Robert Rodriguez had to bring video games back for his new Spy Kids

When writer-director Robert Rodriguez set out to make a new Spy Kids movie, he went to bounce ideas around with some very trusted collaborators: his kids.

“They had a whole list of things: You have to have a safehouse. […] And you have to bring a video game element back,” says Rodriguez.

Rodriguez took both notes for Netflix’s Spy Kids: Armageddon, in which he integrates video games directly into the spy story. He made the same move in 2003’s Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, which he recalls fondly as “the biggest of the Spy Kids movies.” But it’s been 20 years since Game Over, which means he had to address video games in a 2023 way.

That goes beyond the basics of the plot: This time around, the video game leaks into the real world before the kids enter the game. And whereas Game Over’s secret agent Juni Cortez struggled to get his bearings in the video game world, Armageddon’s new spies grew up in a world full of gaming and technology, so they know what they’re doing — more so than the adults.

A young boy playing a game on his tablet, with a crowd of people around him to cheer him on Photo: Molly Scott/Netflix

“My son came up with a way to do it that made sense with today’s game worlds, where the kids would be super savvy,” Rodriguez explains. “It gives the movie a realistic kind of slant.”

And don’t think Rodriguez’s son, Racer Max, isn’t getting his due; unlike on Game Over, he’s a credited co-writer on the new movie.

In Spy Kids: Armageddon, a Standard-Issue Villain unleashes a code that turns every piece of technology into a video game level. Simple acts like unlocking a smartphone or withdrawing money from an ATM now involve gaming mechanics. That means Tony and Patty, the movie’s gaming-enthusiast young heroes, are perfectly primed to assist the adult secret agents.

“The kids would be better than their parents, if that’s the only way you could use technology,” says Rodriguez. “The parents would be lost, the kids would be like modern spies. And they would have a chance against the bad guy.”

Another element of today’s kids that would give them an edge against a game developer villain?

“My kids know how every video game creator created their game,” explains Rodriguez. “They go into the whole history of this person. So [Patty and Tony] would know this bad guy like the back of their hand, know how he thinks, and know his game theory already. So that was really fun about doing that for this film: It actually gave them a believable edge against the villain.”

Spy Kids: Armageddon is currently streaming on Netflix.