2023's Best Sci-Fi Cliffhanger Was Inspired By an Iconic Star Wars Moment

2023's Best Sci-Fi Cliffhanger Was Inspired By an Iconic Star Wars Moment

2023 was the year of cliffhanger endings. Countless blockbusters split their latest entries into two separate films, and in the case of movies like Fast X, very few viewers actually knew they were in for an unfinished story until the credits rolled.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse wasn’t well-advertised as a two-parter, making its cliffhanger ending especially risky. For the uninitiated, Spider-Verse follows Brooklyn’s one-and-only Spider-Man, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), on an odyssey through the multiverse. A risky series of events sees him stuck in a foreign timeline with no way of getting back home, and while there, he runs into an alternate version of himself. Miles G. Morales (Jharrel Jerome) was never bitten by a radioactive spider, so he’s assumed the mantle of the Prowler (a villain with close ties to Kingpin) instead.

It’s a dark and shocking moment. According to directors Kemp Powers, Joaquim Dos Santos, and Justin K. Thompson, it was also the film’s original ending. That was until one disastrous test screening forced the trio to create a more hopeful cliffhanger for Spider-Verse with only weeks to go before its premiere.

Across the Spider-Verse nearly ended on its downbeat introduction of Miles G. Morales.

Sony Pictures

Across the Spider-Verse was the product of an infamously tumultuous production, but maybe one silver lining emerged from the chaos. In an interview with Collider, the Spider-Verse directors spoke about that big test screening, which took place roughly six weeks before the global premiere. To their shock, their ending earned boos from their test audience. It forced production to quickly reconvene and brainstorm, eventually finding inspiration in one of the biggest sagas ever made: Star Wars.

“We went back and watched The Empire Strikes Back again, and said, ‘How did Empire Strikes Back do it?’” Thompson said. “And we realized, ‘Oh, they gave you hope at the end.’”

The Empire Strikes Back is a decidedly dark chapter of the Star Wars saga that divides and breaks its core trio. With Han frozen in carbonite and Luke reeling from the revelation that Darth Vader is his father, the film needed to end on a more upbeat moment. Thompson calls it the “Go Rescue Han” moment, a beat that assures the audience there’s still hope for their heroes.

The Spider-Verse team took inspiration from The Empire Strikes Back in retooling their ending.


While Miles’ final moments in Spider-Verse are open to interpretation, the directors realized they needed to leave the audience with something more concrete. “You don’t have to give people too much, but you just gotta give them a little bit of hope so that they know it’s gonna work out in the end,” Powers said.

The team then developed a quick scene involving Miles’ friends from other dimensions. Led by Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld), this group of Spider-People is seen jumping into a portal to save Miles just before the film ends.

“We boarded it, animated it, put it all together within six weeks, and then screened it again,” Thompson said. “The audience went through the roof, and we went, ‘Okay!’”

Spider-Verse’s “Go Rescue Han” moment isn’t just hopeful, but exhilarating. With so many characters separated throughout the film, it’s heartening to see Gwen get the gang back together to save Miles. It’s a moment that makes two hours of angst worth it, and it’s also made the wait for part three, Beyond the Spider-Verse, that much more bearable. The Spidey team still has their work cut out for them, but hopefully they’ve learned a few lessons from their previous production.

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