Sunday 13 August 2023

Spiderman: Across the Spider-Verse review

Hands down the most radical, unrestrained, gobsmacking, visually creative animated film I’ve ever seen.


Other than the first one.

Watching Across is like main-lining pure creativity. It’s a kinetic, visual cacophony of cinema marvels. 

On the downside, it’s exhausting. Innovative approaches are jam packed into every frame. It’s so radically different, it overwhelms.

All kinds of sweet gee-jaws, evoking printed comics, saturate the film: half-tone dots shade character faces, colours are shown with slight off-register, scenes morph from 3-D backgrounds to beautiful pastel paintings. Characters change colour based on mood. People from other dimensions may be made of paper, scratchy scribbles, or LEGO. Frames are dropped from character movement, creating a staccato jerkiness that gets across the idea of watching moving pictures. Trips between universes are accompanied by kaleidoscope FX rainbows. Visual representations of emotion, and sound effects, punctuate important moments. 

The direction is as kinetic and super-powered as the heroes, spiralling around and through them (in the case of the villain), then pulling back for serene scene setting long shots. 

Across relentlessly pushes the boundaries of animation, taking the medium to infinity and beyond.

Pixar films are beautiful, but they’re not radical. This? This is radical artiste experimentalism in pop-culture packaging. 

Unfortunately, you can have too much goodness. The movie is over two hours long; shorter, discrete episodes might be more enjoyable for my limited attention span. I wanted to freeze frame and have captions (the dialogue can be hard to catch at time, it’s so rapid fire). 

Story wise, Across doesn’t hold back; it pummels the audience with The Multiverse’s kitchen sink. 

Thankfully, Verse movies are grounded in authentic character moments. Without them, it might just be a gorgeous way to induce an epileptic seizure. Miles is an endearing lead, and the Morales’ family dynamic equally so. Even the villain has his charms. And Spider-Gwen is well matched with Miles. The other bajillion Spider-men (including an Indian one) are icing on the Spider-cake. 

The film relentlessly barrels towards its no-holds-barred… To Be Continued. 

Which is fine by me, I don’t think I could have taken any more in one sitting. 

The story isn’t tight, but the characters and the visual spectacle are so incredibly enthralling it doesn’t matter.

In the theatre, it's an overwhelming visual feast; I look forward to watching it again at home, in smaller (both screen scale and time) doses. 

There’s nothing else like it. 

Radical, energetic, barely controlled creative chaos the likes of which I've rarely seen, it's audacity and innovative ferocity is breathtaking to behold.

It's genius in motion.

Highly, highly recommended… albeit not for everyone. 

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