The ever-looming battle between the indomitable human spirit and its inescapable nemesis has been the central theme of many great superhero-oriented stories, and the prospect of a fictional costumed champion going against all odds and choosing to persist against the inevitable has always fascinated us. As Miles Morales and Co. swing into the theaters with the release of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, the much-anticipated sequel to the masterpiece of a comic-book flick, Into the Spider-Verse, we are reminded of the never-ending struggle, brilliantly put together with an emotional, vibrant, and absolutely spider-filled spectacle.
While the pioneering first installment showcased the immense potential yet unexplored in the superhero genre using a jaw-dropping art style and a glimpse of the Multiverse, the sequel lives up to the hype by strengthening the character writing and story and the total bonkers spider-gallery not only expands the scope of storytelling but also turns into a love letter to the fans of the web slinger worldwide by the end. The aftermath of the first entry turns out to be very instrumental throughout the sequel, and it also ends with the biggest cliffhanger possible for a Spider-Man movie, making the fans ever more expectant for the third installment, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, which will hit theaters in 2024.
Agonizing Memories: What Has Gwen Been Up To Since Her Return?
As the movie begins, viewers are given a quick recap of the previous events from the perspective of Gwen Stacy, aka Spider-Woman of Earth-65, who was displaced to Earth-1610 during Into the Spider-Verse due to Wilson Fisk’s multiversal shenanigans using a particle collider. During that period of time, she befriended Miles Morales and joined a team of Spider-Man characters to successfully stop the collapse of the Multiverse. A year has passed since Gwen’s return to her own world, and she has been caught up in the painful memories of the past ever since.
Before she met Miles, Peter Parker in her world used to be Gwen’s only best friend. Gwen stood up for the nerdy, oft-bullied Peter, whom Gwen’s father, police Captain Stacy, adored as well. However, things changed when Gwen got her spider powers and became a superhero, and in order to keep her close ones safe, she chose not to tell anyone about it. Unbeknownst to her, Peter eventually found out about it and is pushed too far by being picked on by his peers; he wants to feel a sense of belonging by becoming unique like Gwen. Peter took a drastic measure by consuming a particular solution that turned him into a lizard. In his Lizard form, Peter had crashed a party, and Gwen had to engage in a scuffle with him, something that unfortunately resulted in Peter getting fatally injured. Gwen was devastated to learn that Peter knew her secret identity, and as he breathed his last in her arm, she couldn’t help but feel somehow responsible. Captain Stacy had arrived at the scene and, seeing Spider-Woman in the vicinity, wrongly considered her the murderer. Gwen’s life has been thrown into flux since then as she oscillates between feeling guilt and struggling with the urge to share the truth with her father. Meeting with Miles and others had been a brief respite from this life, but now that she is back, the cycle of grief and misery continues.
Once, while intercepting a crime scene, Gwen comes across a universe-displaced version of Vulture, who has somehow ended up on her Earth, and Gwen struggles to stop him from terrorizing the city. All of a sudden, a technologically superior version of Spider-Man, who we later know belongs to Earth-928, appears and introduces himself as Miguel O’Hara. Even then, the duo can’t keep the Vulture down, and Miguel has to call a pregnant, bike-riding badass Spider-woman, Jessica Drew, for help. The trio somehow manages to nullify the vulture threat, but an exhausted Gwen is confronted by Captain Stacy at gunpoint. With her web shooter emptied, Gwen has no way to escape or trick her way out of this and has to reveal her identity to her father. Shocked beyond belief, Captain Stacy gathers himself after a few moments and proceeds to arrest Gwen, still believing her to be the culprit in Peter’s death despite Gwen’s best efforts to convince her otherwise. Miguel momentarily stops Captain Stacy and offers her a chance to join the ‘club’ by giving her a multiverse-traversing device he invented. Disheartened, Gwen parts ways with her father and joins Jessica, Drew, and Miguel.
Miguel later reveals that the past fiasco with Fisk’s particle collider during the events of Earth-1610 has left many breaches through which the displacement is happening randomly. It is his and his team’s responsibility to take care of the breach situations and ensure that things don’t escalate into another multiverse crisis.
How Is Miles Holding Up? Who Is Spot?
The one and only Spider-Man of Earth-1610, teenager Miles Morales, has his hands full with living a dual life; managing grades and kicking villain butts feels comparatively easier to him than lessening the concerns of his parents. Miles, not letting them into his life, has Jeff and Rio questioning themselves about their parenting skills, even though the duo are the most loving, caring guardians one can ever come across. In the midst of everything, Miles misses his spider buddies the most, especially Gwen, on whom he had a huge crush.
