Where did it all go so wrong? Was it the studio interference repeating the same mistakes they made only 7 years ago in Spider-Man 3? The actors are all highly talented. You’ve got a competent director who knows how to tell a cinematic story. It’s hard to talk about everything wrong with the state of the Spider-Man franchise. From the stuttering attempts to start a shared universe with only one central character, to an Oscorp basement full of villain outfits, the perfect cinematic hero is flailing for life. Let’s toss him a lifeline. Here are 5 Ways to Fix Spider-Man:
1) Tell A Story
Let me explain. Things happen in these movies. There are elements of storytelling in them. There are some characters and even a few arcs. But only a few ever work, like, at all. I’m a huge fan of the Captain Stacy character in The Amazing Spider-Man because he’s the only character with a fucking arc. He learns about Spider-Man, becomes an opposing force (with an actual good reason!), and comes to realize that New York needs Spider-Man with all these freaks running around before dying. Peter Parker almost learns something in the first movie before throwing it all in our faces with a line that negates character growth and leaves the movie feeling hollow. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry but their relationship meant nothing. It doesn’t help that Gwen wasn’t much of a character beyond Manic Pixie Dream Girl who only did what the plot required her to do, before taking any responsibility of her death away from Peter. Gwen’s death in the comics worked so well because she didn’t know Peter was Spider-Man, thereby making her an innocent. It was all Peter’s fault. In TASM 2 Peter reacts sadly because his girlfriend dies. Sad? Yes. Garfield sells the hell out of the scene. But then he’s sad for 5 minutes in real time (6 months passing by in movie time doesn’t work for this sort of development) before forgiving himself and final swinging into the camera. So what did Peter learn over the course of this new franchise? Actions don’t have consequences and people are wrong when they don’t listen to him. What kind of emotion are we supposed to feel about that? Show Peter struggling to balance work, school, and life in general with his duties as a superhero. Conflict breeds interest. Peter’s life is all conflict and consequences. Don’t shortchange the audience with this “chosen one” and “because destiny” bullshit.
2) Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Spider-Man is a street level hero. He gets involved in giant Marvel events like every hero, but Parker’s selling point is that he’s smaller than all of that. He takes the time to stop and talk to civilians (TASM 2 got this on a surface level). We need to see the smaller stories in Peter Parker’s life. How does being Spider-Man affect him beyond just his love life? Whether Marc Webb likes it or not, companionship isn’t the only important thing in the world (He just felt a disturbance). His mind is in the right spot with focusing on relationships. The scale needs to be contained but never feel small. The ending of The Dark Knight is a good example. Several people stand in a room and discuss the different philosophies representing Gotham. Just look back to Raimi’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. One ends with a fight in an abandoned building. The other involves the fate of New York City but it involves character decisions that lead up to that point. TASM 2 involves Electro trying to Elexplode New York or something before Elexploding himself and a forced cameo by Meth Goblin before killing Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man retiring for 6 months, all before Spider-Man comes back to save the day and final swing into the camera. That’s a lot to digest in 20 minutes. Less is more, guys.
3) Not Everything Needs To Be From Oscorp
Peter’s parents worked at Oscorp. Curt Connors/The Lizard was related to Oscorp. Electro was an accident at Oscorp. Green Goblin’s suit was manufactured at Oscorp. Rhino’s suit, Vulture’s wings, Doc Ock’s arms were all manufactured at Oscorp. What the hell is it with Oscorp tying into everything? If you’re trying to build a Spider-Verse in the cinemas, the one thing you don’t want to do is make everything seem like it’s coming from one point in that universe. Oscorp is fine for a recurring antagonist and occasional big threat. But what do they even do? 2 movies and we know they hire high school students to work in private labs and create villain equipment. I. Don’t. Understand. Let villain origins come across from other parts of life. Don’t condense your universe to one villainous organization.
4) Stop Adapting Moments From Comics Because They’re From Comics
This is probably the biggest problem with these movies. Yeah, it’s nice to have fanservice once in a while but for fucks sake tell a good story before you do this. Don’t make it your whole thesis. Why does Gwen Stacy die in TASM 2? It happened in the comics. The worst thing about it is that they don’t understand why these moments work in the comics. Harry Osborn becoming the Green Goblin was such a big deal in the original comics and Raimi films because we didn’t want this character to fall into the curse of the Goblin. Norman Osborn had clout over his son, constantly demeaning him and Harry could never make him proud. He was also jealous of Peter, whom Norman loved as his true son. Here we’ve got Norman in a single scene before he dies. Harry tries to avoid getting the Green Goblin disease with Spider-Man’s magic blood. And the best part is that his villain suit is downstairs, and the doors even open for him. Why did that door open for him? Because he needed to become the Green Goblin because of reasons. Start with outlines of stories from the source material before branching off and doing your own versions of the story.
5) Sell Spidey Back to Marvel
Spider-Man’s price tag is getting smaller with every new installment. It took TASM 2 several months to cross the 200 million line domestically. I know people who weren’t even aware there was a Spider-Man movie this year. I know people who didn’t even bother seeing the fucking movie. We’ve lived to see Spider-Man fatigue actually become a valid talking point. That shouldn’t happen. Not to the people’s champion. Spider-Man almost singlehandedly started the superhero craze in the early 2000’s (Blade and X-Men were things but didn’t make Spider-Man money). Those movies resonated with audiences. Even Spider-Man 3, as maligned as it is, still almost made a billion dollars. People like those movies because they tell human stories. Part 1 is Peter’s coming-of-age story. Part 2 is Peter’s personal crisis of faith before discovering who he truly is. Part 3 is a mess but is basically Part 2 with messier parts (and still played well with general audiences until the internet became more of a popular thing). It’s obvious to audiences now when something is made with profit in mind before good storytelling. If Sony and Avi Arad can’t wrap their minds around that, then they’re going to run Spidey into the ground and ruin any interest audiences everywhere once had in the character.
Feature Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment