I was probably 4 or 5 the first time I took the symbol for love and used it to shoot fake webbing at my sisters. "You're stuck now! I caught you!" I would scream to them just before being pummeled to near death. (My older sister was a redhead and she fought like one too.) "The Red Goblin strikes again...defeat." I was never a really a good Spider-Man, but I idolized him none the less. It seemed only necessary that symbol for love was the symbol for my all time favorite super hero.
I want to start off by admitting one HUGE fact: I am not a comic book reader. I haven't been since I was about 14. I've always been a film nerd instead. The only time I was into the comics was in the 90's when Todd Mcfarlane started to illustrate. I have always been a Mcfarlane supporter and I loved his take on the wall crawler. This isn't about how I want to see the comic book made with a specific story line. There are too many story lines with too many counteracting and contradicting facts. This is about how, regardless of storyline, I would like to see Spider-Man get a film worthy of his story. What Nolan did for Batman, someone needs to do for Pete. He's earned it.
When I first got into the life of Peter Parker it wasn't through the pages, it was through the screen. My step-father would watch old reruns on the Sci-Fi channel (before they became SYFY) when he wasn't out and about NOT working. That man's love to sit and be aimlessly entertained ended up fueling my fire for film and television as I sat by unable to change the channel, slowly forming opinions on how I would one day grow up and do it better. (When I actually obtained a film degree I realized just how much people don't care. Money I should have taken and used to make a film instead. Now I write for free because I love it.)
It was there on that sofa that I had my first Spider-Man sighting. I had seen the Hulk series multiple times on television and, regardless of my love for Lou Ferrigno, was unimpressed. But the first time I saw Spider-Man, my eyes lit up. To be 100% honest, it was the costume. The loud colors caught my eye right away. I loved the eyes being hidden and the webbing in the suit. The sleek, tight look made the actor underneath completely anonymous and helped my childlike brain better believe that this was an actual hero.
I was still too young to notice the obvious 'street crawl' shots as low quality, and the gaudy outfits of the villains were Power-Ranger level impressive. That show became my favorite part of television for the better part of a year. (I was 4, short attention spans) While all the kids I knew wanted to be Batman, I found myself crawling around longing to by the spider on the wall. The geek that took pictures. Maybe it was the fact that this was the first exciting experience I had with a superhero that caused my love for Spidey to heavily outweigh my excitement for Batman. Either way, I waited until I was 16 years old before it finally happened for me, there was a super hero movie coming, and it was going to be Spider-Man.
Like a girl longing to see the latest Josh Hartnett flick (I graduated in 2005, he was still a thing back then) I found myself obsessing over the release. I have been a Spider-Man fan since 89' and other than comic book fans, no one gave a shit about Spider-Man until 2003. Seriously. I got made fun of all the time and constantly told how Superman and Batman would "destroy", "pummel", and "rape" Spider-Man. (What can I say, I knew some passionate, hardcore 6th graders.) I would of course defend my Marvel favorite constantly noting how Peter is intelligent and would outsmart his foe instead of relying on force or God given physical attributes.
Then the announcement came that it would be directed by Sam Raimi. I almost shit myself. That's how excited I was. In case you don't know who Raimi is, watch the Evil Dead. One of my favorite Horror film directors was going to be bringing my favorite hero into the dim lights of the theatre and I was going to be young enough to watch a long, happy life span for Pete in the cinematic universe. I honestly thought Raimi would do to Spider-Man what Nolan did with the Batman series.
Little did I know that Hollywood had some tricks up their sleeves. It started when they cast Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker. The names rumored to be attached as Peter were plenty but the talent was hit and miss. Leonardo Dicaprio, Freddie Prinze Jr., Heath Ledger and Edward Furlong were all considered by the studio for the role. Freddie Prinze Jr was a draw for a female fan base, Heath Ledger went on to do something really special as the Joker, and Edward Furlong was...well, Edward Furlong. (He was actually considered by James Cameron in 1996 to be Peter Parker, but that's a whole nother article.)
I was routing for Leonardo all the way. After Titanic he kind of disappeared and I thought this would be the best way to come back. Also, it is impossible to deny that Leo could act his way out of a Great Depression. He's just that good. But that's the problem, Leonardo DiCaprio is too good an actor for Superhero films. His skill set is too logical, his presence too real. Any attempt at being Pete would have made for a very different career and I think we can all agree we love Leo and his films. In 2003 I was pretty upset, but looking back now with reason, I think at the time Tobey was the man for the part.
It is said that Raimi cast Maguire after seeing The Cider House Rules. Given his youthful look and ability to portray untainted innocence while remaining utterly professional, he seemed a good fit for Pete. He was also a good fit for the story line of Peter figuring out who he was. However, I am not a fan of the bumbling, "golly this adult thing is tough", sensitive Spider-Man that we received. It played well in the first film, but by the end of the trilogy it grew tired and unbelievable.
