Review: Across the Spider-Verse

Miles Morales

There have been recent Marvel movies that I’ve thought about viewing (Guardians 3, e.g.) and I still may. When Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse came out, though, I HAD to see it. The fact that that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a pretty good gauge of popular culture on his Substack, loved it only added to my anticipation.

Spider-Man is my favorite character in the Marvel universe. During COVID, I saw all of the iterations of all of the Spidey films I had missed, which made No Way Home so delicious.

Still, my favorite webslinger film was the animated Into the Spider-Verse featuring Miles Morales. Across is a follow-up to that.

Isn’t it? The lengthy beginning of the film, before the credits, made me wonder for a time. Oh, yeah, there’s our young hero saving his neighborhood and frustrating his parents with… whatever secret he’s obviously keeping.

Gwen Stacy, a Spidey from a different sphere, shows up. This eventually prompts the Brooklyn-based teen to cross the Multiverse to join forces with other Spider-People to take on a calamitous villain Miles thinks he may be responsible for.

Without giving anything away, the film leans into the overarching mythos of the webslingers.


I was fascinated by the New Yorker article The Post-Racial Vision of “Across the Spider-Verse.” The subhead: “The movie treats its fantastical multiethnic team of superheroes and their forays into cultural determinism with Obama-like breeziness and tact.”

The key paragraph: “The appeal [of Miles’ character] is so universal—or, some might say, neutral—that even right-wing pundits who have dedicated the past few years to getting mad at every superhero or children’s film with a minority lead seem to have mostly given Miles Morales a pass. In what must have come as a surprise to its readers, ‘Worth It or Woke?,’ a Web site that disapprovingly assesses the wokeness of Hollywood releases, recently gave ‘Across the Spider-Verse’ a positive eighty-one-per-cent rating.

“Though it determined that the film took a ‘beloved character’ and ‘race-swapped in the name of Leftist virtue signaling,’ it briefly included the movie in its list of films that were ‘worth it.’ (The recommendation was ultimately pulled when the author of the review noticed that one of the characters had a ‘Protect Trans Kids’ sign in her bedroom.)” [Of COURSE it was.]

So Across the Spider-Verse has managed to walk the fine line of creating “representation” without ticking off the people who find the concept an anathema.  Having Spideys from India and Japan, it appears, is OK by almost everyone.

The one structural difficulty is the same issue as Avengers: Infinity War; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1; and virtually every movie’s second act. I want to see the next film NOW.


I saw the film at the Regal Theatre at Colonie Center near Albany. It’s not my favorite venue, but, at the time, the Spectrum was closed on Wednesdays, fortunately no longer the case.

So many ads and infotainment! The noon movie started at 12:25.

Myths retconned to advance diversity


Uthaclena poses a question for Ask Roger Anything.

Should icons, legends, and myths be retconned to advance diversity and inclusiveness? Is creating new stories and characters stifled or advanced by doing so?

Maybe. And maybe. A post by Mark Evanier this year addresses this.

“Among the pro-social requirements at that moment was that every [cartoon] show that particular year [1980] had to have minority representation. Someone in it had to not be a white guy.

“As it was explained to me, Standards and Practices at ABC had made up a list of racial and ethnic minorities, and it was kind of like ‘Pick one.’ Joe Ruby, one of the producers of the show, looked it over and picked ‘Hawaiian.’ He and Norman had previously invented a sidekick for Plas, who had perpetual bad luck and whose voice would be based somewhat on Lou Costello’s.”

So I asked him, “I was wondering if you thought that was a good thing, a bad thing?” He replied, “In this world — or in my world, at least — one often finds situations that fall under the category of ‘Doing the right thing for the wrong reason’ or maybe ‘Achieving the proper goal in an improper way.'”

I agree with him that ABC was hamfisted about this. Thus,  the inclusiveness checkmark was achieved but at a creative cost.

A better solution would be to create situations that reflect the characters portrayed. To achieve that, one needs to have more writers who are black, Hispanic, gay, women, fat et al. You know, people who have some experience with being what the stories are trying to portray rather than having a white character in blackface.


To the specifics of the question, when I was growing up reading comics, DC came up with different “earths” to explain the difference between the Golden Age and Silver Age heroes.

Someone recently wrote that there were too many characters named Superman. I can’t speak to this because I’m not following the comic books. The marketplace, I reckon, will decide.

I’ll point to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As you know, Sgt. Fury, fighting in WWII, was a white guy in the comics. But movie fans now can’t think of anyone but Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Here’s the problem with comic books that are more than a quarter-century old. You always have to retcon the storyline, or it doesn’t make any sense. The Lee/Ditko Spider-Man is in his 70s. Reed Richards and Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four fought in World War II, so the Lee/Kirby characters are centenarians.

