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One of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’s best gags sure plays differently now

After Across the Spider-Verse, it takes on a radically different tone and meaning

Spider-Man 2099, a figure in stark, dark blues and bright reds, looms in a dark space at the end of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Image: Sony Pictures
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Remember back in 2018, when Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse hit theaters, changed the face of American animation, and left us all with a teaser for the future, built around a fandom in-joke? An alternate Spider-identity not previously seen in the movie — Miguel O’Hara, aka “vampire ninja” Spider-Man 2099 — briefly takes the stage in this post-credits sequence, introducing the idea of voluntary leaps between universes.

With Kingpin defeated and Miles Morales’ initial conflicts resolved, the idea behind that post-credits sequence was to set up the coming conflict within a larger multiverse story. But that scene, mostly just an extended gag riff on a familiar Spider-meme, plays incredibly differently after watching Into the Spider-Verse’s sequel, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.]

For one thing, this scene gives us a simplified villain (or just antihero? It remains to be seen) origin point — the exact moment where Spider-Man 2099 first tested the idea of the wristbands that would allow him to build an elite cadre of Spider-People to protect reality. For another, it’s a little more of an introduction to Lyla, Spider-Man 2099’s AI personal assistant, than Across the Spider-Verse offers. Here, they seem more like partners and companions than like a guy and his Siri.

But the most important way this scene looks different now than it did in 2018 is that it’s pretty hilarious, largely because Miguel O’Hara is acting hapless and goofy in the face of his first alt-reality doppelgänger. The grim, driven-to-extremity leader who’s described in Across the Spider-Verse as the only Spider-Man who isn’t funny clearly was a lot lighter in demeanor and behavior before he started hopping between universes.

Across the Spider-Verse lets him explain how that change happened — what he tried to do with the multiverse, and what the results were. That experience clearly left him much more hardened and bitter than he was seemingly just a few years previously. It’s the kind of radical change that often comes from different people writing the same character, or from the same character being written differently after a five-year gap. So there are certainly practical reasons for the shift. But in this case, there are narrative reasons, too, and looking back on the little we knew about him before his multiversal experiences is pretty striking. He’s driven, dangerous, and completely hostile to other people’s perspectives in Across the Spider-Verse. Here, he’s just a joke — one that becomes a lot darker and sadder after seeing what he became after this.

Unfortunately, Across the Spider-Verse doesn’t have its own post-credits scene, so there are no big reveals there for us to discuss in 2024 when Beyond the Spider-Verse comes out.

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