Drew McWeeny over at Hit Fix broke the news today that Sony Pictures has pretty much locked in Percy Jackson star Logan Lerman as their Peter Parker in the Spider-Man reboot. According to Drew, Sony seems to be taking Spider-Man in a more teen-friendly direction, with a concentration on Peter Parker’s high school trials and tribulations. I like Lerman, though I admit I’m not very familiar with him past his role in the short lived WB series Jack & Bobby, and 3:10 to Yuma. With Mark Webb (500 Days of Summer) directing, and James Vanderbilt (The Rundown, Zodiac, The Losers) writing the screenplay, the reboot seems to be in good hands. That out of the way however, I have to ask — why does this film need to exist at all?
The answer, of course, is Sam Raimi — and the word you need to remember, is Venom. Bear with me, you’re going to get a hefty Raimi/Spider-Man 3 rant before we get back to the reboot. Popcorn?
Raimi made it very clear that he did not understand the draw fans had to what is arguably one of Spider-Man’s most popular and long lasting foes. On IGN’s Top 100 Comic Book Villians of All Time, Venom ranks number 22. What other major Spidey villians ranks higher? Only Norman Osborn — The Green Goblin. In Wizard Magazine’s list of top 100 villians across all genre, Venom ranks in at 67, only beaten once again by Osborn at 19. There are more lists, most all of a very similar nature. Raimi, for the most part, got it right with the first Spider-Man film. Willem Dafoe plays a fantastic villain, his turn at Norman Osborn/Green Goblin being a prime example. The Green Goblin has had staying power since 1964, and with good reason. That said, I think it’s fair to say that Venom has taken up the torch as Spider-Man’s arch-enemy. My generation, the generation that Raimi was supposed to be appealing to, grew up reading about the extraterrestrial, symbiotic parasite that caused such havoc in the life of Spider-Man. Knowing this, admitting that he understood what fans wanted — Sam Raimi gutted Venom, gave us a wimpy Topher Grace as Venom’s primary host, Eddie Brock (meet the proper Brock, folks), and killed Venom…with pipes and a Pumpkin Bomb. Not just kicked his ass a little, with the symbiote secretly sliming away to regroup, but removed him from the film’s universe.
Also, let’s not forget this. Really Sam?
Of the three films, Spider-Man 3 pulled the largest first day gross, and pulled in the largest overall gross as well. What does this tell us? Honestly, not much. At 63%, Spider-Man 3 has the lowest fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. For all the unforgivable, sure…the movie was not the worst thing put to film, but it certainly seemed like a lazy, half-assed effort. Spider-Man 2 leaves us with a lot of drama. Harry is psychologically and emotionally broken by the death of his father, and the revelation that Peter is responsible. The last scene that finally puts Mary Jane and Peter together leaves us with an uneasy feeling as she stares troubled out his apartment window as he swings away into danger. In Spider-Man 3 we’re treated to a cartoonish version of the universe that we all knew. How does Sam portray Peter under the influence of an evil galactic parasite? Why, with a new haircut, dark clothes — and a penchant for breaking into dance routines in public places. Fantastic. Also, let’s not forget that it’s heavily implied that upon Norman Osborn’s death in the previous film, their trusty butler knew that the senior Osborn had been killed by his own glider, as well as having seen many unspecified “thins” over the years of working for him. That would have probably been a relatively important thing to have spoken up about before the whole spiral into insanity that Harry was suffering through.
OKAY…okay…rant ended. That was like pulling off a band-aid attached to leg hair; I’d needed to do it for a while, but I was avoiding it because I knew it wouldn’t feel good.
So, why no Raimi and crew for a fourth installment? There has been a lot said, and rumors tend to mix liberally with facts once the internet becomes a factor, but judging from what I’ve read — it could be a few things, not least of which is confidence in the direction of the films. I thought it was neat that the screenwriters planted a seed early on for a prospective appearance by The Lizard, one of Spider-Man’s more popular enemies, and Dylan Baker suggested as far back as 2007 that he was ready to sit in the makeup chair and fill that role. Fast forward to 2009, however, and an emphasis seems to be laid more heavily on the not nearly as well known (to this generation at least), Vulture (rumored to be played by John Malcovich. Top that off with a possible Anne Hathaway appearance as a Felicia Hardy that never sees time as The Black Cat (wha’?), and well…I don’t really get it — and sources suggest Sony didn’t either.
Once again, Sam Raimi seems intent on ignoring the fanbase in favor of his own interpretation of what a Spider-Man film should be. I’ll be clear; bad re-imaginings can make money in spite of the suck they produce. It’s entirely baffling to me, but true. A fourth Spider-Man installment would have made money, for a lot of reasons. Some people really are simply content to see Spider-Man on screen, regardless of the story or characters around him. The time in between films also plays a factor in helping us forget why we may have been unhappy with the previous outing. We’re more likely to pull a, “Perhaps this time…” when we’ve had three years to recover from something not so awesome. Finally, hell, you may have simply loved Spider-Man 3, and could hardly waith for the next film. You’re wearing crazypants if so, but whatever.
Either way, it doesn’t matter. Raimi is gone, the cast is no more, and we’re in store for a reboot of a franchise that is only 8 years old.
I don’t have anything against the reboot as it stands alone. It is what it is. I could be fantastic, but I have my doubts. On a personal level, I feel like Peter Parker’s high school days are really a footnote in Spider-Man’s history, and I don’t see getting a lot of enjoyment out of watching Peter deal with his awkward teenage years, even with the addition of spidey powers to contend with. I realize that the Spider-Man of the comic books was always quick with a joke, and fairly prone to pratfalls for a guy with spider senses, but still — Spider-Man dealt with some serious stuff over the years. With this backward progress, we miss out on a lot of growth and plenty of great baddies. We get no Kraven the Hunter, death of Mary Jane, Carnage — so much that was within grabbing distance of the previous franchise. Does this mean we never will? I’ve no clue. Logan Lerman is a young-looking eighteen. While they can certainly re-cast for older Peter Parkers in the future, does what seems like a much more young teen (tween even) friendly film even have an opportunity to progress into more adult, perhaps darker elements if sequels are on the table?
I have a lot of questions, none of which will be answered until I’m sitting in a theater chair. I hope this is a refreshing new start for the franchise, that will in the future lead to bullseyes where the previous adaptation missed the mark. If we’re following the timeline of a fifteen year old Peter Parker bitten by a spider on one fateful field trip, well…it might be a long time before I’ll know either way. I hope, however, that the wait is rewarding. Spider-Man done right is well worth the time investment.