Warning: This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
Garnering critical acclaim, widespread audience praise, and the second-biggest domestic opening weekend of the year, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is a jaw-dropping visual spectacle to behold, and every bit a deserving follow-up to Into the Spider-Verse. But one aspect of the film that snuck up on theatergoers left them frustrated.
Did you know that Across the Spider-Verse would end on a cliffhanger, or that a third movie, titled Beyond the Spider-Verse, was already confirmed before reaching Across’ end credits? Then it might have affected how you viewed the film’s final moments.
Instead of a complete resolution that tied up every single loose thread, the film ended with a cliffhanger of multi-universal proportions. Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), stranded in Earth-42 (the only universe that doesn’t have a Spider-Man after its radioactive spider bit Miles instead), is in the clutches of Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) and Miles G. Morales (Jharrel Jerome), who stepped into the Prowler’s shows. Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) has assembled a team of Spider-people, a mix of heroes we met in the first two movies, to go after Miles. And Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac) and Jessica Drew (Issa Rae) are waiting in Miles’ world to stop Miles from interfering in the upcoming canon event that would be his father Jeff’s (Brian Tyree Henry) death at the hands of the Spot (Jason Schwartzman).
Fans only had to wait a few minutes to learn that Sony Animation wouldn’t leave them hanging for long: The message, “Miles Morales will return in Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” appeared after an initial set of credits, and the film is slated for release on March 29, 2024.
But for those who weren’t expecting a cliffhanger at all? It was something of a shock, and anecdotally, there was an audible audience reaction to that cliffhanger. Some people just wanted more, while others were mad about leaving so much unresolved at the film’s end.
There were also some comparisons to other film trilogies’ second parts and how they ended and left audiences clamoring for the eventual resolution.
But for others, the outrage just seemed kinda silly. We’re well-used to cliffhangers in cinema, whether we’re talking about books being split into two movies for an adaptation, or something like Empire Strikes Back, which left people wondering what would happen to Han Solo (among other questions raised by the end) for several years.
“I’ve learned that general audiences really need ‘part 1’ in the title so they don’t go fucking batshit on a cliffhanger,” @24framesofnick tweeted. “The stupid outrage for spider-verse’s ending is the exact same that happened with Dune.”
Like Dune, it wasn’t a secret that Across the Spider-Verse was part one of a planned two-part story. While Sony initially only announced one sequel to Into the Spider-Verse in November 2018 (several weeks before the first film’s theatrical debut), by December 2021, writer-producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller said they had split the one movie into two. Essentially, the duology had become a trilogy, and the second Spider-Verse’s initial title reflected the two-part nature of the upcoming story: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Part One).
“Miles’ story is an epic,” Lord and Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “We wrote what we thought the story needed to be, and to our surprise we realized it was two movies instead of one. We’re working on them both as we speak.”
The original teaser trailer for Across the Spider-Verse, released in December 2021, even featured the Part One distinction.
It also had an earlier release date of October 2022 before the film was pushed back eight months, which is also around the time that “Part One” was dropped from Across the Spider-Verse’s title and Beyond got its name.
But it isn’t all bad. Apart from knowing we’re getting a concluding story next year—Dune had to wait for box office numbers for a greenlit sequel—and the jaw-dropping visuals, Across the Spider-Verse still works on an individual level. The twists are masterfully woven in, and a rewatch makes those threads much more apparent without taking away the shock factor. And for a full arc, look no further than Gwen Stacy, who’s on her own even more than most Spider-people and ends the film in reconciliation, with determination, and surrounded by a found family who might be the key to bringing Miles Morales back home.