Spy Kids: Armageddon (2023) poster

Spy Kids: Armageddon (2023)


USA. 2023.


Director/Photography – Robert Rodriguez, Screenplay – Racer Max & Robert Rodriguez, Producers – Elizabeth Avellan, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Racer Max & Robert Rodriguez, Music – John Debney & Rebel Rodriguez, Visual Effects Supervisor – Robert Nederhorst, Visual Effects – Aura FX Studio, Chromatic VFX, DNeg (Supervisors – Fabricio Baessa, Jeremy Dineen, Kamlesh Parmar, Bhanu Prakash & Viral Thakkar), Foks (Supervisor – Jonathan Piche-Delorme), Luma Pictures (Supervisor – Andrew Zink), Opsis (Supervisor – Nick Abcarian, Justin Jones & Tefft Smith II), Rising Sun Pictures (Supervisors – Tony Clark & Jamie McDougall) & Scanline (Supervisor – May Leung), Animation – Black Beetle LLC (Supervisor – Mike Warner), Special Effects Supervisor – Bob Trevino, Production Design – Caylah Eddleblute & Steve Joyner. Production Company – Skydance/Troublemaker Studios/Spyglass Media Group.


Connor Esterson (Tony Tango-Torrez), Everly Carganilla (Patty Tango-Torrez), Zachary Levi (Terrence Tango), Gina Rodriguez (Nina Torrez), Billy Magnussen (Rey ‘The King’ Kingston), D.J. Cotrona (Devlin)


Husband and wife Terrence Tango and Nina Torrez are top spies with the OSS but keep their two children Tony and Patty unaware of what they do. At home, the children have been placed on a tech ban but are inventive in finding ways around this. Terrence and Nina go into action to deal with a break-in at OSS headquarters, which turns out to be a ruse to steal Terrence’s Armageddon Coder ring that can override any computer program. Tony has just won a tournament sponsored by videogame magnate Rey ‘The King’ Kingston but needs to sneak into the home computer system to claim his prize. This proves to be the opportunity that Rey, the mastermind behind the attack on the OSS, needs to access their system and get the password for the Armageddon Code. Everyone across half the world wakes up in the morning to find that they can now no longer access their computers systems and devices unless they play a level of Rey’s game Hyskor. Facing skeletons and warriors from the game brought to life, Terrence and Nina go off to confront Rey. The children are sent to a safe house but are soon targeted by Rey because they have the other half of the code.

Robert Rodriguez should need no introduction as the workaholic director who has been a phenomenal output of films since his emergence from no-budget beginnings with El Mariachi (1993). His films have included hits like Desperado (1995), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), Sin City (2005) and Machete (2010), among others. (A full list of Robert Rodriguez’s genre films is at the bottom of the page).

There’s another whole side of Rodriguez who has dived into making children’s films. These began with Spy Kids (2001), which Rodriguez spawned out into a series of sequels with Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002), Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003) and Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (2011), as well as the animated tv series Spy Kids: Mission Critical (2018). Here Rodriguez revisits the Spy Kids films after a twelve-year absence. The film is being referred to as a reboot and features a new cast and a slightly different revisiting of the premise for the first film.

The Spy Kids series has been around so long – over twenty years now – that it is theoretically possible for kids who watched the original to be seeing this with their own kids. Indeed, Rodriguez originally conceived the film while playing with his own kids, whereas by the time of Spy Kids: Armageddon, he co-writes the film with his now 26 year-old son Racer Max, while other of the Rodriguez children work on the score and songs departments.

Spy Kids was cute when it came out but the whole ‘spy kids’ idea was quickly inundated with other films like Agent Cody Banks (2003), Stormbreaker (2006) and tv’s Kim Possible (2002-7), even a whole sub-genre of spy antics enacted by talking animals. By the time of Spy Kids: Armageddon, there is no longer the same novelty to the premise of “a James Bond film played out with kids.” Not to mention that the later Spy Kids films – Game Over and All the Time in the World – ended up being dogs where it felt like creativity was beginning to flag. Armageddon feels more like a series trying to wring more life out its IP than it introduces anything new to the mix.

Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Everly Carganilla and Connor Esterson in Spy Kids: Armageddon (2023)
(l to r) (back row) Spy parents Gina Rodriguez and Zachary Levi. (front row) Spy kids Everly Carganilla and Connor Esterson

Spy Kids: Armageddon does return to the same unwieldly mix of spy kids and videogames that we had in Game Over. The plot is still an essential riff on the first film – kids make the discovery that their parents are spies and leap into action using their gadgets after the parents are captured. There is also a significant rehash of the adventures in virtual reality up against a super-villain plot from Game Over. Rodriguez once again pays homage to Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animated effects as he did in Island of Lost Dreams with the inclusion of sword fights with skeletons that recall something of Harryhausen’s The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and Jason and the Argonauts (1963).

The good news is that Armageddon is an improvement over Game Over and All the Time in the World. It gets back to the kids having fun with wacky gadgets that got watered down through the sequels. There is fun with magnetic boots that allow the kids to walk on ceilings, assorted vehicles, a training simulator that bats people down with flyswats, a scene-stealing cute crab robot and the appealing idea of a grenade that causes people to experience different emotions/sensations. There is also a villain’s lair designed in rearrangable blocks along the lines of a game like Tetris. One of the most fun aspects of the film is the scenes where young Everly Carganilla keeps opting for fair play and her perfectly charming retelling of the Operation Fireball flashbacks in terms of more peaceful resolutions.

The film may well have a message about dependence on our interconnected devices. On the other hand, it also does have a message where playing videogames is seen as healthy – the kid’s strategy with games gives a natural ingenuity that helps save the day, while at the end the villain is sentenced to play his way through his own videogame in order to learn self-improvement.

Robert Rodriguez’s other films of genre interest are the vampire/getaway thriller From Dusk Till Dawn (1996); the witty teen body snatchers film The Faculty (1998); the graphic novel adaptation/film noir pastiche Sin City (2005) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014); the children’s film The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D (2005); the zombie film Planet Terror (2007), half of the Quentin Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse (2007); the children’s film Shorts (2009); Machete Kills (2013), a sequel to his earlier Mexican-themed action film that frequently enters into science-fiction territory; the manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel (2019); Red 11 (2019), a mind-bending work set during an experimental drug trial; the kid superheroes film We Can Be Heroes (2020); and the reality-bending Hypnotic (2023). Rodriguez has also produced From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (2000) and Predators (2010), as well as developed the tv series From Dusk Till Dawn (2014-6).

Trailer here

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