Your Friend At Dusk’s review published on Letterboxd:
I think it's time we blow this scene, get everybody and the stuff together. Okay.
Holy fucking shit.
I honestly thought it wasn't possible.
Perfect formal expansion. Perfect narrative development. Potentially one of the best sequels ever made. I know it's opening weekend and the hype is still high, but this really is one for the history books folks. If the 2020s are going the way I hope they are stylistically, then I am going to be one happy camper.
The jump from 2018's Into The Spider-Verse to 2023's Across the Spider-Verse is such an insane improvement on what was already way ahead of everything surrounding it, that it feels like everything else needs to jump forward about 5 years from right now to catch up. The trailer for the new TMNT looks promising and Barbie is bringing the garish vibes to the Summer party, but honestly there is no excuse for things like The Flash or Ant-Man Quantumania to even exist anymore. They should just stop, there's no point. I also gave Ant-Man a 9 when it came out a couple months back (as a joke, it was bait), but that was definitely motivated by a desire to find something exceptional about the experience at all. I found the situation to be so overwhelmingly dire that there was no way I could justify its existence after coming off the double high of Avatar 2 and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish during New Years.
But now I am once again reminded of what's possible with this medium when its resources are being used for good. I don't have to dig in the trash to find my next fix. The skies are clearing and brilliant colors are dancing among the heavens, all I have to do is look up at the stars once in a while.
Into The Spider-Verse obviously changed everything. I have no doubt in my mind that we wouldn't have 2 Puss 2 Boots without it, but this movie? This is officially the green light for everyone else to get their head in the game and blow this whole animation thing wide open. The music is playing. The notes are flying off the page. It's time to dance. Holy shit this thing looks so FUCKING GOOD!
If there is such a thing as cinema-narrative dissonance, this is the exact opposite of that disconnect. This is perfect cinema-narrative synchronicity. A symbiotic harmony between form and function. Emotions so big and images so intense, that the medium can no longer hold them. This thing is bursting at the seams and every time a thread snaps or the liquid crystal leaks, it's as though a miniature big bang occurs before your very eyes. A million universes created, destroyed, reborn and reshaped at 24 frames a second give or take and all of it in service of a focused and deeply affecting narrative that is only possible through movement, light, and color working in combination. Only possible through a medium as expressive as this kind of cinemation. It is as informed of its lineage as it is capable of wielding its literacy. Not dissimilar to the equally impressive John Wick 4 of earlier this year, it is at once a perfect iteration and simultaneous re-invention of what came before and what's to come. Regardless of how the narrative resolves in part 3, we are in the deepest and hottest chamber of this engine's internal combustion. We've turned on the gas, we're looking for the fire and we are currently feeling the chemical transformation that will give us life or burn us alive. It's exhilarating to watch this unfold in real time as a recently converted cinema formalist. Real Matrix Reloaded vibes (affectionate, obviously.)
For the sake of the mainstream appeal, there's no way part three is going to go End of Evangelion on us, but like...
Which is exciting enough of a prospect to make me giddy just thinking about it.
It is nothing short of witchcraft that Sony's seemingly endless blockheaded attempts to launch a Spider-Man Cinematic Universe, which has birthed some of the worst studio films of the last decade (Morbius was last year by the way, I haven't forgotten) has managed to result in not one, but now TWO of the most formally ambitious blockbusters of that same decade. I do not think we have seen this level of commitment to a design ethos out of any superhero movie, maybe ever, certainly not in a way that works to the advantage of the film's goals. Like I cannot stress enough that the studio and producer responsible for the Venom films, Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man: No Way Home (yes, it's garbage) managed to not only make a good multiverse film, but actually make two.
If I had any real complaints at all, it's that there are still lingering hints of 2010s ironic lampshading that are a little annoying and some of the metacommentary feels a bit too...redundant maybe? But I'll have to see it again before I can really tell you if those things are bad or not. Same with its politics, which I think are pretty respectable, with the exception of some notable child-proofing that feels unnecessary given the weight of some of these emotional situations. Like lean in guys, don't let Phil's shitlibbing hold you back.
Still, those are minor grievances in the face of what is unfolding here. I have to simmer on it and part 3 will really seal the deal on my feelings on the narrative, but godDAMN. It feels nice to feel this good about a movie, especially after all the shit I've been going through recently.
Two weeks ago, I lost my mind, my home, and some of my closest friends. I thought my life was over.
And now I feel alive again.
I knew I could count on Shea Whigham to do the right thing.