I’m cool with the changes because we’re dealing with the multiverse, which was used to tremendous effect in  SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME and especially  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Heck, anyone who has ever watched soap operas for any length of time knows that babies suddenly age for storyline reasons.

If you’re going to alter something, having media that reflects our evolving understanding of the world makes sense to me.

And if someone is pearl-clutching over people of color in the Tolkien universe, for instance, they can write off the finished projects as bad fan fiction.

An off-year for the Oscars and me

see The Queen Of Basketball and The Long Goodbye

Historically, 1) I would see lots of movies in the theater throughout the year, and 2) I’d try to see whatever movies I’d missed after the Oscars were announced. This year, though, is an off-year for the Oscars and me.

For one thing, I saw far fewer movies in an actual cinema, always my preferred venue. For another, I’d make dates with my wife to watch some films on a streaming service, but the plans would fall through. I DID see a few online by myself, but I just didn’t have the mojo for doing that too often.

What DID I see that were nominated? I linked to my reviews in the BEST PICTURE category, or elsewhere if not nominated there.

JAVIER BARDEM in Being the Ricardos, which I watched a day ago and requires a full review
TROY KOTSUR in CODA. Based on all of the other awards, I’d think Kotsur is a near lock, which is fine by me.
J.K. SIMMONS in Being the Ricardos

PENÉLOPE CRUZ in Parallel Mothers
ARIANA DEBOSE in West Side Story                                                                            JUDI DENCH in Belfast. I was pulling for Caitríona Balfe, who played the mom in Belfast, but she wasn’t nominated

FLEE – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie

WEST SIDE STORY – Janusz Kaminski
WEST SIDE STORY – Paul Tazewell


BELFAST – Kenneth Branagh
DRIVE MY CAR – Ryusuke Hamaguchi
LICORICE PIZZA -Paul Thomas Anderson
WEST SIDE STORY – Steven Spielberg
I saw all except Jane Campion for THE POWER OF THE DOG. Of the four, I’d pick Branagh.

ATTICA – Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry. Just saw this. Very thorough but greatly unsettling.
FLEE – Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte De La Gournerie. Has there been an animated film nominated as a doc feature? Powerful. More soon.
SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent, and David Dinerstein, which was splendid

THE QUEEN OF BASKETBALL – Ben Proudfoot. You can watch it at this link. I didn’t write about this because I expected to see the others in this category. The IMDB description: “an electrifying portrait of Lucy Harris, who scored the first basket in women’s Olympic history and was the first and only woman officially drafted into the N.B.A. Harris has remained largely unknown – until now.” I found it quite informative and touching. Also sad, since Lucy recently died.


THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD (Norway) – just saw this; worthwhile. More in days to come.


PARALLEL MOTHERS -Alberto Iglesias
DOWN TO JOY from Belfast; Music and Lyric by Van Morrison.
I’m rooting for DOS ORUGUITAS from Encanto; Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda

The big category

BELFAST – Laura Berwick, Kenneth Branagh, Becca Kovacik and Tamar Thomas, Producers
CODA – Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi, and Patrick Wachsberger, Producers
DRIVE MY CAR – Teruhisa Yamamoto, Producer
LICORICE PIZZA – Sara Murphy, Adam Somner and Paul Thomas Anderson, Producers
WEST SIDE STORY – Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers
Not having seen DON’T LOOK UP, DUNE, KING RICHARD, NIGHTMARE ALLEY, or THE POWER OF THE DOG, I’d pick CODA, though BELFAST would be a fine choice.

WEST SIDE STORY – Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo

THE LONG GOODBYE – Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed A powerful film that you can watch here or here

BELFAST -Denise Yarde, Simon Chase, James Mather, and Niv Adiri
WEST SIDE STORY – Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson, and Shawn Murphy

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME – Kelly Port, Chris Waegner, Scott Edelstein and Dan Sudick

CODA -Screenplay by Siân Heder
DRIVE MY CAR – Screenplay by Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Takamasa Oe
BELFAST -Written by Kenneth Branagh
LICORICE PIZZA – Written by Paul Thomas Anderson
THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD – Written by Eskil Vogt, Joachim Trier. My favorite of the three.

It’s likely that I’ll get a short-term subscription to Netflix and see tick, tick…BOOM!, THE POWER OF THE DOG, and THE LOST DAUGHTER. Maybe catch some other films somehow.

The Hollywood Reporter: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

Movie review -Spider-Man: No Way Home


Is there a point in reviewing a film that has already grossed over a billion dollars worldwide, and in only 12 days? Who knows? Still, I need to discuss the movie Spider-Man: No Way Home.

It has to do with my great affection for Spider-Man, and even more for Peter Parker. I even edited an issue of a magazine about the web-slinger.

In the past few years, I had scurried to see all of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I haven’t, to date, seen any of the ones in this current crop: Black Widow, Shang-Chi, or The Eternals, though I probably will eventually.

