I’ve come to a conclusion, as of late. I think I measure the passage of time by when certain movies came out. Weird, maybe, but it’s just the way my brain works. It was brought to my attention last month that this year marks the 10th anniversary of Sam Raimi’s ‘Spiderman’. It made me feel kind of old, but in reality ten years isn’t really all that long in “movie years”(It’s like dog years, but totally not.). Well, that might not be so true anymore. It feels like movies have become more of a disposable commodity these days. That might be due to the fact that most “big” movies are more or less financial endeavors, and aren’t really being made to make “classic” films. Although, I think the original ‘Spiderman’ is one that slipped through the system. So, now only ten years removed from the first one, and five years from the last one, they are re-booting the franchise. I’m wondering if enough time has passed for people to embrace a new Spidey series. The original flicks were pretty popular. In fact, until ‘The Dark Knight’ came out, ‘Spiderman 2’ was the highest grossing super hero movie of all time. Rightly so too. Ok, let’s just get into this business, shall we?
Back in the late spring of 2002, I was pretty excited. At that point in my life I was a rather large fan of Spiderman. I had grown up with the character. It started with the Fox Kids cartoon show, and then later graduated into the comics. When it came to the comics, I mostly read the older ones. At the time Marvel had been compiling their back log of “classic” series into large black and white volumes. They were cheap too. It was kind of a family affair in my house. We would all gather around the TV on Saturday mornings to watch the cartoon, and then we would discuss at length what we thought about the episode, and how well it represented what we thought was the “true” Spiderman. Then we saw the movie. It was pretty great. In my opinion, an almost perfect representation of the Spiderman that I knew and loved. It got something in particular right. The tone was perfect. The spirit of the “golden age” comics was alive and well. Not only that, but it manged to pull of both a compelling plot and do a complete origin story with out short changing either. At the end of the day, it wasn’t just a good Spiderman flick, it was a good movie. Likable characters that we could relate to. Incredibly well paced. Really great set pieces that informed the actual plot and character progression rather than just being spectacle. Pretty much everything a good “popcorn” movie should be. It left you wanting more. The story arc of the movie was wrapped up, but the character journey wasn’t finished, and it did it with out being obnoxious.
‘Spiderman 2’ is, in my opinion, a perfect sequel. It builds on the foundation of the other movie, and makes you feel like it organically picks up right where the other left off. It’s seamless, and never feels like it’s trying to one up the other film. The emotional arcs are more powerful. The set pieces are bigger and better. The sense of danger is palpable, and it does all these things with out ever seeming like it’s trying. That may not seem like that big of a deal, to some, but the fact that this movie out does it’s predecessor and never seems like it is actively trying to is quite the accomplishment. I think it has to do with, much like the first one, all of the set pieces are informed by the actual plot instead of being there just to look cool. At the time of it’s release, some people claimed that it was “The Best Super Hero Movie Ever Made!”, and you know what? I think I agree.
Every kingdom has it’s stumbles. You know what I’m saying? ‘Spiderman 3’ was… Disappointing. Yeah, that’s it. It was disappointing. For everything that ‘Spiderman 2’ got right, in terms of being a sequel, ‘Spiderman 3’ got wrong. It was overstuffed and over blown, and seemed like it was struggling at times to connect itself to the larger narrative of the trilogy. In short, there was too much going on. All new characters and sub plots are short changed, because none of these elements are given enough time to properly develop. We never really care about most of what is going on in this movie. The stakes are only high because we are told that they are, rather than our personal investment in the goings on. So, who’s to blame? There was a lot of behind the scenes turmoil concerning this flick. Sam Raimi wanted Sandman as the villain, and probably would have done some hinting at the Black Cat’s future, but the studio felt it was imperative that Venom be the villain. Movies of this nature usually have a release date before production even begins. Hell, sometimes before a script has even been written, and ‘Spiderman 3’ was no exception. Well, there was a script, and Venom just wasn’t in it. So, for one reason or another Sam Raimi conceded, and agreed to include Venom in the story. The problem was that there was no time to develop an entirely new script. So they took the existing Sandman-centric script and tried to find ways to insert Venom. Venom is a complicated villain, with all the symbiote business and stuff, so making him more of a sub plot than a major focus or threat, caused the muddled nature of the story, and pissed off Venom fans to boot. Venom, for all intents and purposes, is actually one of three villains in this movie. They done goofed, you know?
So, now we’re here. Re-boot territory. This new movie is trying to do all it can to separate itself from the “other” Spiderman movies. We have our new “tortured soul” Peter Parker, and a darker aesthetic. I’m not going to immediately dismiss this flick. I’ll go see it and then figure out how I feel about it. It’s got some interesting things going for it, and I like Andrew Garfield. It’s definitely a more “modern” representation of the source material, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be bad, but doing the origin story again is, in my opinion, a mistake. The other movies are too recent, and it has the danger of just feeling redundant. Sam Raimi was actually prepping a fourth and possibly fifth movie in his series, but apparently the studio wouldn’t let him tell the stories he wanted to tell so he jumped ship. Good for you, Sam. It’s a bummer, though. I really wanted to see his series of Spidey films go out on a high note rather than a flat one. He was very public about his disappointment with ‘Spiderman 3’, and I would have loved to see what he would have done. I’m not going to go into ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ as a jaded fanboy prick, but the best I can give it is cautiously optimistic.
The original three Spiderman flicks will always hold a special place in my heart. When I watched them again a few weeks ago, I was surprised at how well they stood up. They are bright, exciting, and most importantly, fun. I mean, even ‘Spiderman 3’ isn’t so bad in retrospect. They’re not just movies that rest on the laurels of the property it’s based on(I’m looking at you Marvel Studios). They are just good movies, and that’s saying a lot in our super hero filled cineplexes.