There are a lot of things to love about Across the Spider-Verse. The animation continues to push and even break boundaries, the characters are given even more depth, and the story is brilliantly immersive. But I’m not going to talk about that. I want to talk about one scene between Gwen and Miles, under the clocktower.
**SPOILERS FOR ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE AHEAD**
There’s a lot going on during ATSV. The Spot is trying to be the greatest nemesis in comic book movies, a whole society of various Spiders is trying to keep the canon from falling apart, and Officer Jefferson Morales is about to be Captain. There’s a lot going on in the lives of Gwen and Miles, too. Miles is trying to be Miles and Spider-Man and (in typical fashion) is letting things drop and his parents are riding up his ass. Gwen also has parent troubles, if you can call having a gun pointed at you and being placed under arrest by your dad “parent troubles”. But the common thread for both of them is that the Spider is starting to weigh heavy. So, what do you do when life starts to get a little too much? You go talk to your friend. That’s made a bit difficult when they live in another dimension. So, when they do finally meet, you can almost feel the weight leave both of them. First, we get a wonderful swinging montage set to Dominic Fike’s Mona Lisa, then (after a quick detour by Gwen), we’re at the Williamsburg Bank Building, where two friends can just exist. No parents, no pressure, no impending canon events. Just two people, getting a little air.
This scene has a lot of bits (that’s the technical term), and I’m going to try my best to go over them.
First, it makes the most of their spider powers. If you want to go to an isolated place where you won’t be bothered, most people will pick a place high up and climb. Well, what if you could go somewhere that literally no one else could reach? Like the underside of a gigantic tower? This scene is the most innovative use of the wallcrawling ability I’ve probably ever seen, on screen or in comics. There’s no way they can be interrupted, and they get a view that is unlike anything anyone has ever seen.
Second, something must be said about the animation. I said that the view is unlike anything anyone has ever seen, and I meant it. Every second of that scene is visually spectacular. The buildings hanging off the world to create a reverse skyline, the beautiful sunset sitting just below their feet, the Spider-Verse™ anaglyph animation on the buildings giving it a 3D feel in the distance. Everything about the scene is a feast for the eyes. I’ve always said that movies are a visual medium and before anything else, they’ve gotta entertain the eyes. This scene does just that. You could (and I have) spend hours just watching a short 50-second clip and your eyes would never get tired or bored (you can, it’s on YouTube. Go crazy).
Third, there’s the two people involved. The relationship between Gwen and Miles has been slow burning since 2018 when he tried “the shoulder touch.” Now, after a year and a half away from each other, you can tell that they have sorely missed each other. Certain people more than others (coughs Miles). So, now, here they are, under the roof. And we get a wonderful walkthrough of their relationship to this point. They joke and they laugh like the best of friends. Gwen mentions how in every other universe, “Gwen Stacy falls for Spider-Man” which is an interesting phrasing because the Spider-Man is almost always Peter Parker. Miles edges his hand closer to hers. Then she hits him with the “in every other universe, it doesn’t end well”, and Miles retracts his hand. These two lines, spoken with no eye-contact, does a masterful job of conveying what they both want, and where they are on the road to getting it.
Fourth (and finally), there are plot revelations. If the filmmakers had just given us a cute, fun scene with their two leads, I don’t think anyone would have been mad. But they couldn’t just do that. Full disclaimer, this is mainly my theory, but I have experience formulating theories so, let’s get into it. Again, MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD. The plot revolves around something called the Canon. The Canon is essentially shared experiences between all the Spiders that hold up the Web of Life. Getting bit by a radioactive spider, losing someone close to them during the early days. These moments exist across the multiverse and tie all the Spiders together. It’s not much of a stretch to consider Gwen Stacy’s death a Canon event. Hell, Gwen pretty much confirms it. And if you believe Miguel, Canon events cannot be broken, lest there be dire consequences. When Gwen says that Gwen Stacy’s falling for Spider-Men doesn’t end well, Miles shoots back with, “There’s a first time for everything.” This one line, dropped as friendly banter, highlights Miles’ importance to the plot. He makes changes to the Canon. Everything is possible with him.
I love everything about Across the Spider-Verse. It very well might be the perfect movie. And scenes like this, a boy and a girl sitting under a clocktower, are just one of the many reasons why.