HomeMoviesSpy Kids: Armageddon Review: More of a Retread Than Reboot

Spy Kids: Armageddon Review: More of a Retread Than Reboot

Spy Kids Armageddon
Photo Credit: Lauren Hatfield/Netflix ©2023

Believe it or not, writer/director Robert Rodriguez is still working in the Spy Kids franchise.  Unfortunately his reboot of the franchise for Netflix, Spy Kids: Armageddon, is a tiresome retread instead of a fresh start.

Spy Kids: Armageddon, unlike the previous films, leaves the Cortez family behind entirely for a new family who finds themselves on a mission to save the world. The new parents are Terrence (Zachary Levi) and Nora (Gina Rodriguez) who have managed to take care of their children Tony (Connor Esterson) and Patty (Everly Carganilla) while leading their double lives as spies for the OSS. However, after a powerful tech/video game developer named Rey “The King” Kingston (Billy Magnussen) steals a powerful AI program known as Armageddon from the OSS, they are forced to tell Tony and Patty that they’re spies. Tony and Patty – once Terrence and Nora are captured by Kingston –  are forced to become spies so that they can stop Kingston’s plans of infecting every tech device around the world with his new game.

If you’re a long-time fan thinking “why does this sound so familiar,” it’s because this is the the whole idea of kids learning to become spies after their spy parents are captured was done in the first film and the concept of a video game-centric bad guy was done in the third film. There was a great opportunity to put a fresh spin on these ideas by adding new characters and actors to the franchise, but Rodriguez mostly sticks to the usual script here. Everything about this film feels like it’s trying to recapture the magic of the original trilogy but constantly comes up short.

It’s always bad when a reboot acts like another entry in a franchise rather than a new beginning, and Armageddon certainly has that problem. The characters – despite having different mentalities and views – are very similar in the personalities they provide. Tony is basically as mischievous as Juni (Dary Sarbara) was in the early films while Patty is more of a strait-laced stickler on the team like Carmen (Alexa PenaVega) was. The performances from both the kids and parents are trying too hard to evoke the feel of Spy Kids characters and end up coming off not genuine and overly corny. Kingston, especially, comes off like a watered-down version of past villains of this franchise and his henchmen are wildly generic. Not to mention, Kingston’s plan is too ridiculous to be believable and struggles to ever be interesting enough to really invest viewers in Tony and Patty trying to save the world.

In terms of writing and storytelling, Armageddon is subpar and hits beats that have been done to death in this franchise – or film in general. 2023 has already had its fair share of films focused on AI and Armageddon is a film that didn’t need to be a part of that conversation. While the focus on AI likely stems from the franchise wanting to stay relevant, it’s something that makes the film much more generic – especially since it adds nothing new to the conversation. It chucks in the same-old AI is dangerous motto we’ve been getting a lot lately and is just plain late to the party at this point.

The themes about being a good person and changing the spy mentality of the OSS fall flat. They’re so typical for this franchise at this point and Patty’s perspective in the film is well-intentioned but hard not to see through. Patty’s beliefs of finding a better way to handle things – which have a big impact in the family’s arcs as spies – does have some solid messaging that’ll be simple and impactful for younger viewers. But for older viewers, it’ll seem a little short-sighted, overly innocent, and not realistic – especially given the current social-political climate. Maybe it’s Rodriguez’s attempt to try and get a more peaceful and important point across to older viewers – but it’s not strong or deep enough to have any staying power.

The dialogue is painfully cheesy and doesn’t utilize the good acting power the film has. It’s not uncommon for this franchise to have some good cheesiness to it, but here it’s so forced. The tongue-in-cheek humor hits really dry and isn’t helped by performances that are pushed to be super corny. The slight sense of maturity seen in the first two Spy Kids films is totally gone and is now overly kid-centric. Maybe it’ll just be a reminder to adult viewers that they’ve grown out of this franchise and that they’re simply not the target audience anymore. But it still doesn’t have to be so stereotypically family-friendly with its character depictions and story. It’s representative of what happens when you bring a longtime franchise back and don’t change anything for your supposed “new” audience.

The storytelling in Armageddon is a little shaky since it waits far too long to deliver important information. Although the film tries to hint at important details of Kingston’s motivation and its connections to a past mission of Terrence and Nora, it comes far too late. It’s as if the everyone forgot it had to deliver on these details and then tries to cram them into the final act. Thus, the first two acts of the film struggle to be engaging and generally feel uneventful. The training sequence of Tony and Patty is woefully short and nearly could’ve been glossed over. The whole story surrounding this video game and the family dynamics are incredibly thin. Plus, there isn’t much that makes reentering the world of Spy Kids interesting, so the film comes off a little boring early on.

The only thing that really gives this film an engaging pulse is the action and visuals – which are the film’s more notable bright spots. Even though Spy Kids: Armageddon would’ve benefited from establishing a different direction for the most part, Rodriguez’s choice in keeping the visuals and style of the action is the right move. Spy Kids has always had a distinct identity when it comes to the action and visuals it provides and shying away from it would make the film not feel connected to the franchise. Ultimately, the action of the film – especially the finale – is a lot of fun and the wonky but colorful visuals of the film make it much more fun to watch. It’s a shame that there couldn’t be more gadgets involved in the film since it’s a big staple to the franchise, but there’s enough fun fights and chases to entertain audiences.

For a film that’s meant to reboot the franchise, Armageddon simply falls in line with its most lackluster elements and rarely provides any reason for fans new or old to want to see it return. Armageddon is a sign that maybe the magic of Spy Kids is gone and if Rodriguez really wants to bring the franchise back to its heyday, then maybe it’s time to genuinely try something new. For now, this recycled entry will be better left in the franchise’s shadow.

Spy Kids: Armageddon is now streaming on Netflix.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.


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