Skip to main content

Across the Spider-Verse reveals a new, better future for comic book movies

Sony Pictures Animation

Things weren’t looking good for the superhero genre earlier this year. While it’d be a stretch to say that it’s taken just one movie to turn things around, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has done a lot to improve moviegoers’ and critics’ shared perception of the genre that has more or less dominated Hollywood for the past 20 years. To put that another way: If Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania felt like the final nail in the superhero genre’s coffin and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 nothing more than its final, cathartic last breath, then Across the Spider-Verse might as well be the shot of adrenaline that has brought it back to life.

Whether or not the genre can continue to keep itself alive remains to be seen. Upcoming films like The Flash and The Marvels, unfortunately, don’t look all that promising right now. But Across the Spider-Verse doesn’t just breathe new life into a previously dying genre. It also offers a guide to what big-screen superhero stories could — and should — strive to be like in the years to come.

Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy hang upside down together in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Sony Pictures Animation

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a bigger and bolder film than its predecessor, 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Not only does the film feature even more art styles and characters than Into the Spider-Verse, but it also relies on more than just one protagonist to tell its story. In its second half, Across the Spider-Verse even plays around with comic book lore in ways that no other superhero movie really has, and goes so far as to make the actual restrictive nature of established canon a key part of its plot.

Along the way, the film throws out more Easter eggs, cameos, and references than fans will likely be able to process upon first viewing, including clips from some of Sony’s previous Andrew Garfield- and Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man movies. In another film, the sheer amount of Easter eggs featured in Spider-Verse might make them feel distracting or, at worst, like nothing more than blatant nostalgia bait.

But there’s something about the playful way in which Across the Spider-Verse both references and connects itself to all of Sony’s other treasured web-slinging franchises that prevents it from feeling, well, cheap. Rather than be weighed down by its greater franchise obligations, Across the Spider-Verse feels weirdly and delightfully free of them.


The film simply doesn’t take itself or its place in its studio’s greater IP library too seriously. There’s something genuinely refreshing about that, and the same is true for the ways in which it both introduces and challenges established comic book canon. While it imbues its characters and their journeys with real earnestness, Across the Spider-Verse feels less beholden to the IP-driven world in which it exists.

It pulls off the rare feat of feeling both connected to everything that’s come before it and yet liberated of the rules set by those films, TV shows, and comic books. Even more importantly, Across the Spider-Verse chooses to interact with the actual form of cinema in ways that are both revolutionary and awe-inspiring.

Miles Morales falls in between two buildings in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Sony Pictures Animation

By bringing such a light touch to its various franchise connections and Easter eggs, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse offers a glimpse at a future for the superhero genre that isn’t defined solely by the strictures of longform, interconnected storytelling. Across the Spider-Verse could, in other words, herald a new age for superhero media — one that boasts the same lighthearted joy of comic books, but is also driven by an interest in engaging with the big-screen medium on which so many live-action and animated superhero adventures are told nowadays.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is, after all, successful largely because of how well it captures the vibrancy and energy of comic books while still offering an experience that feels quintessentially cinematic. Now, it’s time for more superhero movies to start trying to pull off that same trick — even and especially if that means caring a little less about the overarching, TV-esque plots of their respective franchises.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is now playing in theaters.

Editors' Recommendations

Alex Welch
Alex Welch is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
All the Marvel Easter eggs in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Miles looking at Gwen as they sit upside down in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

At long last, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has thwipped its way into cinemas. Like its acclaimed predecessor, this sequel is brimming with Easter eggs, many of which pay tribute to other Marvel films, shows, video games (even the upcoming Spider-Man 2), and comic book source material.

Untangling this massive web of references from such a layered film can be daunting for some audiences. So for those who need a hand, here's a guide to all the Easter eggs found in Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy's latest big-screen adventure.
The guy in the chair

Read more
Does Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse have a post-credits scene?
Miles Morales soars through the air in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a big, bold, ambitious film. The long-awaited sequel to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse not only reaches the same visual and narrative heights as its predecessor but blasts past them — delivering a stylistic experience that is as overwhelming as it is rejuvenating. In case that wasn’t enough, Across the Spider-Verse also ends in a way that may be exciting to some and confounding to others, but is guaranteed to start discussions among everyone who sees it.

Along the way, Across the Spider-Verse packs in more than a few surprises, but do the film’s numerous shocking moments include a scene or two during its end credits? Here’s what viewers should know heading into the blockbuster’s release this week.
Is there a post-credits scene in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse?

Read more
Is James Gunn’s top 5 favorite comic book movies list accurate?
Miles swings into action in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

James Gunn has been a busy man lately. Between making the final installment of his Guardians MCU trilogy, the financially successful Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and gearing up to make his first DC Studios project, Superman: Legacy, the popular director certainly has every right to not indulge in such unimportant pastimes such as eating or breathing. (I'm kidding here, but the guy is super-busy!)

Yet, Gunn found time away from selecting which actor would make the best Superman to divulge a revealing secret. In an interview with GQ, Gunn was asked what his 5 favorite comic book movies are and why. Below is a list of Gunn's choices, which, shockingly, does not include any MCU movie.
5. Deadpool (2016)

Read more