It’s not necessary to have seen all of the earlier Spider-Man films to appreciate the new one. Still, in 2020, I watched four I had not viewed before. I do think it enhanced my enjoyment, especially the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

For you non-comics fans, the broad idea of a multiverse is that there are a lot of Spider-Man stories that exist over nearly 60 years. Invariably internal inconsistencies arise. So some stories are about Spider-Man in OTHER universes. If you get that, you can appreciate No Way Home just fine.

Peter Parker is Spider-Man!

The secret of our Peter (Tom Holland) is out, as we learned at the very end of the previous film, Spider-Man: Far From Home. Daily Bugle blowhard J. Jonah Jamison (J.K. Simmons) accuses him of a heinous crime. This puts the people he cares about, girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon), and Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), in danger. Can Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) cast a spell to erase people knowing that Peter is Spidey? But wait, not everyone…

We end up with villains engaging with Spider-Man. But he’s not THEIR Peter Parker. They can be sent back to their own universes. But don’t they deserve a shot of redemption? If by chance you haven’t seen it, just about everything I could say further would be a spoiler. If you HAVE seen the movie, read how it was shaped by its casting.

I can report that I loved this movie. There’s a scene, reminiscent of a part of another film but with a different outcome that made me a little teary-eyed. (It’s the storyline from Amazing Spider-Man #121, the second issue of the comic I ever purchased.) By the end, the reset button has been hit for our friendly, neighborhood hero, and that is a good thing. And, maybe because it was the season, elements of It’s A Wonderful Life came to mind.

Does it have too much insider humor? A negative review notes: “There’s no attempt to hide that the film is pure fan service, a greatest-hits mashup of Spider-Man’s cinematic legacy.” If it’s a fan service project – and the writers are clearly fans -then it succeeded wildly. But I think the non-initiated can enjoy it too.

I saw No Way Home at Spectrum 8 in Albany, a Landmark Theatre, in the last week of 2021. That was before I realized, per an SNL cold open, that  Joe Biden blamed ‘Spider-Man’ for all of the nation’s problems.

Spider-Verse: 4+ different Spideys

Good thing I don’t suffer from arachnophobia

spider-verseAs I’ve noted, Spider-Man was my favorite character in the Marvel universe. So I decided to watch, in one week in August, four different iterations of the web-slinger, none of which I had seen before. Essentially each is it own Spider-Verse.

Spider-Man 3 (2007): This is the third of the Sam Raimi films. I loved the first two, which I saw back in 2002 and 2004. I’m fond of the players – Tobey Maguire as Peter/Spidey, Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane, and James Franco as Harry Osborn. Yet the film felt too overstuffed with villains. Sandman has a backstory that makes him rather sympathetic. Meanwhile, Eddie Brock is pretty unlikable from the beginning.

And Peter was pretty oblivious to the travails of his girlfriend. If she had left him for Harry, it would have been totally understandable. When this black goo appears on earth, why didn’t it trigger Peter’s Spidey sense?

It was about 1.4 good movies. In other words, too much. Yet I didn’t hate it as much as I had feared.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014): This is the second of the Marc Webb films, with Andrew Garfield as Peter and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. But also overstuffed. I never cared that much about this Harry Osborn. The Elektro villain (Jamie Foxx) had a cringeworthy origin and was not terribly interesting. But this is what tipped me off that I didn’t care: the climax of the film I found oddly undramatic.

Swinging younger

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): Now this was intriguing. Miles Morales is a nerdy teenager who becomes the Spider-Man of his universe. Is he ready? Heck, no. But he gets help from one Peter B. Parker. At this point, it’s a bit of a buddy pic, in a good sense.

Eventually, fellow web slingers also show up, and they’re wonderful in their own unique ways. The visuals are weird and wonderful, including an absurdly large Kingpin with a relatively tiny head. The movie works because of some fine voice actors, starting with Shameik Moore. I haven’t read the comic book in a quarter-century, yet I recognized this film as the love letter to Spider-Man it was intended to be.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). Where I grew tired of the first two Spidey franchises, I’m actually warming up to the Tom Holland character. Part of it is him being totally weirded out when it appears his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) might be expressing romantic interest with each other.

Meanwhile, Peter is going on a class trip to Europe with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), his major crush MJ (Zendaya), and the others. Peter ends up doing the superhero gig again, taking on some elementals. Fortunately, he is aided by an alien ally, Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal)! Or so it would seem. Very satisfying up through the closing credits. Then the OMG coda.

A franchise?

Rotten Tomatoes considers Spider-Man, in its various iterations, a franchise. And a successful one, at that.
Average Tomatometer Score/Rank: 81.25% (11th)
Average Audience Score/Rank: 77% (15th)
Average Domestic Box Office/Rank: $411,579,893.13 (7th)

Could the new Spider-Man movie bring all the Spider-Men together?

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