going to be a LONG wait until March ’24. HOW DOES THIS MOVIE EXIST?!”
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However, the most heart-warming sentiment comes from Coy Jandreau from The Reel Rejects, who said that the movie perfectly captured the same emotion and energy as comics. He even went on to say that it was “one of the best films [he had] ever experienced.”
“Across The Spider-Verse is the reason I love comics. It’s hugely impactful It can only truly be told in this medium. It’s drama & comedy and action and spectacle with the most heart I can imagine put into two hours. Call me hyperbolic, one of the best films I have ever experienced.”
So… It Looks Like ‘Across The Spider-Verse’ is Pretty Good. What Next?
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So it’s clear that critics found Across The Spider-Verse enjoyable. Ok, they absolutely fell in love with it. But what does that mean for the Empire Strikes Back of animated superhero movies?
The original was a massive success at the box office, bringing in around $385 million on a $90 million budget. That’s incredible, but nothing compared to Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) which made almost $2 billion, or The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) which has surpassed $1 billion and seems to be breaking records every week.
That being said, there is something to be said about artistry. And when it comes down to which of these movies has the most artistic merit, it seems pretty obvious which one will stick in the minds of movie lovers for years to come.
How excited are you for Across The Spider-Verse? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!