There have been many posts and articles I've read since the announcement of the Marvel Studios/Sony deal surrounding the future use of Spider-Man. While everything about the future plans for the character are mostly speculation at this point, there is a contingent that seems to think having someone other than Peter Parker under the webbed mask is the way to go. Someone like, say, Ben Reilly or...Miles Morales, the current Ultimate Spider-Man. Listen, I understand everyone has their favorites and you want to see your favorite on the big screen right now since the utter explosion of this genre. I have nothing personally against this character and admit I don't know a lot about him. But, having someone other than Peter Parker as Spider-Man in his next film appearance would be absolutely disastrous. Why? Well...
1. The Webhead is an Icon
Spider-Man is comic book royalty. He's one of the "Big Three" with Superman and Batman. Even if you have lived under the largest rock in the most remote part of Antarctica, you know who he is and most likely know he's Peter Parker.
So, what about the argument that changing the look of the character has worked in some cases like, say, Nick Fury, for example. I would agree with you. It has worked in Fury's case with Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal. But, why did it work with Fury? I would argue that no one outside of comic book circles knew who the Hell he was. What was your lasting image of this character cinematically? David Hasselhoff? I'm happy to say that I still haven't seen this rendition of Nick Fury. It was much easier to change his personality, demeanor, race, etc. because the mainstream audience didn't have a frame of reference for the character. The same thing may happen for the Human Torch in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. An iconic character(maybe) among comic geeks, not the mainstream audience.
This isn't the case with Spidey. Even before Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man, people knew about Peter. They've seen Peter. Like I mentioned earlier, he's one of the Big Three. There's those three icons and pretty much everyone else (to varying degrees).
2. The Failures of Recent Spider-Man Films
Sony has pretty much flopped in their efforts with the last three Spider-Man movies (although I think the first Amazing Spider-Man got an unfair rap). But, is that because Peter Parker was Spider-Man? I think not. How about the bad scripts and underdeveloped characters? You think that might have had something to do with it?
I agree that a fresh take wouldn't hurt the character, but, I believe that take is simply going to be the fact that Marvel will be involved in the process now. Sony would be very wise to heed whatever advice they provide because they've fallen off the ledge with Spidey a little bit. For Marvel's part, they finally get their most beloved character back in the fold and the first time they debut him it's going to be the debut of Miles Morales? Think about that for a minute. That will be Marvel's big splash. A guy behind the mask no one knows anything about. Marvel has built up some pretty good capital with moviegoers over the past several years. But, would that goodwill survive something like this? If they want to see their world go supernova in the wrong direction, then I guess Miles is your guy!
3. Nothing Like the Real Thing
I've read comic books almost from the time I could read. I don't remember a time I didn't read comic books. I'd be a lot more well off if I didn't. I understand as a reader that the status quo needs to be shaken up now and then. A popular plot device is changing the hero's identity. It's been done with all the major heroes. Remember Azrael taking over as Batman during the Knightfall story? How about when Superman died and four characters popped up in his place for awhile? Artemis replaced Diana as Wonder Woman. Dick Grayson was even Batman a couple of times! Spider-Man is no different.
So, what's my point? The point is no matter how interesting the new take on the character is, you still come back to the identity that made the character what he/she is in the first place. As entertaining as Doc Ock being Spidey was in the recent Superior Spider-Man comic, Ock was not Peter. He didn't have the neuroses or self doubts that made Spidey what he's always been. It was a nice little breather from Peter, but, ultimately you long for the real thing.
Clark Kent (Kal-El) is Superman. Bruce Wayne is Batman. Peter Parker IS Spider-Man.
4. Angering the Fanboys
I know some who read this could care less about this point and I agree to a certain extent. But, the thing is, this group is important and it is vocal. This movie genre wouldn't be as popular as it is without them.
Now, that's not to say you can completely give in to this group either. There are some things that work on the printed page that don't translate to the big screen and vice versa. Can you imagine Wolverine in the yellow and blue costume instead of black leather in a cineplex? So, I'm saying I fully understand that cinematic interpretations of comics will not be spot on.
But, the movies should at least try to stay somewhat faithful to the source material. An identity change is changing a fundamental aspect of a character. It makes that character that you know and love, the one that you've grown up with in certain respects seem irrelevant. It's analogous to saying anyone can be this character and there is nothing special about him/her. That's a fundamental problem I had with The Dark Knight Rises. It was a problem with Halle Berry's Catwoman (among 999 other things). You can't simply ignore and obliterate the things that make Spider-Man Spider-Man. Identity is one of those things.
I'm fairly certain that Marvel and Sony will do the right thing with the relaunch of Spider-Man. My opinions aren't meant to downgrade the fans or character of Miles Morales, but, in order for the Spidey franchise to be revitalized, it's going to have to be with Peter Parker spinning the webs. Miles and other Spider-Men like Ben Reilly can be introduced at a later time in later movies. But, Peter is the one true Webhead now and always.