When both Homecoming, starring Tom Holland, and The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson, were released, I had a similar complaint for both films at different times: When you create duplicates of a character, you diminish its value. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man joined the Avengers storyline directly after Andrew Garfield’s series had not concluded. Robert Pattinson’s Batman, on the other hand, entered the scene while Ben Affleck’s Batman was still alive on screen. Currently, Marvel and DC may hide behind the excuse that these distinct characters belong to separate universes, but in reality, nothing has changed. Having multiple iterations of the same character diminishes their worth. Across the Spider-Verse, unfortunately, represents the culmination and perhaps the most fatal aspect of this devaluation trend.
Let’s briefly touch on the plot… Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) cannot focus on his personal life due to his time devoted to becoming Spider-Man. Balancing his pursuit of criminals in the neighborhood with the loneliness beneath the mask becomes a struggle. When he feels most isolated, Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) appears. However, Gwen’s arrival triggers the convergence of universes. She fails to apprehend the anomaly she was after and inadvertently creates an interdimensional chaos, pulling Miles into it.
Both the first and second films deviate significantly from the familiar animation style visually. The film closely resembles the texture of a comic book and offers splendid visuals throughout. There are no issues with the film’s design. In fact, there’s no problem with the story either. It maintains a continuous, engaging, and captivating narrative that keeps the audience hooked without ever becoming tiresome. Directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson have done a fantastic job. The film’s primary flaw lies not in its story but in the mistake it makes while executing the story into chaos. That mistake is the one I mentioned in the first paragraph – diminishing the character’s value.
I’m not well-versed in comic books. Whatever the producers present, I ignorantly watch, building upon what I’ve learned from the 30 Marvel films I’ve seen before. And that’s where the issue lies. This film showed me just how insignificant the Spider-Man character I’ve enjoyed watching up until now truly is. If we follow in the footsteps of Carl Sagan, yes, we are all insignificant specks of dust in the universe. However, that doesn’t have to be the case in cinema. When I saw hundreds of different Spider-Man iterations in the middle of the film, I lost some of my excitement for the movie and the character. I, who started with the 1994 animated series and then continued with Tom Maguire despite not being particularly involved with comic books, have been a part of the Spider-Man universe. There was a multiverse story in ’94 as well, but it was consistent within the story. Unfortunately, Across the Spider-Verse has taken the concept to quite an extreme.
The Spider-Man character holds a significant place for me. A character I’ve enjoyed watching. However, when suddenly presented with hundreds of different versions, the uniqueness of the character is lost. What’s even worse is that alongside the exaggerated parallel universe stories, encountering absurd things like “Elephant Spider-Man,” my taste was utterly spoiled. I liked how the film used the theme of millions for the sake of billions, pushing the audience to ethical judgments, and the Loki-like wrong universe choice in the finale. However, with multiple Spider-Men appearing simultaneously on the screen, both the mask and what’s beneath it lose their significance, in my opinion. Especially the value of the mask is entirely lost because there’s no longer anything “special” about it. Whether it’s Peter Parker or Miles Morales, being bitten by a radioactive spider happened by chance in their respective universes. There used to be one. Now, there are thousands.
In summary… Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a visually impressive film that delivers on its promise of spectacle and manages to entertain with its chaotic narrative. However, it has lost its essence, at least for me, and has dramatically diminished the meaning of the costume. Seeing hundreds of the friendly neighborhood spider all at once, and even worse, all in the same place, erases the character’s image as “the friendly neighborhood spider.” It’s entirely absurd in a story where even the Elephant appears as Spider-Man within an intergalactic organization. I was pretty excited when the multiverse idea was first introduced. But it seems that neither What If!, nor Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness or Across the Spider-Verse have been able to provide what I was looking for. Worse yet, they are slowly causing me to lose my enthusiasm for Marvel and its characters. It’s disheartening.
Cast & Crew
director: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
writers: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Dave Callaham, Stan Lee
starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Oscar Isaac, Issa Rae, Daniel Kaluuya, Jason Schwartzman, Brian Tyree Henry
USA | 2023 | 140 MINUTES |