While responding to an active crime scene, Miles encounters a small-time crook with spatial portals all across his body who calls himself the Spot and claims to be intrinsically tied to his past. Spot, aka Johnathan Ohnn, was a scientist at the Alchemax facility whose experiments brought the radioactive spider to this Earth, which bit Miles and gave him superpowers. Hence, he feels responsible for essentially ‘creating’ Miles’ destiny. However, his karma didn’t respond in kind, as it was Miles’ action during the climactic battle with Fisk that pushed Ohnn into the collapsing particle collider, causing a freak accident that changed his appearance into a colorless, spot-covered monstrosity. Whereas after becoming Spider-Man, Miles received adulation and love, Spot became disgraced in his workplace and family and lost everything. Although his initial interaction with Miles’ started in a more friendly banter kind of way, Miles’ (read Spideys’ across the Multiverse) habitual quippy nature irritates him into thinking he is seen as insignificant, and he gets increasingly dangerous. However, Spot mistakenly kicks himself into one of his spatial portals and gets entrapped, and Miles moves on with his usual routine.
Why Did Gwen Return To Miles’ Earth?
After fumbling through family-related affairs during his father’s promotion ceremony, Miles sulks in his bedroom when Gwen makes a visit using the multiversal watch she has been given by Miguel. A surprising reunion, to be sure, but a welcome one. After initial exchanges, Miles gets to know from Gwen that Miguel O’Hara has assembled a team of elite Spider-characters across the Multiverse to counter various threats. Miles gets excited and wishes to join, but Gwen acts suspiciously reserved in response to that. Gwen takes her leave while responding to Jessica Drew’s command, and after making amends with his mother, Miles decides to follow her too.
As Gwen enters a crime scene, Miles uses his invisibility powers to secretly eavesdrop on the conversation between Jessica and Gwen and learns that her return is related to more than just a friendly meeting. Gwen analyzes the crime scene using Miguel’s futuristic tech and sees that after falling inside his own portals, Spot was able to access the multiversal gateways at will and amped up his powers by replicating the collider explosion on a small scale. Gwen was supposed to observe Spot’s actions to prevent any of this from happening, but she was distracted while visiting Miles. Jessica sends Gwen to another Earth, where Spot is supposedly heading, and after a moment’s hesitation, unbeknownst to Gwen, Miles jumps down the portal as well.
Spider-Society And An Ominous Premonition
Following Gwen, Miles arrives at Earth-50101, home of Spider-Man India, aka Pavitr Prabhakar, the jewelry-wearing, bangle-wielding spidey. Spot appears soon enough, and he goes to this Earth’s version of the Alchemax laboratory to gain even more dark matter energy and enhance himself even more. As the trio almost fails to contain Spot’s machinations, the anarchist, rebellious, foulmouthed swagster Hobie Brown, aka Spider-Punk, arrives as an assistant on Jessica’s command. But even then, they fail in their attempt to either subdue or convince Spot to refrain from exploding the collider, which results in massive damage to the nearby vicinity. Amidst the disaster, Pavitr manages to save Captain Singh, Captain Stacy’s equivalent of this world, and is praised by everyone. Before vanishing, Spot shows Miles an ominous vision that connects with Captain Singh and Miles’ father and swears revenge. However, failing even another mission to contain Spot, Gwen and the rest of the bunch are summoned to Spider-Society HQ at Earth-928, including Miles.
As the team arrives at the HQ, we are introduced to a multitude of Spider-Man characters, which include every iteration of the character that has ever appeared in any form of media, including some new ones. There is a systematic way of communication among the Spider folks, as well as a ‘Go Home Machine’ that sends people to their Earth, forcibly or otherwise. Miles also meets his beloved mentor, Peter B, from Earth-616, and the duo ecstatically embrace each other. Listening to Miles’ parting advice during “Into The Spider-Verse,”Peter B. decided to give another shot to the life he wanted with his wife, Mary Jane Watson, and is now a father to the adorable infant web crawler Mayday Parker.
Miles meets the rugged, hard-boiled leader of the Spider-Society, Miguel O’Hara, who reprimands him for breaking a “canon event.” As Miguel explains, the Multiverse, or as Miles calls it, the Spider-Verse, itself is connected with an extremely sensitive web of reality, and particular events, tragic or otherwise, create a chain reaction that makes the existence of reality possible. For example, Uncle Ben’s death was such an unavoidable Canon Event in the lives of most of the Peter Parkers in the Spider-Verse that it led to the creation of each of the Earth’s Spider-Men. Forcibly stopping any such event will lead to disastrous consequences, including the decimation of entire worlds, a lesson Miguel has learned himself from a bitter experience.
