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Swinging For The Oscars – Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse Review

My Love For The Character Of Spider-Man and It’s Iterations Of Miles And Gwen

Superhero stories are what resonate with us as little kids into our early teen hood; the reason being we want to believe we can take on impossible challenges and succeed, to have morals and most of all courage.  Some of these movies have stuck with us into adulthood, especially from our generation, but, there are few that I’ve found relatable or that have a deep underlying story and Spider-Man happens to be one of those.

What is it that makes people connect with Spider-Man so much? I mean as a kid I always thought he was the coolest hero but growing up you come to appreciate what his character represents. He grows up absent of parental figures, he loses his uncle, he looks to fork out money to pay rent, he just wants to be a normal teen and young adult, get on in school and try to muster up the courage to ask his crush out. He faces everyday problems we have and that’s why you feel like you can see a little bit of yourself in the character.

You’d think that would be enough stress and worry for most, but Spider-Man takes on the additional responsibility of trying to be a hero and keep the people of a city safe. It comes back to this idea of selflessness that we are entities wanting to contribute towards a wider good in a society which offers a positive reward as opposed to doing things just for yourself. Stan Lee puts it best as he said:

“That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is indeed without a doubt, a real superhero”

What is even more beautiful about the characteristic of the web slinging hero is that Stan Lee accidentally created a design whereby anyone could envisage themselves as being the one to wear the suit. As the Marvel comic book creator puts it; “He is completely covered, so any kid could imagine he’s Spider-Man, because no colour of the skin shows… he could belong to any race.” This correlated perfectly when they started the Spider-Verse series because we saw a character in Miles Morales craft his own story as opposed to it being centred around the main archetype of Peter Parker. We also saw the empowerment of Gwen Stacey not just in a role of being Spider-Man’s girlfriend but instead donning the mask as Spider-Woman. They have kept the everyday struggles of being Spider-Man in there, while at the same time recrafting the story both in script form and this time through animation. It is a refreshing outlook on the web slinger, feeling more fun at times which is something I’m looking forward to exploring in this article.

Synopsis

Following on from the last Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse we are led to believe that Miles had successfully closed the portal and that everyone had gone back to their universes safely. This was not the case, most obviously otherwise we wouldn’t have a sequel, but as explained by O’Hara’s Spider-Man ‘they had caused a ripple in the multiverse’. Through the desecration of the Oscorp lab, a worker genetically mutated to become ‘The Spot’ who seeks to take revenge on Miles.

There are little and HUGE factors that make the plot so enthralling, but for once I’m going to hold myself back from giving away spoilers in a review.

 What I thought was necessary to the plot was getting more out of Gwen’s story properly which I think they did a good job of. We learn about her backstory and the painful trauma she has gone through as Spider-Woman trying to look out for the ones she loves.

In the previous film we saw Miles as just a kid, but in this next adaptation he has grown older, become more confident and developed a certain “swagger” in being Spider-Man. However, meeting The Spot and other characters along the way, throw this and everything he thought he knew into doubt, including himself.

Miles also grapples with normal struggles such as trying to please his parents, when they aren’t happy that he’s missed classes or not shown up for family conventions. Ironically, while missing Gwen, she enters his universe again and finally shows up. They are briefly able to catch up, but he still feels there is a slight disconnect between them.

 Animation, Colour Schemes and Music

What I particularly liked about the feeling of the animated version of Spider-Man was how they could manipulate the colours on screen to fit a mood, without it seeming unnatural. It gave it that comic book feeling without throwing it in your face too often as the editors picked the right moments. There are certainly tons of moments of this throughout the film but I will limit it to a numbered amount of examples.

In a scene where Gwen’s dad talks to her in their apartment, which is their first encounter in a while, the mood in the flat is displayed through dingy dark colours. This then transitions to a pink and light blue colour to which mirrors her hair in the scene so we see it all over as she opens up to her father. A quick google of these colours confirms that these colours fit in that moment as light blue represents trust and pink represents compassion or nurturing, both going hand in hand with the relationship between parent and child. When the two finally embrace and Gwen forgives her father, the apartment goes to blank white in their surroundings like a blank slate or a beginning of a draft sketch.

