Disney doesn’t have a monopoly over the comic book movie realm. Sony Pictures secured the complete film rights to the beloved Web-Slinger by paying a mere $7 million to Marvel in the late ’90s, which was on the verge of disappearing into bankruptcy oblivion. Apart from the initial payment, Sony also committed to sharing five percent of the box-office revenue and 50 percent of merchandise sales with Marvel. This arrangement enabled Marvel Comics to survive the storm and eventually get acquired by Disney a decade later.

Despite Disney’s tremendous influence, the studio is unable to void the contractual agreement. While it managed to regain complete control over the merchandising rights from Sony, it had to relinquish all other sources of revenue. As long as Sony continues producing Spider-Man movies, the studio retains the license indefinitely. Fortunately for fans, the two corporate giants have reached agreements in the past, allowing the character to coexist in both cinematic universes. This agreement has also allowed more versions of Spider-Man to be shared by the studios.

While there is consensus among many fans that Sony’s initial forays into the comic universe with Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) were commendable, subsequent entries brought to the big screen have been underwhelming. I distinctly recall my excitement when I learned that Venom would appear in Spider-Man 3, only to be profoundly disappointed by the poorly written portrayal of this beloved villain, which tarnished the experience.

Further disappointment befell fans like me when Sony decided to recast Peter Parker, transitioning from Tobey Maguire to Andrew Garfield. It was not Garfield’s fault per se, but he failed to capture the essence and endearing qualities that his nerdy character was meant to possess. It appears that the passion and creative spark that once fueled Sony’s productions have dwindled, leaving fans with lackluster movies produced solely to retain the license, rather than inspire and captivate.

That was until we were introduced to the Spider-Verse.

The Spider-Verse served as Sony’s avenue to introduce various incarnations of the Wall Crawler that existed beyond Peter Parker/Spider-Man. The agreement between Marvel and Sony encompassed not only Peter Parker, but also nearly every character from the Spider-Man Universe, including allies and adversaries. While Tom Holland collaborated with Disney on joint Spider-Man projects, Sony tapped into the realm of animation and gifted us with the 2018 masterpiece, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

In this groundbreaking film, the spotlight shifted from Peter Parker to Miles Morales, a teenage resident of Brooklyn who acquires spider powers after a fateful encounter with a radioactive arachnid (sound familiar?). It resonated with audiences, both commercially and critically, thanks to its amazing art style and narrative, and a sequel was inevitable, as the film left an indelible mark on viewers’ hearts and minds.

Let’s delve into Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, where our hero, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), has wholeheartedly embraced his crime-fighting duties, while simultaneously grappling with the challenges of being a typical teenager in high school. As if that weren’t enough, Miles’s world is upended (quite literally) when Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), an alternate Spider-Man known as Spider-Woman, reenters his life.

Initially believing that Gwen returned for him, Miles soon discovers her true purpose: She is on a mission from a clandestine group of Spider-People who traverse multiple dimensions. Gwen’s target is a clumsy thief named The Spot, also known as Dr. Johnathan Ohnn (Jason Schwartzman), a former scientist who found himself covered in portals from head to toe during a freak accident. Due to his altered appearance, Ohnn was ostracized and turned to a life of petty crime, becoming little more than a nuisance for Morales.

Following Gwen through a dimensional rift into Earth-50101, Miles aids her and Spider-Man India (Karan Soni) in their pursuit of The Spot, but his actions inadvertently alter the course of that particular multiverse (called a canon event). Subsequently, Morales is brought before the leader of the team, Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac), who arrests him in order to prevent the death of his own father. Feeling betrayed, Miles escapes their clutches, thrust into a treacherous journey across time and space as a hunted fugitive.

I absolutely loved the first film, as did my daughter. The art style and overall story were a great new beginning for a comic character who was becoming somewhat stale. As a spectacular entry into the animated superhero film genre, from start to finish, this movie is as thrilling as it is visually stunning. The film’s story is compelling and very well crafted, delving deeper into the multiverse concept, introducing more characters who comic fans will know, and some that will be new to everyone.

Miles has the ultimate decision to make: Save his father, who he loves more than anything, or allow him to die, stopping a dimensional crisis. It’s very much akin to the story in The Flash, but in this entry, Miles is ultimately betrayed by those he thought were his friends and allies, leaving him to deal with this heavy burden alone.

That is where we get to my only gripe: It’s only the first part of a two-part story. Since I did not realize the film’s release date, I went in completely blind to the narrative. So, when the climax occurs, I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for the crescendo… and when the To Be Continued splash screen appears, I literally fell back into my chair, unable to find a proper way to express the sudden drop in adrenaline I was experiencing. I looked over at my daughter, expecting the same shock. But in her eyes, this was only a pause, with the payoff coming in the next adventure. That brought me back up from my emotional crash, realizing we will get an even better payoff when Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse releases in 2024.

I give Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse five out of five stars. It is an absolute must-see for both fans of the Spider-Man franchise and lovers of animated films. It is a cinematic achievement that pushes the boundaries of what can be accomplished in the superhero genre, delivering a visually stunning, emotionally resonant, and utterly captivating experience that will leave audiences eagerly anticipating the next installment.

And mark my words, the third installment will definitely not get past me, as I now have my Spidey-Sense tuned in.