Miguel recounts his own attempt to have a normal life, just like Peter B, when an alternate version of him on a different Earth passes away, and he tries to fill his shoes. Unfortunately, that led to a cataclysm so severe that it erased every person from that particular planet, including the people Miguel held close. As Miles has heroically saved Captain Singh in Earth -50101, he has interrupted another such Canon Event, which could also lead to some disastrous consequences, as Captain Stacy’s or his multiversal counterpart’s death is one such unavoidable Canon Event. Miles realizes that his father’s becoming a Captain of Brooklyn PD means he might also be in danger, and Spot’s vision also implies he might be the assailant, but to his surprise, Miles realizes that he has been invited to Spider-Society HQ to prevent him from interfering with what’s about to happen. This was also the reason for Gwen or Peter B not arriving on Earth, even though they had the chance. Miles tries to reason with Miguel not to take such a decision, which frankly feels inhumane and absurd to him, but Miguel states he has to choose between saving one life or saving the world. As Miles states the obvious—saving both—Miguel retorts that it is not an option in the web of destiny. At that moment, Hobie decides to quit the Spider-Society.
Was Miles Able To Save His Father?
Miles decides to make a run for it, and the entire Spider-Verse, led by Miguel, starts chasing him across the HQ. The scenario is as crazy as it sounds, as numerous Spider-Man characters tumble, jump, run, and swing in a colorful canvas background to capture Miles. The party shifts to a departing spacecraft, and a desperate, almost maniacal Miguel, who had been ferociously chasing Miles for so long, decides to drop a truth bomb. Miles is an anomaly; he was never supposed to be Spider-Man. Miles’ Earth’s Peter Parker sacrificed himself to save his life, and Miles got his powers from a spider that was intended to bite someone else in Earth-42 (from where the spider came). This resulted in Miles living the life of a superhero while an entire world remained without a Spider-Man of its own. A grief-stricken Miles gets even more shocked to know that Gwen and Peter B knew the entirety of it.
However, Miles still manages to escape from Miguel and the Spider fraternity using his Venom Blast and heads to the ‘Go Home Machine.’ Despite Miguel’s desperate attempt to stop him, Miles ends up traveling to his father’s Earth and rushes to his home to warn and save him. Miguel punishes Gwen for her inefficiency and insubordination by sending her back home as well, which actually works out fine as, at long last, Gwen and her father, Captain Stacy, reconcile. Gwen is also relieved to learn that her father has decided to relinquish his Captain position and quit the force, which implies he is no longer in danger. Captain Stacy gives Gwen the multiversal traversal device Hobie left for her, and Gwen decides to go to Earth-1601 to watch over Miles’ parents.
Miles arrives at his home, has a heart-to-heart with his mother, and decides to tell her the truth about his secret identity, but Rio seems unfazed at the mention of Spider-Man. The extremely well-crafted twist is revealed then: the machine identified the spider’s DNA inside Miles, which was from Earth-42, and sent him there instead of his world, Earth-1601. This is the Earth that was bereft of Spider-character of any sort, and as a result, it has been driven to a destitute, deplorable condition. Meanwhile, Miguel, Jessica, and co. arrive at Miles’ world to ensure the Canon Event doesn’t get interrupted, and Gwen meets with Miles’ parents to assure them that she will take care of him.
However, the barrage of shocking events seems still not over for Miles, as he discovers on this Earth that the counterpart of Captain Jefferson Davis has passed away, Miles’ uncle Aaron lives, and the Miles Morales of this Earth, who was supposed to be the Spider-Man of this Earth, has become the villainous Prowler. Aaron and Miles 2 capture Miles, who keeps pleading with them to let him go in order to save his father. While Miles 2 prepares to take a fatal shot at Miles, the latter prepares to launch his venom blast. As the movie ends, the scene shifts to Gwen, who uses Hobie’s watch to recruit a team of her own, which includes Peni Parker, SP//DR, Peter B. and Mayday Parker, Spider-Ham, Spider Noir, Spider-Punk, and Spider-Byte. Together, this team will stand against Miguel and his forces, find Miles, and try to spot him as well.
Across the Spider-verse‘s ending has a delightful cliffhanger that will surely keep viewers on their toes till the next installment releases in 2024. While the future of Miles’ family and the Multiverse itself remains shrouded in uncertainty, it will be interesting to see how the consequences of any sort of action at this juncture turn out.