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You gotta wonder if that guy realizes what he started.
After premiering March 30, 2001, Spy Kids — starring Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara as the children who follow in the espionage path of their retired parents (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) — went on to gross nearly $150 million on a budget of $35 million and launched three direct sequels: 2002’s Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, 2003’s Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and 2011’s Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.
While All the Time introduced a new family but returned Vega and Sabara as adult spies, this week Rodriguez reboots the series with an entirely new cast in Netflix’s Spy Kids: Armageddon. Gina Rodriguez and Zachary Levi play the 'rents, newcomers Everly Carganilla and Connor Esterson the kids. And like other recent R-Rod projects, it’s a family affair: He co-wrote Armageddon with his son Racer Max, his son Rebel composed the score and his ex-wife/their mother Elizabeth Avellán produced.
“Right now I just know a lot of families, a lot of parents who were kids when [the films] came out originally, now they have their own kids,” Rodriguez tells us when asked what keeps bringing him back to the series. “So it's a real legacy moment for them to watch this together with their kids, and I was really looking forward to that. And it's based on my family, my five kids, my 10 brothers and sisters. So it's evergreen in that way. It's empowering to children. Like the James Bond series, you can just keep bringing it back because it's a story ultimately about family. The mission always makes the family stronger, but then the spy element makes it super exciting.
“It's hard to make movies in Hollywood that aren’t [based on] a preexisting material that a studio owns. So when you can come up with your own story and make sequels to it, man, you're going to make as many of those as you can because it's a rarity. And this is the only film series in Hollywood that's actually made by a family for other families. I love that. It's very unique.”
Bond comes up a lot when Rodriguez talks about Spy Kids. It was one of his biggest influences launching the series: 007, Willy Wonka and the novel Mysterious Island.
Then there’s the tech of it all, which Armageddon may take to new heights. Though Patty (Carganilla) and Tony (Esterson) are annoyed — your kids will relate to this — that their parents have set restrictions on their screen time, it’s ultimately their skill and expertise playing video games that helps save the day.
“When I do my kids' films, I’ve got to make sure there's a lot of action in it and gadgets and make them like little James Bonds,” he says. “And now it's more believable than ever because kids are more tech savvy now than they were 20 years ago even. So there’s such a heavy tech element in this film. It makes it believable. The kids could outwit the adults just by knowing game theory and knowing games, so that was fun to bring that back.”
And while Vega and Sabara, the glue that connected the first four Spy Kids movies, don’t appear in Armageddon, Rodriguez teased he may still be dialing up his longtime collaborators, now 35 and 31, respectively.
“I wanted to reestablish a new family [in Armageddon],” he says. “It could still be in the same world, so if we get to make more films, there easily could be legacy characters that come back. But because it'd been so long [since 2011’s All the Time in the World], it was important to just start the franchise fresh and then go from there. I would love to bring back [characters], I would love to connect the worlds. That would be so fun.”
Spy Kids: Armageddon is now streaming on Netflix.