Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse is the continuing story of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore). Being Brooklyn’s one and only Spider-Man is lonely. Miles struggles with his identity as his policeman father (Brian Tyree Henry) and nurse mother (Luna Lauren Vélez) sense their son is hiding secrets. The tension then mounts when a surprise visit from Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) provides an opportunity for some fun, Miles jumps on it. During their routine act of driving through town and rescuing civilians, they encounter The Spot (Jason Schwartzman). A newly self-created nemesis, The Spot can travel between dimensions, causing chaos and attracting the attention of the Spider-Society, a group of heroes responsible for maintaining stability in the universe. As Miles discovers more about his fellow spiders, he must decide what part of his own destiny has already been written.
What works in Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse is the artistic direction and the depth of the characters. When Pixar started releasing movies, it eclipsed the traditional 2D animation that had dominated for decades. And now Sony Animation is giving Pixar a pedestrian look. Through the Spider-Verse is a living painting full of stylistic arrangements and dazzling palettes. Words can’t do justice to the magnificent display of artistry as Miles moves between universes, each with a distinct look and feel. The visuals directly complement and enhance the fantastic story from writers Phil Lord, Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie), and David Callaham (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). Building on the story established in the first film (Into the Spider-Verse), this sequel takes a careful, hard and raw look at what it means to be Spider-Man. This includes all the expectations and sacrifices that affect Miles and Gwen, and Through the Spider-Verse finds his heart by holding nothing back.
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People who are either a) new to Spider-lore or b) tired of the Spider-move movies won’t appreciate Through the Spider-Verse as much as the others. Although technically a stand-alone story, Through the Spider-Verse expects its audience to have pre-existing knowledge of Spider-Man. The film is filled with references and homages galore, from the obvious to the obscure. For those totally unfamiliar with the story and multiple iterations of the superhero, the vast amount of Easter Eggs might seem overwhelming or unattainable. Finally, the animation is incredibly frenetic. While it’s a conscious decision to accentuate the plot’s hyperactivity, some may experience a slight disorientation with all the fast movements and cuts.
Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse had a high bar to jump, coming on the heels of Into the Spider-Verse which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. With a rich and powerful story, this first sequel meets and sometimes even exceeds those unreasonably high expectations. Highly recommended for all ages.
Recommended if you liked: Mitchells vs. Machines, The Lego Movie
Spider-Man: Through the Spider-Verse is available exclusively in theaters starting June 2.