A lot of themes and plot points led up to that cliffhanger, but most importantly, there are two big revelations for Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in this movie that spur along the final moments. Here’s the thing, though: Those two huge truths might contradict each other. Or they could fix each other, or they could be used as a giant jumping-off point for the franchise’s themes of fate and interconnection. Or all of the above! Let’s get into it.
[Ed. note: This post contains major spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.]
The first big thing Miles learns in Across the Spider-Verse is that all the alternate versions of him across the multiverse — the Spider-People who form an elite reality-protection team — are linked not just by their spider abilities, but by “canon events” — big (often devastating) life moments they all experience, and more importantly, that they all have to experience. For instance, a police captain close to Spider-Man always dies, crushed by falling rubble while saving a child.
Miles realizes this means his father, Jeff (Brian Tyree Henry) — who just recently got promoted to captain — is going to die in just a couple of days. Miles wants to save his father, but the interdimensional Spider coalition’s head honcho Miguel O’Hara (aka Spider-Man 2099, voiced by Oscar Isaac), says he can’t, and then traps Miles to keep him from interfering. Miles breaks out of captivity and attempts to return to his home universe, fleeing from an entire army of Spider-People.
As the chase escalates, Miguel reveals that Miles is actually the original anomaly, the reason for every glitch currently taking place across the multiverse. The radioactive spider that bit Miles and gave him his powers, per the usual Spider-Man origin story, came from a completely different universe. That universe doesn’t have its own Spider-Man now, and Miles was never supposed to be the Spider-Man of his universe, because without his presence, the Peter Parker in his world would still be alive. It’s a pretty shocking moment. But when Miguel snarls that Miles doesn’t belong among the other Spider-People, it hammers home what Miles’ mom told him earlier — that he should never let anyone tell him he doesn’t belong.
But herein lies the contradiction: If Miles isn’t his universe’s intended Spider-Person, why is his father on the chopping block? It could be that the radioactive spider forced the role on Miles, but if he’s enough of a Spider-Man that his canon is proceeding normally and he’s filling the usual Spider-role, why would his existence be such an issue to Miguel? If Miles is an anomaly who’s outside the normal Spider-canon, why can’t he just go ahead and save his dad and let his connection to the rest of the Spider-People dissolve? Wouldn’t that make everyone happy, albeit lonely? Miguel thinks breaking the canon would destroy Miles’ universe — would it also cause the whole multiverse to come crashing down?
This contradiction — either Miles is a canon Spider-Man, or he isn’t — is one of the bigger plot questions Across the Spider-Verse leaves unresolved. To be fair, by the end of the movie, the characters have more pressing issues to attend to than the minutiae of the Miles Paradox.
The Miles Paradox isn’t a plot hole. This movie is, after all, part one of two, and there are a lot of things for Beyond the Spider-Verse to dig into in 2024. Thematically, the contradiction between Miguel’s core truths about Miles challenges the notion of fate, determinism, and free will that’s built into the whole connected multiversal web. Plot-wise, the conflict could offer a solution to the Miles conundrum. Or it could make things much, much worse. Whatever the case, considering how much rich detail has gone into the Spider-Verse movies on every level, it’s very likely that this paradox is intentional and will play into whatever happens in Beyond the Spider-Verse.