Almost half a decade since the trailblazing, multiracial animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” clinched an Oscar, an even more audacious sequel is set to push the limits between superhero films and arthouse cinema.
Set to release in the US this Friday, “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” reprises the journey of Miles Morales, a character with both Black and Latino heritage. The film leverages a visually striking blend of vintage 2D comic book artistry and cutting-edge computer-generated effects.
The plot unfolds across multiple parallel universes, each portrayed with a distinctive animated aesthetic, ranging from a grunge-styled 90s New York to a vibrant, futuristic mashup of Mumbai and Manhattan.
The movie breaks norms with three directors, over a thousand artists, and a runtime of 140 minutes – rather lengthy for an animated film.
According to the creators, the positive reception of the first film – boasting a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest for a superhero movie – inspired them to take even bolder steps in the sequel. Co-director Justin K. Thompson sees it as the “world’s biggest independent film” cleverly veiled as a superhero movie.
Introduced to comic readers in 2011, Morales gained mainstream fame with “Into the Spider-Verse,” winning the Academy Award for best-animated feature in 2019. Like Peter Parker, he gains his powers from a radioactive spider bite. However, his diverse roots and affinity for modern sneakers and hip-hop make him distinct.
The story hinges on the “multiverse” concept, where various iterations of characters exist and interact in parallel dimensions, a staple in comic books for decades and increasingly popular in Hollywood.
Co-producer Christopher Miller expressed surprise at the audience’s readiness to embrace the multiverse concept in the first film, allowing the sequel to venture into more fantastic realms and introduce even more diverse characters.
The sequel’s intricate dimension-shifting storyline and extended length have raised eyebrows. While it is common for adult dramas like Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” or Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” to run beyond three hours, such length is rare for US animated features. This film is also the first of two sequels, with “Beyond the Spider-Verse” slated to wrap up the storyline next year.
The filmmakers, however, reject the idea that animation should be confined to a shorter format, citing that character-building scenes from the first movie were among the most appreciated. They believe the film’s special moments come from a balance of highs and lows. Co-director Kemp Powers jokingly adds that six hours might be excessive, though.