With news that Spidey will be integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how they will salvage the character. Even if you like the rebooted movies, it is clear Sony needs something drastic to turn their profit margin around. Here is what Marvel can take away from those films and what they could change…
1) Peter Parker is unlikable
Andrew Garfield isn’t my favorite Spider-Man, but I will say his Spider-Man was pretty good. His Peter Parker, though, was not great. Which I don’t blame him for really, but more the screenwriters for not understanding how to write a comic book movie (or at least modern one, more on that later). Garfield’s portrayal of Peter doesn’t convalesce into a complete character for a number of reasons: He’s a loner, he’s angsty (despite a marked lack of bullying from his classmates), he’s supposed to be more intelligent than Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, but fails to notice basic plot clues that sit until the end of both movies, he’s a jerk to his aunt almost the entire time. Now in fairness, there is some truth that some adopted/foster children have a troubled relationship with their guardians, but the movie never capitalized on this to make it a character arc. The main issue is, there’s not much of Peter Parker to root for. Spidey has jokes, the costume, the web-shooters, but people still need to care about the person behind the mask. Imagine how boring Iron Man is without Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark. If Marvel wants Spider-Man to succeed again, one of the first things the new screenwriters have to do is make Peter Parker a compelling character.
2) Retread, Retread, Retread
Some of this is inevitable, it’s a reboot so Sony has to explain the new setting and characters’ starting points. However, then what we get is the story running right back to Oscorp and Green Goblin whenever we’re not being bored by what happened to his parents 14+ years ago. Peter Parker has a girlfriend in High School who is the love of his life, and Uncle Ben dies again. Amazing Spider-Man feels too much of a remake of 2001’s Spider-Man, which is a bad way to justify rebooting everything. Starting again doesn’t mean you have to literally START AGAIN, it means you can change some things or do something entirely new. Using the Lizard as the villain could’ve been a smart move, but then his entire character boils down to becoming insane from a science experiment from Oscorp (just like William Dafoe’s Norman Osborn). By the time Amazing Spider-Man 2 rolls around, we’re getting Harry Osborn having a blood-feud against Spider-Man and hiring another villain to help kill him just like Spider-Man 2. Although it sounds overly critical, I think Marvel would do well not doing anything the previous 5 movies have already done. Aside from using Mary Jane Watson or Gwen Stacy (why not Betty Brant?), skip Uncle Ben dying and the Osborn saga, and Spidey wavering on being Spider-Man. We have enough of all that, getting a third helping could kill the character. Use any of the other ten thousand stories and dozen other villains instead.
3) Weak Villains
Think back on the Raimi movies and their villains. One, they had actual wants/goals specific to themselves. Norman Osborn is trying to keep his company from going under, Otto Octavius wants to complete his greatest experiment, Harry wants to live up to his father’s expectations and avenge his death. Sandman and Venom, while not solid still had aspirations of having goals, Flint Marko wants to pay for his daughter’s medical operation and Eddie Brock wants revenge on Peter Parker (not Spider-Man, Peter Parker). Even if you hate these villains (and there is some fair justification for that), at least they’re memorable. ASM’s Curt Connors’ is crazy, Electro is crazy (and jealous of Spider-Man), Harry doesn’t want to die so he hates Spider-Man for not saving him. Spider-Man himself won’t risk saving his childhood best friend even though he’s going to die anyway. Superhero movies don’t need great villains to succeed (Thor 2 is evidence of that), but they go a long way to making a movie better. Choose a good villain, give him some reasons for existing, and go from there. Team-ups, spinoffs, all that can wait until there’s an actual foundation to build from.
4) Nonexistent Supporting Cast
There doesn’t seem to be an actual support cast in the ASM movies. There’s Peter, then Gwen, then the two father figures who get killed off in the first movie, Aunt May who only appears for 10 minutes each film. You need a support cast, or the most compelling main character ever to sell a story. Spider-Man had Harry Osborn, J Jonah Jameson and the rest of the Daily Bugle staff, Curt Connors, MJ, Aunt May throughout, all these people for Peter to play off and interact with by themselves. Besides more opportunity for jokes and drama, that’s more chances for the audience to attach to these characters. Without that, there is a noticeable void in ASM whether it’s recognized or not.
With all those faults listed, what can Marvel do? I said this before in the Convo on Comic movies but anything new could be cool. Miles Morales is totally an option, but I’m not crazy on these people saying “Put both of them in there”. Miles should be THE Spider-Man, not A Spider-Man or worse a sidekick to Peter Parker. One option I would find enticing is Marvel using Spider-Man 2099. New Spider-Man, new costume, new powers, tons of possibilities for story. With 5 Peter Parker movies, and the MCU trying to be more diverse (tonally and racially) why not use the 2099 iteration? With the rumors that Spidey will appear in Captain America: Civil War ,I’m betting Peter Parker will return once again. If that’s true, then that’s ok because there’s still a lot of things you could do with Peter Parker. I would like to see an adult Peter Parker working as a teacher in Midtown, I found that a fitting career move for him. Have him fight Mystero or Kraven the Hunter or Shocker or Scorpion or even Electro again. Don’t have Peter Parker wondering if he should continue as Spider-Man, it is a plot-thread that has become tired. Superheroes now seem to enjoy being who they are (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America), and the ones who don’t (like the first two versions of the Hulk) suffer for it. They absolutely should have struggles to overcome, but deciding whether or not to be a hero shouldn’t be one of them.
With that, I have no more suggestions. I don’t care about the cast, director, or screenwriters, I care about the results. End of the day, I want to want to see another Spider-Man movie…