Today at 3:00, I’ll be seeing the new Spider-Man movie.
It’s been nearly impossible to avoid spoilers for this movie, while also not even being sure if what you read was a spoiler. From what I’ve seen so far, this is the most ambitious of the now nine Spider-Man movies, including Into the Spiderverse.
Making a good Spider-Man movie is difficult. There are so many aspects to cover, and leaving any of them short will be obvious to everyone. Why?
Because we are all Spider-Man.
Bitten by fate at a young age.
Spending our lives learning how to balance our power and responsibility.
Dealing with the loss of our family members.
Dealing with the regular struggles that come from a romantic relationship.
Having to balance that relationship against your job helping total strangers.
And on top of all of that, finding gig work on the side to make sure you can pay all the bills.
All while your enemies have nothing better to do than plot to kill you.
Maybe we don’t all share that last aspect, though sometimes it feels that way. But honestly, would we even care about the plots that Spider-Man’s villains have against him if we weren’t invested in all of the other aspects of Spider-Man’s life?
The challenge for any Spider-Man movie is fitting everything into a two-plus hour experience. The film needs to give proper attention to Spidey’s family, love life, work life, life life, and then find time to develop a bad guy with a compelling story and have Spidey take him down.
This hasn’t always been successfully accomplished. Spider-Man 3 was the worst of the Spider-Man movies, in large part because they tried to do too many things. The drama with personal relationships. Introducing three new bad guys with three individual origin stories. Issues with work and school. Concerns about paying the bills. Really bad dance moves. There was just too much, and it split the movie too many ways.
Consider that the movie focused on multiple love triangles. Harry Osborn/Peter Parker/MJ was one. Eddie Brock/Peter Parker/Gwen Stacey was the other. Technically we could add a third with Peter Parker/Eddie Brock/The Venom Symbiote. There was even a scene where Peter was flirting with Betty Brant.
There was misdirected anger over murders — some of which the audience already knew the truth, and some of which required screen time to explain.
Harry was mad at Peter for killing his father, the Green Goblin, without realizing that Peter didn’t actually kill the Goblin.
Peter was mad at Sandman for killing his uncle, Ben Parker, without realizing that Sandman didn’t actually kill Uncle Ben.
Eddie was mad at Peter for killing his career as a photo journalist, without realizing that Peter just turned him in for lying.
The emo Spider-Man angle seemed to be based on the fact that literally everything that could go wrong for Spider-Man would go wrong. As if Spider-Man couldn’t also be depressed and overloaded without the added connection to the Sandman, his former friend coming to kill him and take his girl, or the dance scene.
On the other end of the spectrum, Into the Spiderverse is the best Spider-Man movie. This one focuses on Miles Morales, but the same concept of being overloaded with all that life has to offer exists.
This movie introduced the family life, friends, a slight romantic interest, several new bad guys, and half a dozen versions of Spider-Man.
The bad guys were just bad. They didn’t need to have a personal connection to Spider-Man, though the Prowler’s connection to Miles was key to the story. It would have been worse if every single villain, including the Kingpin, would have had some forced connection. Part of being Spider-Man is helping out in situations that don’t directly impact you. A flaw with the first two film franchises was that every villain had some sort of personal connection to Spider-Man, as if we the audience couldn’t get behind Spider-Man taking down a random bad guy unless that bad guy had done something personally to him.
The friend and romance aspects were downplayed and open to interpretation, outside of the obvious Peter/MJ scenes.
The new versions of Spider-Man were all introduced in the span of time it took to explore Peter’s web crawling and web shooting powers in the original movie.
I think the key to a great Spider-Man movie is assuming the audience is intelligent enough to fill in the blanks on some areas, so that you can focus heavier on the other areas that might be more difficult to explain.
You can also cheat and assume that people watching the newest Spider-Man movie have also seen the previous ones. Thus, no need to repeat things like Uncle Ben’s death, the spider bite, or the discovering of powers. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has an advantage that they have already introduced the multiverse, and Sony introduced the Spiderverse. That will make it easier to explain those concepts.
Today I’ll be watching the newest Spider-Man movie in the same movie theater where I saw the first one almost 20 years ago. I’m hoping this one is the best yet, paying off 20 years of Spider-Man movies.
Ethan Hullihen will have an update on the MLB lockout talks this morning.
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