Tobey, however is not the only problem with the franchise. Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane was a reach and a half, but whatever, if you're in to that. I thought the same thing when she was cast in a cheerleading movie. (I'm sorry but I just don't get it.) They redeemed themselves however with the casting of Willem Dafoe as the Green Goblin. He has proven acting chops and, well come on, e kinda looks like a goblin already. James Franco made sense as Harry (though looks nothing like his father) and Aunt May, Uncle Ben, and Jonah Jameson were also well cast. It wasn't necessarily the people more than the place.
The thing that caught me the most off guard was how child-like the whole thing came off. We got a very cartoony version of New York. The franchise was heavily marketed toward children, which I get, but everything leading up to the film didn't suggest such a route. The Green Goblin's suite looked like Aunt May made it. The fight scenes were very weak. Harry seemed to be on percocets the whole time. A lot of people enjoy the first film of that franchise. I thought it was disaster for an adult audience. The sequel was slightly better having a more up and down story line that included Pete giving up on being Spider-Man and his identity not only being revealed to a train full of passengers, but also Mary Jane in the end. Plus there was that pretty bad ass scene of the car rolling in to that diner.
I could maybe forgive the first two films if the trilogy had ended on one cinematic high note. Instead it came off like some weird contest where you see how much shit you can fit in your mouth at one time. Too many villains, an over crowded story line, and multiple reaches in scenes where they decided to go with something that "looked cool" over something that enhanced the story line.
And let me go ahead and just get this out of the way: Topher Grace? ERIC FOREMAN? That's your choice for Eddie Brock? Was there some weird marketing strategy where you thought That 70's Show fans would flock to see their skinny, sarcastic lead play an action villain? Because we did, and it was disappointing.
I wish that I could just put the pedal to the floor on the Topher Grace thing, however there were actually bigger screw ups than this. Much bigger. I'm not talking about James Franco flying around all drugged up trying to avenge his father. I'm talking about the third fail at flushing out Peter as a growing character. And this time they really just gave the fans one big middle finger. I am of course talking about EMO Peter.
It appeared that the best choice to show evil Spider-Man was as simple as changing his taste in music. One day he's listening The Shins and next thing you know he's channeling the Black Veil Brides years before they even formed. Tobey's take on the role also put a bad taste in my mouth. He was less of an Evil Spider-Man and more of a 17 year old know-it-all that I wanted to punch right in the mouth. With a new set of bangs and an "I don't give a fuck attitude" we were given some of the most hilarious faces to ever grace a superhero.
All in all I give the original Spider-Man franchise a C+. You can argue for a higher grade if you like, but be careful, you might end up in remedial film critique by trying to prove a dump as fancy ice cream. It just isn't so. Compare it to the Dark Knight franchise and it looks even more like a bumbling student hollywood film. It was bad enough that after 4 years of getting over it I almost had a heart attack when they announced a reboot. I was terrified. Peter Parker had already been through so much pain and embarrassment. Why couldn't they just leave him alone?
The name change to The Amazing Spider-Man put a little ease in my heart. Immediately they wanted the fans to know this would be a rebranding. Then they announced Marc Webb and I became skeptical again. (500) Days of Summer and that put him on the map for this? I kept asking myself if they maybe just chose him because of the name. 'Webb brings you the Wall Crawler'. But if Raimi had taught me anything, it was that previous works mean nothing when transitioning over to the superhero world.
As the casting calls came of Emma Stone, Dennis Leary, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field it was evident that they were going for good actors that people wanted to see. Then they announced Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. I know I have heard criticism before, but right away it was a huge improvement on physical stature alone. Garfield is that long, lean muscular frame that Spider-Man has always had to him. The long limbs create a more spider-like perch.
Garfield was a much more personable Parker. He was more believable as the high schooler. He had angst to him, but was also a bleeding heart. It was obvious through the way Garfield portrayed him that his feeling where worn on his sleeve, but he never let that define the role the way Maguire did. You also believed that this kid was smart and that he knew what he was talking about. This Pete didn't win anyone over by sucking up and being super duper nice. He made good decisions when they mattered and used his intelligence to prove he was fit.
This new take on Spider-Man brought us a more hard ass Parker. Maguire was so docile you sometimes expected him to invite the villain over after a good cry, but Garfield is a smart ass with a chip on his shoulder. He liked to crack jokes that actually landed and he wasn't nearly as awkward by any means. Another big plus was the suit. They brought back the bright colors that define Spider-Man. (And personally I have always loved.) The sneaker-like feet built in were a nice touch and I didn't even mind the more latex look. The gold eyes weren't my favorite and I wish they would have kept the Spider symbol in tact, but out of any of the films, The Amazing Spider-Man(2012) in my opinion has the best costume.
I give the first film of the second franchise an A-. I liked the choice for the villain and Gwenn Stacy was aways one of my favorite characters. I think Garfield nailed it as Peter and Webb pulled off a darker, more realistic Spider-Man. I was optimistic. I bought branding from the franchise, something I always stayed away from on the first one. It wasn't something I wanted to remember.
