Back again: ‘Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse’ is the 10th Spidey film since 2002.
SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE ***1/2 (140 minutes) PG
As if the hyper-kinetic animation of the previous two films wasn’t frenetic enough, the visual style of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is both dazzling and dizzying, splashing forth to assault the eyes with a pastel-coloured, kaleidoscopic visual blitzkrieg.
For long stretches of its overly generous 140-minute running time the film delivers a blizzard of scenes that are so busy drawing your eyeline to 10 places at once that there’s often nothing to really look at until the flash-card editing slows down a tad for you to get a sense of what the heck is going on.
What is going on is that the Spider-Man in this film, New York teenager Miles Morales bounces from one alternate universe to another in pursuit of The Spot, a multiverse-crossing villain who threatens to destroy all of creation, including the infinite variety of Spider-People inhabiting their own universe.
Much of the film zaps by so fast it registers as little more than a brilliantly coloured blur, yet the abstract concepts tumbling through the story are sufficiently grounded in character they actually make sense – even in the remarkable sequence where our hero is pursued by hundreds of other Spider-Men.
It’s crazy as heck yet it all adds up, similar to the nutty narrative logic of Everything Everywhere all At Once.
To be honest, the breakneck pacing and the visual frenzy of the film does get a tad monotonous after about an hour. There’s only so much jagged editing and mode changes the average filmgoer can take before it all begins looking like an amorphous blur. Call it Dazzle Fatigue, a syndrome borne of 21st century tentpole filmmaking.
Thankfully, however, there are generous dollops of comedy and some nifty story twists here to keep the world’s legion of Spidey fans happy. And normal filmgoers they definitely are not.
As for which Marvel super-hero rules, the fact that this effort is the third animated film in the franchise and the tenth Spider-Man movie since 2002 – and that’s not counting all the Avenger epics he’s starred in – should leave little room for argument.
As to whether he’d beat DC’s Batman in a popularity poll – well, now there’s an argument worth having.