An ongoing theme this week is apparently going to be that we just saw Spidey’s origins on screen ten years ago, so why do we need to see it again?
You know, because usually Hollywood is so dynamic and original in its plots.
It’s a fair point, as far as it goes: like it or not, it is the same story in the broad strokes.
But as any comics geek can tell you, it’s not really the broad strokes that are important. Instead it’s the little things, the touches a storyteller brings to it, that makes reading an origin again important. And sometimes the broad strokes get tweaked as well. Here are five reasons “The Amazing Spider-Man” isn’t really redundant.
#5) Marc Webb and Sam Raimi Are Substantially Different Directors
OK, so that’s the understatement of the year. Raimi is, and always has been, a big-show kind of guy. He’s capable of way more than that: Check out “A Simple Plan” or “The Gift” (where he gets a fine, nuanced performance out of freakin’ Keanu Reeves). But he’ll happily chuck an eyeball in someone’s mouth or light Liam Neeson on fire or, yes, stage a musical number if that’s what it takes to get a reaction from the audience.
Marc Webb, meanwhile, is an interpersonal kind of guy first. “(500) Days of Summer” has problems, but it sold a lot of tickets because Webb is good at building relationships and getting performances out of actors.
#4) The Origin Was Spread Across the First Two Spider-Man Movies, Really
I’m not talking about getting his power, I mean establishing Peter Parker for who and what he is. Part of the problem of any superhero franchise lately is that they’re essentially writing for the trade; the director and cast all know the studio wants three movies, so they’re saving a lot of the good stuff for the next movie. The second movie really established the can’t-get-a-break nature of Peter’s life and how he gets past it, which is essentially what defines the character: at root, he really is just a normal guy struggling to deal with normal problems.
#3) There’s No Harry or Norman Osborn
While we’re getting into it, it’s fairly clear just from the trailers that there are some pretty big differences between this movie and the original “Spider-Man”. Peter’s parents play a fairly key role in the story, even if they’re absent. But Harry Osborn missing is a much bigger deal. Raimi’s trilogy is as much a story of Harry unable to escape his father’s failures and how that ruins his friendships and relationships as it is about Peter dealing with life’s disappointments. Peter can deal; Harry can’t. It’s a key difference and it creates a contrast that largely drives the plot of the first trilogy.
#2) Two Words: Gwen Stacy
For comics fans especially… we all know what’s coming. Stacy was basically crammed into the third movie, so the vast sea of people who have just seen the movies have no idea what we know is happening, but it sets a bit of a melancholy tone for “Amazing” simply because the clock is ticking.
Adding Captain Stacy, whose death wasn’t really any better, to the mix just makes it worse.
#1) This is a Different Spider-Man
Spidey in the Raimi movies had one big flaw: he lacked a smart mouth. Part of what defines Spidey is the fact that he spends about half his time in fights insulting his opponents. Tobey Maguire did a good job in the movies, but he also was never asked, and never had a chance, to create a sense of Peter being a smart-ass kid. “Amazing” seems to be going out of its way to do just that.
It also left out a fairly important part of the origin, which is that before Uncle Ben dies, Peter’s on his way to being as big a bully and a douchebag as anybody who ever called him “Puny Parker”. “Amazing”, just from the trailers, seems to have left that part in.
Yeah, it seems a bit weird to see a franchise we saw in our lifetimes get rebooted, but the reboot looks like a completely different movie, and it deserves a clean slate and a fair shot. We’ll know for sure how much tomorrow.
image courtesy Sony