This post contains spoilers for "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse."
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" is a triumph, a true miracle of animation, and a monumental film. Watching it today might be the closest thing to what audiences experienced back in the 1930s when Disney's animated classic "Snow White" first came out (or, depending on your age, when "Toy Story" came out in 1995).
Everything "Into the Spider-Verse" did (which was enough to land it a spot on /Film's list of the 100 best movies of all time), its sequel does better. This is a movie that interrogates the very idea of canon in comic books the way "The Matrix Reloaded" does the Chosen One trope, while at the same time continuing to tell a poignant coming-of-age story about the web-slinger Miles Morales and giving us a new terrifying comic book villain. This movie also breaks every rule of animation to deliver one of the most visually stunning pieces of filmmaking ever made.
But one of the coolest, not-so-surprising parts of "Across the Spider-Verse" is that it delivers the ultimate multiverse story. At a time when every studio wants its own story about alternate universes, and with the Marvel Cinematic Universe currently in the process of exploring what it's dubbed The Multiverse Saga, "Across the Spider-Verse" blows much of the competition out of the water — especially last year's Multiverse Saga installment, "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."
A Multiverse Of Opportunities
First of all, let's get something out of the way: "Multiverse of Madness" is not a bad movie. It's a film that got Sam Raimi back in the director's chair and allowed him to put his own stamp on an MCU movie, delivering some fantastic practical effects and some awesome moments (like the character Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, doing some cool Sadako moves). When it came to the actual multiversal stuff, however, the film disappointed.
Indeed, the actual design of the multiverse is just boring in "Multiverse of Madness," with the audience getting little more than a quick montage that's not even half as visually interesting as, say, the "Rick and Morty" montage of ordering pizza in various universes. Sure, we got to see alternate versions of certain heroes, (just a handful), but otherwise the MCU's alternate realities tended to look essentially (and disappointingly) the same.
But "Across the Spider-Verse" is different. Not only does the movie give us a similar montage (even making animation interact with live-action in the most visually stunning and seamless way since "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"), it actually gives each universe time to breathe and for the audience to get engaged with the differences between them beyond just a reference to pizza balls, à la "Multiverse of Madness." Even the way the worlds work — in terms of lighting, color, and even texture — differs from one universe to another and is a big part of the movie's visuals. It makes each reality feel like a truly alien world to those not from there.
Dire Consequences For Breaking Canon
"Across the Spider-Verse" addresses more than just the visual differences between each universe. It also examines the similarities and what those mean for Spider-Man as a concept via the idea of canon. Each Spider-Man, no matter how different, still goes through the same beats of loss and mourning and breaking canon can have huge consequences for the multiverse. By comparison, "Multiverse of Madness" tells us constantly that every Doctor Strange is greedy and gets too close to darkness in their attempt to do good, but we don't really see that. Wanda Maximoff and her own various multiversal identities are left equally under-explored by the time the film draws to a close.
Indeed, the way "Across the Spider-Verse" reframes the idea of canon is fascinating in all the ways "Multiverse of Madness" and its portrayal of its characters are not. For example, in the MCU movie, Wanda finds a universe where she has children and plans to replace her counterpart there. In "Across the Spider-Verse," we learn that the character Miguel O'Hara — who serves as the film's antagonist much like Wanda does in "Multiverse of Madness" — wound up destroying an entire universe in his quest to be reunited with his deceased family.
Miguel's villainy comes from a place of guilt and sincerity. He knows what happens when someone breaks canon, so he decides to prevent anyone from repeating his mistake, including Miles. When Wanda went through this in "Multiverse of Madness," however, it made little sense after the events of "WandaVision" and made Wanda, as a character, serve the film's plot rather than the other way around like in "Across the Spider-Verse." It's this particular aspect that really sets the two films' multiverse narratives apart.
"Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" is now playing in theaters.
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The post Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Succeeds Where Multiverse of Madness Failed appeared first on /Film.