“Across the Spider-Verse” opens just over a year after the action of the first movie. Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) is back in her universe, trying to keep her identity secret from her father, George (Shea Whigham). When an alternate version of the villainous Vulture (Jorma Taccone) drops into her reality, the bad guy ends up trailed by the intense Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) and confidant Spider-Woman (Issa Rae). They reveal to Gwen that they’re part of a secret Spider-Society that has been cleaning up inter-universe masses, capturing villains who end up in the wrong one and sending them home again. When Gwen’s identity is blown with her dad, she joins the Spider-Crew, correcting the errors of multi-verse.
Of course, fans will remember that Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is essentially one of those errors. The Peter Parker of his universe died trying to save him, and the spider that bit Miles was never supposed to be there. But it was. So now what? This story’s backbone is about pushing back against determinism and moving forward with what’s in front of you. Superhero culture has used multiverse stories to expand on the concept of potential, but this film (and I hope these themes really land in its sequel) suggests that it’s way more important to hold onto the reality in your hands than imagine all of the other ones that might have been. It’s about controlling your own fate more than giving into a scripted narrative of heroism. More than most superhero movies, it’s about empowerment instead of destiny. And that’s powerful stuff.
Back to Miles. He’s in his version of Brooklyn, trying to balance being a good student with being a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He’s considering telling his mother, Rio (Luna Lauren Vélez), and father, Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry), the truth, but worries what he could do to their relationship if he does. One day, an odd duck that Miles thinks is just a “villain of the week” pops up in the form of The Spot (Jason Schwartzman). Formerly known as Dr. Jonathan Ohnn, the once-Alchemax-employee was forever altered by the first movie’s action, able to control time and space through a series of portals. At first, it’s kind of cute how he tries to steal an ATM with a portal, but The Spot ends up being significantly more dangerous as his powers grow, opening passages that can destroy worlds.