Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld don't need to be asked twice about which Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse character is the most popular among its voice cast.
"Spider-Punk!" the duo tells TechRadar in perfect unison before Steinfeld adds: "We all love Spider-Punk for so many reasons. The animation is incredible, and Daniel Kaluuya [who voices Hobie Brown/Spider-Punk] is an amazing talent who brought so much to this film's story that we've never seen in a Spider-Man movie before."
For one of Across the Spider-Verse's supporting characters to upstage its leads – Miles Morales/Spider-Man (Moore) and Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen (Steinfeld) – among its cast is something of a surprise. After all, for all its multiversal elements, substantial character roster, and gorgeous animation styles, the sequel to the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is built on the foundation of its lead characters' complex, star-crossed-lovers-style relationship.
Still, Spider-Punk's imminent rise in popularity – as we revealed in our Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse review, he's a real highlight – isn't the only surprise that the latest Spider-Man movie has to offer, as Moore and Steinfeld were keen to get their spider fangs (read: teeth) into in an exclusive chat with TechRadar.
A tangled reunion
It's been 16 months since Miles and Gwen's poignant farewell when Across the Spider-Verse's story kicks into gear. During that time, the 'will they, won't they' duo have honed their superhero skills and become more capable crimefighters. However, without the support of the other, they struggle to balance their personal and secret identity-positioned professional lives, which drives a wedge between our heroes and their parents.
Their unexpected – well, where Miles is concerned, anyway – reunion, which sees Gwen travel to Miles' universe using an interdimensional wristwatch, then, appears to make everything right in their worlds. However, it's not long before the real reason for Gwen's surprise visit is revealed and threatens to strain their pair's tight bond amid their next multiversal adventure.
For Moore and Steinfeld, revisiting and redefining the now-teenage Miles and Gwen's friendship-cum-budding-romance took some time to figure out. Key to overcoming that narrative hurdle, though, was the decision by directors Kemp Powers, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Justin K Thompson to have the actors record their lines (and subsequent automated dialog replacement (ADR)) work together.
"The one thing that was different this time around [compared to Into the Spider-Verse] was Shameik and I got to record in the booth together," Steinfeld explains. "That made a world of difference when it came to zeroing in on their dynamic and how it shifts between Miles and Gwen."
"I just follow directions," Moore quips. "No, the collaboration with our filmmakers helped us find that sweet spot of delivery and how we wanted to portray these two individually and as the team they are, which kicks things up a notch in this movie."
As thematically dense and character-rich as Across the Spider-Verse – the latest entry in our Spider-Man movies in order guide – is, it's also imbued by the beautiful worlds developed by its 1,000-strong team of artists, animators, production designers, and other crew members. Thanks to their hard work Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse found the freedom to swing into new animated frontiers.
Seven stunningly different realities are visited during the film's two hours and 20 minutes runtime, three of which are big story spoilers. (You can read more about some of them in our Across the Spider-Verse ending explainer, though, if you so desire.) With each one comprising eye-popping visuals, distinct color palettes, and authentic odes to numerous cultures, some viewers might find it difficult to pick a favorite. For Steinfeld and Moore, though, not so much.
"I'd say Gwen's world," Steinfeld eulogizes about her own character's universe. "It's just so stunning. From the beginning, the way it was explained to me was it would feel like a mood ring. Its colors would shift depending on who Gwen is talking to and the different emotions she'd feel during those interactions, and that's exactly what happens. Sometimes you don't even know that it is happening, but when you realize that the hues have changed, it's a beautiful thing to behold."
"I love Gwen's world, too," Moore adds. "But I equally love Spider-Punk's universe. We only see it briefly in this movie, but the paper-clipping-style world he inhabits is mind-blowing. I hope we get to go there in the upcoming sequel."
A web of secrets
Speaking of said sequel, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse will bring the curtain down on Miles and Gwen's animated trilogy. The film series' next installment, expected to swing into theaters in March 2024, will pick up events immediately after Across the Spider-Verse's shocking cliffhanger ending.
Understandably, Moore and Steinfeld were hesitant to reveal any details about the threequel during our chat. Moore simply said they couldn't speak about any story or character-based elements because "those are complicated answers" to give. Steinfeld, too, was reluctant to tease anything about what we can expect from Beyond the Spider-Verse, choosing instead to say that some of the forthcoming film's dialog was recorded "not long ago".
So, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse remains shrouded in secrecy. Aside from the characters we see during the final moments – again, our Across the Spider-Verse ending explained article is your spoiler-filled friend for more on that – we don't know which Spider-People will return, how villainous The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) factors into the wider story, or if this animated movie series will officially cross over into Sony's live-action Spider-Man Universe (SSU) or the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Still, there are some things we do know. Across the Spider-Verse is one of the best superhero movies of all time, as well as one of the best Spider-Man movies ever made. And, if Beyond the Spider-Verse lives up to its own narrative and artistic potential, it could be that this Miles Morales-starring animated franchise is eventually viewed as the most ground-breaking, influential animated film series of not just its generation, but all generations. And who would have thought that when a visually impressive underdog called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse thwip-ped its way into theaters and our hearts back in December 2018?
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is out now in theaters worldwide.