Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse Is The Trilogy's Empire Strikes Back, According To Christopher Miller

In a world that's been oversaturated with comic book movies, one animated film breathed new life into the entire genre by presenting Miles Morales's (Shameik Moore) origin story in a way audiences had never seen before. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" became universally beloved both for its gorgeous, eye-popping mixture of 3D and 2D animation as well as its earnest depiction of a teenager forging his own identity amongst a whole infinite reality of superheroes.

We're already seeing evidence of the film's cultural impact since the "Spider-Verse" first released in 2018 — from the stylish "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish," to the "The Bad Guys," this new era of mainstream animation feels so much more inspired, fresh, and alive than ever before. Thankfully, for those longing for even more colorful tales with the Spider-People, the new sequel in an announced trilogy, "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," is finally arriving in theaters this June.

While we've seen a trailer and a few posters, there's still a great sense of mystery and intrigue about the plot of the film. So what can we expect as Miles and Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld) go deeper into the depths of the infinite "Spider-Verse?" This week, Empire released a special issue focused on "Across the Spider-Verse," and according to writer/producer Christopher Miller, the movie is considered among those who have seen the film as the "Spider-Verse" franchise's very own version of "The Empire Strikes Back."

A darker middle chapter?

"People who've seen ['Across the Spider-Verse'] have told us that it feels like 'The Empire Strikes Back' of the 'Spider-Verse' franchise," Chris Miller told Empire Magazine. "It shows you worlds you haven't seen, and it's an emotional story that ends in a place where you need to see the third one. So, yeah: this is our 'Empire.'"

Though "Spider-Verse" doesn't exactly share the same genre elements or aesthetics as "Star Wars," it's easy to see what Miller means. "The Empire Strikes Back" is considered one of the greatest sequels of all time because it took everything that people loved about the original film and dialed the scale to eleven. The universe got bigger, the stakes became higher, and all of our lovable heroes were pushed to their absolute breaking points. But despite being bigger, "Empire" is crucially devoted to keeping its emotional beats personal, and even darker than ever before.

"Across the Spider-Verse" is in the same position as "Empire" as the middle chapter of the trilogy, with "Beyond the Spider-Verse" arriving one year later in 2024. "Spider-Verse" mainly took place in Miles Morales's own dimension, while "Across" takes place between five different realities, each with their own specific art styles. Just as one would imagine, there are also just as many adversaries. Returning from his post-credits tease in the last film, we're excited to see Oscar Isaac finally get to flesh out Miguel O'Hara, also known as Spider-Man 2099. We also know that we'll be seeing a new version of the Vulture (Jorma Taccone), as well as a new villain making an onscreen debut for the first time, the Spot (Jason Schwartzman).

An 'older, more experienced' Miles Morales

In "Across the Spider-Verse," audiences are going to be re-introduced to a slightly older Miles Morales, perfectly timed for the kids that adored and looked up to him in the first movie. "He's older, a little more experienced. But he's missing his friends," Shameik Moore told Empire Magazine. "He's growing in skill, but he wants more of a challenge."

The way I see it, "Star Wars" and "Spider-Verse" are both similar to each other in that both films are unique allegories for stepping into the threshold of adulthood. Miles learns maturity when he figures out how to become Spider-Man in his own unique way, and Luke Skywalker grows into the Jedi he was destined to become.

Famously, "The Empire Strikes Back" has the dreariest cliffhanger ending in the entire "Star Wars" trilogy. All of our heroes are haunted: Han Solo gets frozen in carbonite, Luke essentially is defeated by Vader, and whatever rays of hope are small compared to the loss and devastation our characters are experiencing. If "Across the Spider-Verse" truly has anything in common with "Empire," we'd be thrilled to see the sequel also adopt this darker tone and higher stakes as the middle chapter in the series. Audiences already have fallen in love with the Spider-People, so now is the perfect time to challenge us and take this story to newer, mature heights. 

"Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse" opens in theaters on June 2, 2023.