How Beyond the Spider-Verse Can Succeed Where The Matrix Revolutions Failed
Attention all Spider-Man fans! Spoilers ahead for the upcoming film Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. The film’s writer and producer, Chris Miller, has been teasing fans with comparisons to The Empire Strikes Back, and it’s easy to see why. Both this film and its predecessor, Into the Spider-Verse, are darker and more complex, building on their world-building, themes, and character development. They also both end with their heroes in precarious situations before the grand finale.
However, some have suggested that the sequel shares more similarities with The Matrix Reloaded. Both films have a wider scope and expand on their universes’ lore to the point of deconstruction. They also both subvert expectations by upending what we thought we knew from the first installment. In Reloaded, Neo learns that his role as the One was built on a lie and that his destiny involves sacrificing himself and letting Zion be destroyed. Similarly, Miles Morales discovers that he is the “original anomaly” and is responsible for disrupting the multiverse, but he refuses to let his predetermined fate dictate his story.
Unfortunately, The Matrix Revolutions failed to deliver on the promise of its predecessor, leaving many questions unanswered and abandoning its philosophical themes in favor of action. However, with the talented team behind Across the Spider-Verse, including Phil Lord and Chris Miller, fans can have faith that they will deliver a satisfying conclusion to Miles’ story. As the middle chapter of his coming-of-age journey, Miles must question everything he’s been taught and forge his own destiny, and the film will explore whether disrupting canon events necessarily leads to doom.
So get ready for a thrilling ride as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse swings into theaters, promising to stick the landing and bring a satisfying conclusion to this beloved blockbuster.
Spoiler Alert: Spoilers Ahead for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Leading up to the release of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Versewriter, and producer Chris Miller repeatedly compared the sequel to the widely praised Into the Spider-Verse to The Empire Strikes Back. And his comparison makes sense — Empire and Across the Spider-Verse are notably darker than their predecessors, both films extend on their predecessors’ world-building, themes, and character development, and both end with their heroes in decidedly dire predicaments before the grand finale.
However, as many have already pointed outthe sequel that Across the Spider-Verse arguably shares much more in common with is The Matrix Reloaded. Even putting aside the fact that both films function as the first part of a two-part finale, they’re both much bigger in scope than their predecessors, expanding on their universes’ lore arguably to the point of deconstruction. Both end with much of what we thought we knew in the first installment upended; Neo and Miles Morales each learn that their role as a hero in their own story is shaky at best and outright manipulated at worst.
Almost two decades later, it’s still generally agreed that Reloaded‘s follow-up, The Matrix Revolutionsdidn’t quite deliver on the ideas it set up, and the result was an anti-climactic finale to that chapter of Neo’s story. However, Beyond the Spider-Verse has a chance to learn from these mistakes and to deliver the kind of satisfying finale Revolutions wanted to achieve.
Neo’s Fight For Free Will
From the beginning of the Matrix franchise, the themes of fate and free will were front and center. But Reloaded really brought those ideas front and center, particularly in its climax. Neo meets the Architect, the creator of the Matrix, who reveals to him that his status as the One, a hero destined to end the war behind machines and humans, was built on a lie.
In fact, Neo is the sixth One, and the role he is destined to play out, which involves sacrificing himself while letting the human colony of Zion be destroyed sans a handful of survivors, is a means to perpetuate the Matrix functioning in a constant cycle of creation and destruction.
This upended everything we suspected about how the trilogy would play out; this wouldn’t be a straightforward chosen one narrative. Learning that Neo’s role in the story was predetermined and that his only path forward was to rebel against this prophecy and act upon his own free will set the pieces in place for an exciting conclusion to his story.
Unfortunately, Revolutions didn’t deliver on this promise. Most of the questions Reloaded raised were either dropped or only given vague, half-hearted answers, and the series’ thought-provoking philosophical ideas were largely abandoned in favor of action sequences.
It’s clear the Wachowskis were aiming for a finale where Neo created his own meaning in his story, choosing to continue fighting against Agent Smith even if his purpose didn’t necessarily dictate that and allowing free will to guide him. That’s an admirable story concept, but alas, the execution felt underdeveloped and rushed, with the feeling that little in the human-machine war had really been resolved.
Miles Chooses His Own Path
Across the Spider-Verse follows similar plot beats as Reloadedparticularly with the role Miguel O’Hara believes Miles Morales is destined to play in his story. Since Miles was never supposed to become Spider-Man, O’Hara sees him as “the original anomaly” and is responsible for disrupting the multiverse and their “canon events.” As such, he believes letting the predetermined death of Miles’ father play out is the only way to keep the multiverse intact.
Understandably, Miles is horrified at the possibility of letting this happen. Thus, even as he ends the film trapped in the wrong universe, he ends nonetheless determined to dictate the path his own story should take without letting anyone else in his life dictate how things should go.
This raises a fascinating question for Beyond the Spider-Verse to resolve. Does disrupting a canon event necessarily doom its universe to collapse? As we now understand in Into the Spider-Versethe fact that the spider from Earth-42 bit Miles led to the death of his world’s Peter Parker, the ensuing chaos with the supercollider, and the creation of the Spot.
Even still, Across the Spider-Verse shows us that good things also came from Miles being bitten. Peter B. Parker got his life back on track, and Miles’ experiences with Gwen encourage her to be more open to her father, who willingly chooses to resign as police captain, likely saving his life.
As such, disrupting a canon event may not inherently mean certain doom. And all of these ideas tie back to Miles’ emotional journey. Since this is the middle chapter of his coming-of-age story, he must question everything he was taught and forge his own destiny.
Spider-Verse Can Stick the Landing
The Wachowskis’ ambition with Reloaded and Revolutions was admirable. They wanted to deconstruct the traditional hero’s journey and explore the true heroism in fighting against one’s fate, even if it seems predetermined.
Alas, they came up short, as their ideas felt rushed and underdeveloped, and the character work for Neo’s journey took a backseat to the action. On the other hand, Spider-Verse writers and producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller are well-renowned for their commitment to quality control.
Since they clearly want to explore a lot of the same thematic concepts as the Wachowskis, their track record and utter devotion to keeping Miles Morales’ emotional journey front and center inspire great confidence that they can deliver a film that fulfills these ambitious ideas and brings a satisfying conclusion to their trilogy.