As The Amazing Spider-Man 2 geared up excitement built inside me. My thoughts constantly raced. "Electro is going to be in it? And Jamie Foxx is playing him!?! Harry Osborn is coming back and he's being played by...Dane DeHaan!" (I thought DeHaan was an excellent evil little shit in Chronicle.) The casting choices were great. They were getting actors with talent and building upon a great first installment.
Then I watched the film.....here is what I will say, because The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is getting its own review from me: The acting was well done for what it was. The writing was horrible. The directing...was there directing? You could cut the cheese in that thing with a knife. They went more bright and family oriented and even changed the suit back to more of the Sam Raimi look. (I like the white eyes being brought back but that's it.) After around 30 minutes in I felt embarrassed watching it. It was like they were apologizing for the first one, and there was no need. It was awesome.
The villains...Green Goblin is a way different take and isn't completely comic accurate, but he looks awesome. Electro landed just fine. Max to Electro was well acted for how it was written. (it's Jamie Foxx did you really doubt him?) As far as the Rhino is concerned...Jesus christ. That was just awful. Could the idea possibly have come from the same person that thought the new Shredder was a 'great idea'? Horrible. And I will leave it all at that.
I walked away from that movie feeling like a got kicked in the nuts. Straight up. It was disappointing. I had high hopes for what this franchise could become and instead I was watching it all fall by the way side. That was until February of this year when Sony announced a partnership with Disney to reboot the franchise, again. Disney...and Sony...working together? The way I see it, it will either be a huge disaster, or a home run. There will be no middle ground here.
I'm not completely sold on the idea of what Disney brings to the table other than money, which the Spider-Man franchise has always had plenty of. (Even though the first franchise wasn't great film, it was a financial tsunami compared to what anybody though it would be.) There will of course be the band-wagon spidey fans who come to play and I think I actually welcome that. (Although, after what happen to Joss Whedon this past week, I'm skeptical about true fans and their ability to suck the fun out of anything and everything. I too can be that person, and we suck.) But that is the plan. Bringing Spidey into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Apparently there is a fence about Andrew Garfield returning and Disney and Sony are both on it. I'm getting 70/30 results in my research to as whether or not this is completely true, heavily favoring new Pete. There are whispers that they've narrowed it down to 5 new actors, but Garfield's name keeps inserting himself. There were also talks about Miles Morales coming to bat instead of Pete, but that is apparently working itself into a Netflix show? (The internet is a dangerous realm of ideas that call themselves profits.)
As much as I love Garfield as Pete, I just don't see them being able to tie it all together with him. I have a feeling they will treat The Amazing Spider-Man series as they have treated the Hulk films and just completely scrap everything from before. It's about an evolution of the character at this point. They've done two test runs, could the third one be the charm? It's being set to release in 2017 and he should be tied in to the MCU rather quickly. I feel like they may even be able to introduce Pete in an Avengers film and then segway that into the next Spider-Man franchise.
I know that the last time I said that to a real person they yelled at me, but think about it. Do we really need to see his origin story again? How many times must we watch Uncle Ben die? Can they really reinvent the bite scene again? I feel at this point the only way to do it with a fresh feel would be to have Peter kill Uncle Ben and then hide it from Aunt May. Discovering new superpowers while on the run from the law? GENIOUS! Or maybe let's put a Law and Order spin to it, the SPIDER killed Uncle Ben and Pete gets bit while enacting his revenge. He kills the spider in the process, but he is never the same again forcing himself to relive that night every time he shoots a web...or crawls a wall depending on which Pete you get. (Sadly I feel like a studio really would buy that.)
Obviously that can't happen, so why not move on. He's in high school, but he's had his powers and Uncle Ben passed like, a year ago. He has honed his craft of web slinging, but is now to the point of being asked by school councilors doing college prep "where do you see yourself in 5 years?" Pete finds himself in the cross hairs of 'Who the fuck am I going to be?' Then BooM, Avengers movie and he figures out that being a hero is his calling, making that low paying day job of freelance photography all that more bitter sweet. (I don't know, something along those lines. Do with it what you will.)
The only thing I will ask is that they figure out who he is before they cast him. Get a good writer, get a good plot, find a great actor, and start spinning a new web. Continue to keep the suit simple. Maintain the bright blue and red that Spidey is accustom to. Make sure the stand alone movies can actually do just that, stand alone. I've never been a huge fan of the Iron Man or Thor franchises. I enjoyed Captain America. I loved Guardians of The Galaxy. That being said, they obviously have created a huge fan base for all and given what seems to be a permanent life to the character.
Marvel does something that DC is just now learning to do: give lasting treatments. I have this small feeling inside that I might actually trust them with my favorite super hero. Might it actually be time for Mr. Parker to receive a treatment that lasts as a piece of good film as well as staying true to the character? A boy can dream can't he?