The final swing of the movie displays both intense graphics and the most dramatic electric thudding is put in the background, the song composed by Dan Pemberton is called ‘Falling Apart’ which speaks for itself. I’m no musician, so I won’t be able to give you a full break down, but I found the tempo almost inescapable, it does have a moment of brief pause in the middle of the composition but once it picks up again you can’t get around its presence. 

One of the top comments I’ve seen on the official song on YouTube video is there is a key difference in the final swing of this movie compared with others, in most it is about the celebration of a clear ending, but this swing was of uncertainty and doubt for what lies in his future. He even messes up one of the swings. Nothing feels real to Miles in this moment and the animation complements this feeling so well, everything is enlarged like a massive spider climbing up the side of a building, seeing Uncle Aaron or Spots hands reaching out for him. A train falls off a track beside him following him, as Dr Octopus tentacles chase him, trapping him momentarily. Miles is surrounded by such carnage in these shots that he almost doesn’t feel like the main focus, in this exact moment he doesn’t know where to centre himself or how he fits into this world as he questions himself. Like I said these styles feel completely unconventional in a film but in the best way possible.

We also have to appreciate the chase scene where Miles is being chased by literally hundreds of Spider people. On the surface level we appreciate that in proportion to the film this probably took up a chunk of fifteen to twenty minutes of the film, but to animate all of that took them four years just to do it. The sequence is truly a spectacle to watch, feeling like you’re moving a hundred miles an hour with the scene seeing the dashing speed of cars go by or the air rushing by as they are heading out of the stratosphere.

The Reception And Final Take Away

Variety writer Clayton Davies has made the assertion that Spider-Verse does not only deserve to be put up for an animated Oscar but actually amongst the nominations for best picture recognising the film as “a work of art”. The three animated movies that have been nominated for best picture in the past are; Beauty and the Beast (1991), Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010), but if Spider-Man won it would be the first animated film to reach such feats.

To echo Clayton’s sentiments, I believe the way this film is constructed has to be one of the best this year. Not only have they taken time and pristine care to make the sequel as good if not better than the original (in my opinion); through its bold and experimental animation techniques, the incredible music and set and colour manipulations but I think the overall plot of this second film has built towards the biggest shock factors in any of the film instalments made. The film also sets up for a perhaps even bigger finale, sometimes we’re too spoilt and are given everything all at once as an audience but the creators of Spider-Verse have done the commendable thing and made us wait for answers. While this is frustration at its peak, it gives us a chance to let our imaginations run wild for what we can expect next.

Wendy Ide of The Guardian uses unmatchable adjectives to describe the spectacle that was Across The Spider-Verse by posing:

“Could a sequel ever match that film’s freshness, energy and visual verve? The answer, it seems, is an emphatic yes. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is sublime. There’s not a frame of this rich, kaleidoscopically detailed animation that isn’t dazzling.”

It just exemplifies the excitement that was left with viewers once they were left on a cliffhanger of an ending.

To match the film critics up with general audiences online; Rotten Tomatoes (if this means anything) puts it at 96%, IMDb an 8.7/10, Empire a 5/5 and google reviewers putting it at 4.3/5 (as things currently stand).

Regardless of if you think this film was slightly worse than its predecessor in the series, it cannot be said that Across The Spider-Verse was an average viewing and far from it, as it left me on the edge of my seat. I don’t think it will win an Oscar as Clayton acknowledges it’s difficult to break that mould in there with motion pictures. Nonetheless I agree with him that it deserves to be in there with a shout and the work of Phil Lord and Chris Miller needs to be respected for the stylistic choices of perfection that they have made to be considered certainly one of the best Spider-Man stories but a worthy Oscar mention also. Hands down it’s got to win best animation picture, I can’t see anything else rivalling it. Regardless of talk all we can do is wait to see if it gets its due praises.

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