Dazzling “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” Isn’t Just the Best Animated Movie of the Year But One of the Best Dramas

This is why they call it Marvel! First-time directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers and Justin K. Thompson helm the immersive animated comic book “canon” ball, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (A), showcasing kinetic storytelling and sheer audacity at the service of a creative and emotional spectacular. The co-directors’ vibrant, kaleidoscopic and sometimes psychedelic visual palette upstages the Oscar-winning original film with more than a half dozen animation styles, countless incarnations of the iconic title character and a pristine web of heart and humor. Grounded teen Miles/Spider-Man (Shameick Moore, pitch perfect) and Gwen/Spider-Woman (Hailee Steinfeld, emotive and brilliant) embark on a mind-trip fighting villain The Spot (a wry Jason Schwartzman) and traversing the multiverse where they meet a new team of Spider-People, known as the Spider-Society, led by Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099 (an imposing Oscar Isaac). A series of adventurous encounters significantly raise the stakes before the inevitable cliffhanger to the trilogy’s next installment. From the get-go of its cold open prologue, the film commands immediate attention and is surprisingly shape-shifting in nearly every frame, jolting viewers with enough artistic fluidity, wily spirit and imagination to fill infinite worlds. The ensemble’s excellent voice cast includes Brian Tyree Henry and Luna Lauren Vélez as the central teen’s concerned parents who elevate the family story and emotional stakes of the characters with finesse. Daniel Kaluuya, Karan Soni and Issa Rae are whimsical standouts in a robust voice cast with the returning talent of fan favorite Jake Johnson, whose Peter Parker sports a surprise sidekick. The attention to detail in various alternating cityscapes is staggeringly impressive and keeps an already propulsive plot hopping. Also, kudos to music writer Daniel Pemberton dropping a considerable beat to accompany this rollercoaster ride. Indeed this middle chapter in this inventive trilogy is a feast for comic book and animation lovers and proves that even IP can have an IQ.

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