Posted by: Mark Nielsen | May 4, 2007

Spiderman, Spiderman, Hypes Whatever a Spider Can

Spidey '67

Cover for the DVD collection of the classic
1967 Spiderman television series.
(Tell the truth… you’re humming that theme song right now…)

Is it me, or is the Spidey of the three recent blockbuster movies a wussy?

I’m not a comic book guy, nor a “fanboy” as Kevin Smith and others call highly motivated consumers of comics, games and such. I’m just an oldish Gen X’er, a product of pop culture, and now a dad. And I’m not so keen on Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman, probably the only Spidey that my kid will ever think exists. Unless of course I’m willing to shell out some dough to get the DVD of the original 1967 animated show, which featured a much snarkier and edgier Spiderman than Tobey has shown us so far.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Tobey. From Pleasantville to Wonder Boys to Seabiscuit, he’s hardly made any bad career moves, acting-wise. But the Peter Parker of these movies is a wimp. Not because of Tobey, but because he was written that way. So it’s not Tobey’s fault that Pete’s a wimp and Spidey’s a lifeless turd with no imagination or wit. Apparently it’s Stan Lee’s fault, plus whoever’s writing these screenplays. Oh, and some pretty good directors, too. I just don’t get it… (Sorry, Cole. My nephew is a Spidey freak. He’s four. I’m pretty sure they make these movies for him.)

I have not read that many of the original comic books, but the Spiderman that I grew up reading in the Sunday comics section of the Chicago Tribune was one of the funniest smart alecks around. And as for Peter, he was a brooding, pre-Cobain, grungy, angry depressive. Maybe I’m romanticizing my memories a bit here, but isn’t that how you remember the print version as well? So my question is: where is that Spiderman, and who is this buttoned-down, self-involved, angst-ridden, refuses-to-go-for-it-with-MaryJane impostor they’ve replaced him with?!

I guess some studio exec decided the world doesn’t like it’s heroes too smart, or too tragic. A cynical superhero movie? No can do. They think we want them bigger-than-life, two-dimensional, selfless–well, heroic, quite frankly–the only thing missing being a white hat, a silver bullet, and a trusty steed. Just fill in the rest of the movie with the best CGI effects money can buy, and nobody will notice the lack of character depth, or accuracy, or interesting dialogue. It’s the scenery-chewing performances, plus lots of chases and explosions, that put the asses in the seats, right?

So I have not seen Spiderman 3, but I don’t hold out much hope for it. Despite their apparent attempt to let Peter/Spidey explore his Dark Side this time around, I’m sure they’ve still got him on a tight leash. And we can also be pretty sure the formulaic lack of imagination of the first two films will continue… only now with 30% more explosions, and 50% more product tie-ins!


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