Lots of people, even – maybe especially – Spider-man fans, are angry that a new Spider-man movie is coming out in a few weeks.
But as a fan of superheroes, I don’t have a problem with a new Spidey movie. I want to see more.
Just not more of the same.
The problem with The Amazing Spider-man isn’t that it’s yet another Spider-man flick, or that it’s coming so soon after the last round of successful movies. It’s that it’s a retelling of a story that was already told.
Superheroes and comic book characters aren’t merely for geeks anymore; they belong to everyone. So-called geek culture has permeated the mainstream, and most of these characters are household names.
Is there really anyone out there that doesn’t understand that Superman is an alien who was raised by midwesterners? Or that Batman’s parents were killed and now he’s rich and out for revenge? Or that Peter Parker is a smart, and smart-ass (Raimi’s films notwithstanding) high-schooler that got lucky with a spider bite? Children are growing up with these characaters, they know who they are. Many (not all) superheroes have become a firm enough part of the pop culture landscape that there is no need to reintroduce them with every new film, and Spider-man is one of them.
Going over the same ground as Raimi’s movies (the origin story, the Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, etc.) is a terrible idea, but there is no reason we can’t get further adventures of Spider-man on the big screen, with a new cast and creative team, even if is just a scant five years after the last movie. We just want to see a new story.
Ever heard of James Bond? He’s a serialized character that has appeared in over twenty movies, most with different directors, many with entirely different casts. Nobody gets mad when a new 007 adventure hits screens (except during the Pierce Brosnan years. Those glossy pieces of crap were horrible. Hence Daniel Craig.). Because, aside from the new Craig films, there was never any real continuity, just new adventures. No retreads (unless you consider every Bond movie a retread, which, well…)
Continuity is overrated. In the world of comic books, there have been so many different variations of every character that it will give you a headache trying to reconcile them all. It’s not possible. And that’s fine, that’s why the writers create different dimensions where they are free to make changes outside of the typical canon; they like to play. The essence of the character isn’t violated by those variations, and in fact the explorations often breathe new life into characters who are stuck in ruts.
Not every movie needs to be part of a larger arc. The character is the continuity.
Why can’t superheroes get the same treatment as 007? Why can’t we get a new Spider-man story every few years? Or a new Superman? (The upcoming Man of Steel reboot actually makes a little more sense than Spidey’s, after the chokefest that was Superman Returns, but as the most well-known superhero of all, we certainly don’t need to see his origin – or Zod! – again either. A standalone Superman action flick would be AWESOME.) These comic book characters have countless stories to cull from, and not every one needs to retell the origin.
Retain the necessary touchstones that define the character, but don’t burden the movie with another take on the origin story. Bond didn’t have his origin laid out on screen until it made sense to do a reboot (due to diminishing creative returns), but in just about every single installment, certain elements have remained: gagdgets and Q, “shaken not stirred,” his Aston Martin, “Bond, James Bond,” his way with women. Each superhero has similar elements that audiences enjoy seeing, and that help provide a sense of familiarity, but just because those are included doesn’t mean the same story has to be retold every time.
I’m not alone in this. A few months ago, Marvel head Kevin Feige used the same Bond analogy I use here, proclaiming that if Robert Downey Jr. leaves the Iron Man franchise, they would merely continue with a new actor behind the mask. Some of this is likely a power play; few superhero franchises rely more on the charisma of the unmasked alter-ego than Iron Man – and RDJ’s performance is a large part of the reason people go to Iron Man movies – so who knows how readily Marvel would move on. But it was nice to hear.
The fact is, in the year 2012, comic book and/or superhero movies have become their own genre. They aren’t going away anytime soon. I don’t see a problem with revisiting them every few years, so long as we’re telling new stories. And that doesn’t mean merely re-telling old stories in new ways – though sometimes valid (see: Nolan’s Batman, the aforementioned Bond) – a so-called “reboot” requires a longer gap, as evidenced by the rancor towards this new movie.
But more Spider-man isn’t the problem. If this movie fails, it won’t be because people are sick of the character. It will be because we’re sick of retreads.
Of course, I haven’t seen it yet, so it may just suck in general. All on its own.