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He lets me crash in his dimension sometimes.


Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse


Oh look, another “to be continued”. I’d hoped such wannabe cash grabs had permanently floundered after the post-Potter, post-Twilight finales failed to milk the desired returns (The Hunger Games’ appeal dipped after Catching Fire, while Divergent stumbled so badly, it didn’t even get its Allegiant Part II). We’ve already seen Fast X this summer, and there’s still Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part I to come. All of them bloated and overlong to, a greater or lesser extent. Into the Spider-Verse was a sharp, punchy animated breath of fresh air and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse follows suit. Which is to say, it’s no longer fresh and, “building” on the first one, it’s definitely longer. Its inventiveness comes by way of now-established tropes and jokes, and while it manages to be entertaining throughout and at times even a delight, it’s also dining out on how celebrated it knows it is.

Spider-Man 2099: All stations, stop what you’re doing, and stop Spider-Man!

There’s thematic resonance here, of course. You can’t miss it because its hammered home with a concrete block on the end of a wrecking ball. Miles’ responsibility: to his familial bonds; to his iconographic status as wearer of the mask; to the “mistakes” he has made and is fessing up to and not making again. And all of this reflected in Spider Gwen – who has the first 20 minutes devoted to her – to boot. Together, there’s the running ask of (parental) acceptance of who you are, which, of course, leads in to the movie’s progressive content, delivered both with low-key emphasis and less so.

It’s been noted there’s a trans Pride flag in Gwen’s bedroom, in her trans-colours universe: “Protect Trans Kids”, it says, followed by “Don’t let them mutilate themselves” (no, I added the last bit). Gwen’s dad also wears a trans pin, making him the kind of incredibly understanding parent who surely wouldn’t raise an eyebrow that his daughter is Spider-Woman. Debate over this has been along the lines of “So, she’s a trans woman” (voiced by a trans woman?), because why else would dad – a cop, of all things – be so conspicuously on board with the trans movement? But as intimated, it’s incredibly clumsy to have dad accepting Gwen as trans yet rejecting her as Spider-Woman, not to mention that it rather piles on the metaphors (if you’re servicing a metaphor, probably best to avoid stating what it’s a metaphor for in the same frame, visually or otherwise). 

Miles: How are you even cooler under your mask?
Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk: I’m just cool the whole time.

It’s also been suggested that Peter – who, with the BLM sticker on his backpack, further illustrates that all these Spider-variants are really “Yes, we’re all individuals” in their influence by and enthusiasm for artificially engineered social movements – in his own angst at telling his parents he is Spider-Man, is metaphorically or otherwise indecisive about coming out. Obviously, if Gwen is a trans woman, then Miles is gay (because he’s attracted to a woman who is actually a man).

The alternative, and less ungainly in terms of cluttering up the Spider-room, is that Gwen’s best friend, for whom dad is seeking revenge to the point of rejecting his daughter, is a trans man. Her universe’s Peter Parker transforms into the Lizard and meets his demise following Gwen’s intervention. He tells her “I wanted to be special” (as in, the trans movement is contrived to promulgate false and foistered gender-identification manipulation, and those who want to be “special” are simply being duped). The corollary of this is that, if Peter is a trans male, he is punished for his terrible mistake in mutilating his body – transforming into the Lizard – by death.

One has to wonder slightly that Sony should allow Across the Spider-Verse’s subtext(s) through. They are, after all, not Disney, and they reputedly nixed No Way Home going massively woke (in contrast to the predominance of MCU fare). This may be Lord and Miller slipping things past them – although Sony is surely aware of their form, given The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ gender-fluid daughter only a couple of years ago – in a movie that is already purpose-fitted to tick any incumbent representational boxes simply by being a multiverse movie. Which means pretty much anything that feels egregiously shoehorned into any other Hollywood movie becomes seamless and germane here.

The superhero/trans agenda make for comfortable bedfellows, be the agenda that of transhumanism or transgender. Because the superhero is, in essence, a Luciferian construct.Superheroes are above average mortals, gods to us – or demigods, at very least – and they invariably achieve this through alteration (or mutation) of the physical form. This is the Luciferian desire to attain godhood (enlightenment or apotheosis), having rejected the actual god (characterised as false, corrupt or demiurgic, as opposed to applying such a designation to Lucifer himself; where Luciferians do identify Lucifer as demiurgic, it has tended to be in the sense of the “regent” of this world, bringing light denied by God). 

One might argue, then, that by conflating superhero tropes and the trans agenda, everyone is invited to the transhumanist table (as Miles’ teacher says “You see, every person is a universe”). Spider-Man is, effectively, the regent of each of his particular multiverse universes. At least, when you don’t have the MCU confusing matters with all the other supes. It, is of course, an isolated existence at the top, hence Gwen’s protest “I’m alone”. “Yeah, well, join the club” replies unflinching Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac voicing Miguel O’Hara). It’s lonely being god, so you want others joining your club.

Ostensibly, the superhero is distinguished by the Service to Others drive that would elevate them from an otherwise Service to Self, Luciferian influence – Service to Others and Service to Self are discussed at length in the Ra Material – but the gateway drug of “attractive” physical transformation is the real imprimatur here (through bite, through injection, through industrial accident, all brought about through the advances of materialist science).

Spider-Man 2099: It’s called the arachno-humanoid poly-multiverse.

Having said all that, the main appeal of the Spider-Verse, of course, is that it knows how to have fun with the multiverse. Sure, that aforementioned materialist (or populist) science has “legitimised” the multiverse concept, obviously, but its nearest functional analogy is likely that of probable realities (per the Seth Material). That is, those that are non-actualised physically, per the “complete” terms of our universe, but which have their own reality as potentialised offshoots of options of actions or paths we could have chosen in this physical universe but did not. In vaguely comparative terms, we have MCU’s What If… ? series, but it’s here that the multiverse is allowed full rein (rather ironically, perhaps, since it’s much less about its main protagonist and much more about the main gimmick).

No Way Home sampled a Spider-Verse well enough for live-action, but it wasn’t nearly as unbound with content or exuberant in its exploration. To approximate in live-action the things the Spider-Verse does stylistically would require a director of extraordinary versatility. So even given the multiverse trope is over-overfamiliar at this point, Spider-Man is possibly the pot of gold for return visits to that well, since there have been so many variations over the years. 

Miles: Why does the horse need a mask? 
Spider-Horse-Rider: To cover his face.

There’s nothing here quite as splendid as Spider-Man Noir or Spider-Ham (who both cameo), but we get Lego Spider-Man (The LEGO Movie was also Lord and Miller), Spider-Horse, Spider-Cat (coughing web fur balls), Spidersaurus (Spider-Rex) and a bull-dyke Spider-Woman. There are live-action cameos from earlier Spider-Men (bar Holland) and Donald Glover (Homecoming’s Prowler). Adam Samberg makes an impression voicing the preening Ben Reilly/ Scarlet Spider (“Perfect Pose”). Issa Rae is Jessica Drew, another Spider-Woman (albeit a definite woman, as she is pregnant. Although, obviously, trans women can get heavily pregnant too). Karan Soni is Mumbattan resident Pavitr Prabhakar/Spider-Man India (cue gags about not calling chai “chai tea”: “Oh, I love chai tea” enthuses Jason Schwarzman’s villain The Spot, to Pavitr’s indignation). Daniel Kaluuya is anarcho-contrarian Hobie Brown/ Spider-Punk (“I don’t believe in consistency”). Jake Johnson returns as Peter B Parker, now a doting dad and “a terrible mentor”.

Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman: You know, you’re the only Spider-Man who isn’t funny. You’re supposed to be funny.

The Spot is officially the main villain, vowing revenge on Miles for the portal-infused transformation of his body – visually a highly inventive idea, particularly when Peter is tying him up – but the chief antagonist is actually Miguel O’Hara/Spider-Man 2099. Ostensibly, the grimdark Miguel has a beef with Miles for saving Inspector Singh in Mumbattan. But really, he rather unfairly seethes at Morales, “You’re the original anomaly. You’re not supposed to be Spider-Man!” as if Miles actively chose to be bitten by that radioactive spider. 

Further, if Miguel is so precious about preserving canon events – events that “bind our lives together”, one of which is the death of Captain Stacy – he really ought to have been an awful lot more careful about how much he told Miles of why saving Captain Singh was such a bad idea (“Inspector Singh’s death was a canon event. You weren’t supposed to save him. That’s why Gwen tried to stop you”). So he’s equally to blame, but grimdark with it. Miles, understandably, objects to being told whom he can’t keep safe by an algorithm (“You can’t ask me not to save my father”). As he says, rebuking Miguel, “We are supposed to be the good guys”.

Spider-Man 2099: You can’t have it all, kid. Being Spider-Man is a sacrifice. That’s the job.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse cliffhangs with Gwen convinced it doesn’t have to be that way – her dad is going to refuse the captaincy… or is he? – and Miles meeting alt-Miles’ Prowler in the universe that spawned his radioactive spider. Doubtless, in some way, shape or form, Miguel will be proved wrong (or only half right). And maybe he’ll crack a joke. Maybe Prowler Miles will reject the dark side. Maybe Spider-Gwen, having outed herself, will out herself. Perhaps Peter Porker might fly. 

Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse is due out in a mere 10 months, and the track record of hot-on-their-heels sequels has generally been one of diminishing returns (and wait until China nixes its release after finding out about this one’s secret agenda, not that this one opened all that stunningly there). Will it retain this one’s directors? Six helmers across two movies is a not-inconsiderable feat, verging on (the original) Casino Royale. Joaquim Dos Santos (co-credited with Kemp Powers and Justin K Thompson) inevitably compared the ending to The Empire Strikes Back – because everyone making a sequel always does – but Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest might be more suitable. I was a big fan of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – even more so with second viewing – but nothing about it suggested it desperately needed a sequel. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse confirms that feeling.

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