This is one of the best movies of the year. Not simply the best superhero/comic book movie, but one of the best of the entire year. I highly recommend “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”
Now to the review. This is the second of the Miles Morales/Spider-Man movies. In the first film, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” we are introduced to Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a Latinx teenager living in Brooklyn.
Miles was bitten by a radioactive spider from another universe, and he becomes his universe’s Spider-Man. This is important because every universe and timeline has its own Spider-Man or Spider-Woman.
The movie begins with Gwen Stacy, (Hailee Steinfeld) who is Spider-Woman in her universe. We met Gwen in the first movie. She gets caught up in dealing with a villain from another century, which brings into her universe Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) and another Spider-Woman (Issa Rae).
They are part of a task force that keeps things in order throughout the timeline. Keeping order through the timeline is something that many of the multi-verse movies are doing now.
They take care of the villain and invite Gwen to join the task force. This gives her the ability to move through different universes.
Next comes Miles’ encounter with a villain named Spot (Jason Schwartzman). Spot is literally a person that is made up of spots or holes that act as portals. He can place a spot on a place and reach into it and come out in a completely different place.
We first encounter Spot when he is trying to rob an ATM in a store, and Miles comes in as Spider-Man to stop him. Spot manages to get away, but not before telling Miles’ that he is his nemesis – the ultimate villain to this Spider-Man.
This film shows the consequences of what happens when two super humans get into a fight. This fight brings Mile’s father, Lieutenant Jeff Morales (Bryan Tyree Henry), to the scene, and the two of them have a conversation about the challenges he is facing in raising Miles. Lieut. Morales does not know his son is Spider-Man.
The angst of family issues is a key part of this and all the Spider-Man mythos. It does not matter who is the Spider-Person in a universe, they all have family issues and inter-personal problems. Miles’ biggest problem is he has no friends in his universe. His only friend is Gwen Stacey in the other universe. The two met in the first film.
A problem occurs when Gwen comes back to Mile’s universe. She is sent to investigate what the Spot is doing but ends up with Miles. As a result, events transpire that were not supposed to happen, including Miles going through the portal to another universe and encountering another Spider-Man.
This sets up the greatest tension of the movie: Miles being Spider-Man in his universe was an accident. The Spider-Man of that universe died in the first movie, and Miles takes up the mantle, making him an anomaly to that universe.
Spider-Man 2099 sees Miles as a risk to the whole Spider-Verse. The reason is simple: Miles will not allow the “canon events” that are to take place to occur.
Canon events happen to each Spider-Person, usually the loss of a loved one, making them more deeply the hero they are to be. Miles rebels against the order of how things are supposed to play out, and this makes him a perceived threat to all in the Spider-Verse.
This whole idea that things are predestined is a part of the struggle that humans have spoken of for hundreds of years. The notion that everything in life is to play out a certain way and there is no free will has been debated forever.
The basis of the crisis in the film is the fact that something is supposed to happen, that it is literally planned, and no one should attempt to stop it. All is set in stone and cannot be changed. Change will disrupt the very fabric of the universe.
In the Baptist understanding of how this works, we have held that things are not set in stone. We have the right to choose, and our choices make up the totality of our lives. This idea has been challenged by some who hold that things are set in stone.
Spider-Man 2099’s belief that you must let things play out like they are planned hit me, and my thought was, “But where is God in this multi-verse?”
It would seem there is no divine presence and that everything must go a certain way for the universe to continue. That ends up saying to those viewing that there is no real hope here.
Yes, I know this is a secular story. God is not part of the storytelling in this kind of a movie. Yet, I see in its execution the opportunity for discussion.
Are we alone in the story of our lives and have no choice but to live it out as presented? Or do we have a choice? And is there someone who would welcome being part of the choices we make?
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of animated action violence, some language and thematic elements.
Writers: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller and Dave Callahan
Directors: Joaquin Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson
Cast: Shameik Moore: Miles Morales; Hailee Steinfeld: Gwen Stacy; Brian Tyree Henry: Jeff Morales; Luna Lauren Velez: Rio Morales; Oscar Isaac: Spider-Man 2099; Issa Rae: Spider-Woman; Jason Schwartzman: Spot.
The movie’s website is here.
Pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.