Spider-Man has been around since 1962. He was always a character that comic readers could connect with. He’s awkward, young, funny, witty, and has a great set of super powers (which, considering some Marvel heroes got stuck with things like psychedelic light shows and archery “powers,” that definitely counts for a lot). He faced all the problems teens (the primary consumers of comics at the time) faced while also occasionally throwing in some adult-worthy angst (the death of loved ones, marriage/relationship issues, etc.).
Because of all this, it’s no surprise that Spider-Man was the first Marvel property to receive a live-action show (The Amazing Spider-man, 1978-1979, CBS). For the record, I vaguely remember that show (although I wasn’t yet alive, I must’ve caught reruns because Spider-man is so freaking cool, you guys) and it was… not great. But they tried.
Fast-forward to to 2002 and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man flat out blew everyone out of the water. It crushed at the box-office; becoming the first movie ever to reach the $100 million mark in the first week. It redefined comic super hero movies in a way that hadn’t been done since Tim “I would never read a comic book” Burton’s 1989 Batman (unfortunately, the sequels basically undid all of that and made all 90s filmmakers thought that comic movies had to be goofy, colorful, and include at least one of those annoying skewed 45-degree-angle zoom in shots). These movies didn’t have to be all about special effects and flashy fight scenes. They could be real, literary, introspective looks at the human condition. They could explore morality and justice. And also they could have super bad-ass fight scenes and explosions.
Two years later, Spider-Man 2 came out and surpassed Spider-Man‘s opening day numbers ($40.4 million vs. $39.4). Although it fell short in total gross earning by about $30 million, that’s still not a bad day at the office. Those two did great critically as well; with the first one scoring an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and the second (less-profitable) one scoring a whopping 94%. However, if you visited those links, you probably know where this is going.
Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 was the cinematic equivalent of popping in a tape (ask your older siblings, kids) that you thought was the episode of yesterday’s Dragon Ball Z and instead getting a face full of your dad’s balls on your parents’ homemade sex tape. Four villians (if you count the ooze itself), emo Peter Parker, a second love interest and a dance sequence do not a good Spider-Man movie make. The Lord of the Rings trilogy–including bonus footage–couldn’t have fleshed all those plots into a coherent and enjoyable movie.
So then Sony said, “Our bad,” and released The Amazing Spider-Man. Like good little comic fans, we went to see if they had un-fucked Spider-Man’s good name. Did they? Sort of. The reboot was essentially pointless, but overall it was pretty enjoyable. We had to spend the first 30 minutes or so of the movie reliving an origin story that A) We had already seen 12 years before and B) Anyone who lives in a part of the world where automobiles and women learning math aren’t considered tools of the devil already knew. But Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were very likable and they did the comic fans a bit of service by making Gwen Stacey Peter’s first love interest instead of Mary-Jane Watson. Also they went back to the non-biological web slingers. All-in-all, it seemed like they were going in the right direction (although still a wholly unnecessary one, considering we already had two perfectly good and recent Spider-Man movies).
Then, last May, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was released. The word-of-mouth on this movie was so terrible that, even though its opening weekend surpassed several of its predecessors, it ended up grossing roughly half of Raimi’s original and still $1.5 million less than that space-tar-covered turd Spider-Man 3. I will admit that I didn’t even watch this movie. In fact, I rented it today so I could pay it some lip service in this article, but my Xbox kept not wanting to read it (I tried other Blu-Rays, DVDs, and game discs and each one worked on the first try and, as far as I could tell, the Blu-Ray for Spider-Man was immaculate; probably because no one has ever rented it, so I’m forced to conclude that even machines hate this movie).
And now we are getting a third reboot. The rational for this, as far as I can tell, is “something something we need a new Spider-Man to eventually cross with the Avengers franchise and then on into the Civil Wars.” If we are being honest with ourselves, it is really just that Sony wants to continue to milk this property for all it’s worth, regardless of how shitty the result is.
There are some really complex licensing issues going on, sure but here’s the thing–unless they are going to show Spidey giving birth to himself, —we don’t need to see Spider-Man’s origin story again! Bitten by a radioactive spider, genetic changes, puberty metaphors…. we get it. He probably has the least ambiguous backstory of any superhero ever. In Superman, he is born and sent here from an entire planet that got wiped off the face of the universe.* That could be (and probably is) an entire comic series in itself. The X-Men were born with their powers, but each one has their own unique story of how they learned to cope (or not cope) with their new-found powers. Hell… Even in Batman, we can at least argue over whether Bruce was seeing Zoro or Faust before his dad takes his whiny ass out of the theater and get shot. Peter Parker got bitten by a radioactive spider and woke up as Spider-Man. The End.
I am all about bringing Spidey into the great, interconnected universe Marvel has spent almost the last decade building. I peed with excitement when he showed up in the Joss Whedon-headed Astonishing X-Men series:
But if I have to watch Peter Parker get bitten by a radioactive spider one more goddamn time, I am going to get up, walk out of the theater, and rob small children of their lunch money until I recoup the money I paid to see every single movie in the Spider-Man franchise.
*Note to the producers: If you want to change Spidey’s origin story so he get’s bitten during a planet-wide human/giant mutant spider battle and spend the first third of the movie on that–a la Man of Steel–please go right ahead. The Federal Reserve will begin printing new money for you opening weekend.