“The Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is [Earth?]-42!”
-Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Sequels are hard to come by - especially when the original is as groundbreaking as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. But with rave reviews, bigger threats, and an evolving main character, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse proves to be a worthy continuation of Sony’s standout installation of the fan-favorite comic book superhero.
I could go on about the film’s breathtaking animation; an impressive feat by over 1,000 animators skillfully creating hundreds of worlds to tell each Spider-Man's story. The equally terrifying and entertaining Spot, a villain whose backstory fuels the plot effortlessly. Or the narrative itself, which tells us that in an infinite web of canon Spider-Man tales, there are threads of similarities that they all must endure. Can Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) break out of his inevitable destiny?
First and foremost, one can look at the ongoing Spider-Verse trilogy as a coming-of-age story. Miles learns of responsibility; of navigating the world as he meets new people and experiences new things. He grapples with his own identity as Miles and Spider-Man, and his place amongst others like him and different all the same. Now, he must face the greatest foe: himself. Miles is a teen, after all, where the foundations of young adulthood and life therafter form. In philosophical terms, this will be the greatest lesson of all.
Themes of family, connection, and identity are strung throughout the films as seen through the eyes of Miles now developing into a young man with great power and great responsibility. There is so much to say and others have tackled this deeper analysis far better than I can. I want to understand the film’s ending. The final moments before those three frustrating words: To Be Continued…
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse: Ending Explained
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse concludes with an open-ended dilemma. Miles from Earth-1610 (the protagonist of our story) discovers that the spider who bit him in Into the Spider-Verse was not intended for him, but rather his variant on Earth-42. Hence, why that spider was labeled as such. But it never bit that world’s Miles Morales, or Peter Parker for that matter.
Miles is an anomaly in this sense; a danger to the greater Spider-Verse and a threat to the pre-determined canon. Perhaps he can go against the path already set out for him, seeing as it wasn’t meant for him in the first place. Which brings us to Earth-42. To escape the Spider Society, Miles enters the Go Home Machine, sending him not to his own world - but to a familiar, yet darker timeline entangled with the DNA belonging to the spider that bit him.
A world without Spider-Man, in which this universe’s Miles was never bitten, where his father was already killed, and Uncle Aaron has taken him under his wing shaping him into The Prowler. (This was somewhat foreshadowed when Donald Glover’s rendition of The Prowler in Spider-Man: Homecoming appeared in the anomaly trap set by the Spider Society). No longer a hero, it might prove difficult convincing this universe’s Miles of the plan to challenge the canon.
Will Miles be able to save his father from inevitable death on Earth-1610 despite being trapped in Earth-42? Can he rewrite the fate of Spider-Men everywhere, avoiding loss and pain for the price of heroism? And in these efforts, will Miles (The Prowler) be an ally or adversary in Beyond the Universe?
What To Expect on Earth-42
One thing is for certain: Miles is bound to confront his greatest challenges yet in the confines of Earth-42.
But he isn’t alone in his efforts. Miles’ team of misfit Spider-people helped him understand his powers in Into the Spider-Verse. While he may have had to act alone in Across the Spider-Verse, due to being an anomaly, he found his people once again. In the vastness of the Spider Society, Miles is not alone.
We already see the threads of the canon start to come undone; Gwen Stacy reveals her identity to her father, who as a result quits his role as captain challenging the law of Spider-Man nature that would otherwise lead to his death. Is Gwen now an anomaly, too? This change in narrative could mean that Miles’ own efforts might actually be achievable.
As Miles grows up with each film, so too do the dangers he finds himself in. Going against fate. Developing morale - his name is Miles Morales, after all - and a sense of purpose. Seeking out those friendships and bonds that tether one to reality and inspire hope that circumstances can and will change. In Beyond the Spider-Verse, we will surely see the misfit group of Spider-people from the first installation (and new additions!) working together to find a way to save Miles. And in turn, Miles can save his father. To save himself. And in the process, save the natural order of the multiverse.
Everything is connected, as the movie teaches us, like a web.