Across the Spider-Verse and The Bear Understand Something The Flash Doesn’t

Three of this summer’s biggest movie and TV offerings all pull a similar trick. Only two of them nail it.

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Miles Morales hangs upside down in front of the Spider Society on a poster for Spider-Man: Across th...
Sony Pictures

Major movie and TV cameos used to be a rarity. Nowadays, they’re as common as post-credits scenes. And while visual surprises like cameos and last-minute stingers aren’t inherently bad, there have been a disappointing number of blockbusters over the years that try to use their various Easter eggs to make up for lackluster ideas.

The Flash is one of those films. The Andy Muschietti-directed superhero epic throws out so many DC Comics references that it loses sight of its hero’s own story. It relies on cameos to generate the kind of “wow” moments its central plot can’t. Instead, they exist solely as nostalgia-bait — zero-calorie nods to other fan-favorite stories and movies.

The film’s occasionally grotesque Easter eggs are disappointing in their own right. But it’s even worse when you consider how two of this summer’s tentpole titles used their own on-screen cameos more effectively. The two projects in question? Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and, hilariously enough, a very special episode of FX’s The Bear.

The Flash’s DC cameos add little to the film’s story, which is why they ultimately fall flat.

Warner Bros. Pictures

The Bear Season 2, The Flash, and Across the Spider-Verse have practically nothing in common. That said, one thing all three do is surprise their viewers with cameo appearances from major actors and characters. The Flash features “appearances” from everyone from Nicolas Cage, Christopher Reeve, and Helen Slater to Jason Momoa and Michael Keaton. Across the Spider-Verse, meanwhile, features basically every live-action and animated version of Spider-Man that viewers could imagine, including Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, the current video game iteration of the hero, and even an Andy Samberg-voiced take on Ben Reilly. (Not to mention Donald Glover as The Prowler.)

The Bear sprinkles its cameos out across its latest 10 episodes. Building off its limited-but-exceptional use of Jon Bernthal in its first season, The Bear Season 2 introduces a Copenhagen-based chef played by Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 star Will Poulter; and a kind, disciplined head chef portrayed by Oscar winner Olivia Colman. Bernthal also, notably, reprises his role as Mikey Berzatto, the deceased older brother of Jeremy Allen White’s Carmy.

These cameos alone would be more than enough, but Episode 6 of The Bear Season 2 blows the show’s cast list wide open. The episode, which is an hourlong flashback to a disastrous Christmas dinner, introduces members of the Berzatto family played by Bob Odenkirk, John Mulaney, Sarah Paulson, Gillian Jacobs, and Jamie Lee Curtis. At first, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed and distracted by the sheer number of cameos. However, once it gets further into its runtime, the brilliance of these cameos becomes clear.

The Bear Season 2 assembles a who’s-who of actors in its sixth episode for what might as well be the mini-movie that John Cassavetes never made.


The Bear understands how little time it has to explore all these new characters, which is why it casts actors like John Mulaney, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Olivia Colman in roles that largely line up with their established screen personas. Viewers can buy Bob Odenkirk as Uncle Lee, a character whose role oscillates from comedic to deadly serious, because many of them have come to know Odenkirk for both his dramatic and comedic roles. The same goes for someone like John Mulaney, whose turn as the most sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek member of the extended Berzatto family fits right in with his stand-up persona.

In the case of actors like Colman, Poulter, and Bernthal, The Bear uses their considerable screen presences to make you buy them as characters who command respect in the show’s world. In fact, one need not look any further than Colman’s brief scene with Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s Richie for proof of how well-calibrated The Bear’s Season 2 cameos are. In the end, they don’t so much take you out of the series as they pull you further into its world, which makes it easier to believe the chaotic emotional realities of The Bear’s core characters.

Across the Spider-Verse uses its cameos in a similar manner. By introducing all of its various multiversal variants and alternate Spider-Men, the film believably builds out its eponymous Spider-Verse. In its second half, the movie then uses its countless cameo characters to reinforce the enormity of Miles Morales’ (Shameik Moore) decision to break The Canon. By the time he chooses to do so, audiences understand that he isn’t just trying to defeat The Spot (Jason Schwartzman) and save his father’s life, he’s also trying to break a culture of misery and loss that’s accepted by everyone else — including every other version of Spider-Man that fans have come to know over the years.

Both The Bear and Across the Spider-Verse understand the true power of the on-screen cameo.


Across the Spider-Verse and The Bear use their cameos to further flesh out their worlds and lift up the stories of their heroes in a way The Flash doesn’t. Instead, DC’s latest movie becomes so obsessed with its cameos that it never gets around to fully exploring or resolving the tragedy at its center. The Flash’s many cameos don’t support Barry Allen’s (Ezra Miller) story so much as they take away from it, and that’s ultimately what separates the DCEU film from not only superior comic book movies like Across the Spider-Verse but even intimate, similarly star-studded TV dramas like The Bear.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and The Flash are both playing in theaters now. The Bear Season 2 is available to stream exclusively on Hulu.

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