The Amazing Spider-Man opens nationwide tomorrow, and if you check out Rottentomatoes you’ll see one of the main comments of every single review and comment is that a reboot wasn’t needed. People seem to love the Raimi trilogy and since it’s so fresh in their mind, they don’t want to see another director and cast taking on Spidey; no matter how good the movie may be. The whole reboot thing is probably what’s hurting the public’s perception of the movie more than anything else. But coming from a lifetime Spidey lover who’s first storybook as a child was a Spider-Man vs Goblin popup book, a reboot of the series has been needed since the first movie.
Over the course of the Raimi trilogy, the unabashed love the public threw on the movies seriously bugged me as, aside from a couple small examples, they didn’t get the characters right. Most importantly, they completely screwed up Spider-Man’s origins by only having a very surface example of the elements and events that made Peter Parker Spider-Man.
Being bitten by a spider and the death of Uncle Ben were just two parts of three very important elements that went into forming the Spider-Man we all love today. The third key element, that Raimi completely missed, was the death of Gwen Stacy in Amazing Spider-Man #121. Nearly ten years after Spidey was introduced a key element to his character was completely formed, and to overlook that shows a complete misunderstanding of what made the character tick.
Raimi obviously paid homage to the Gwen Stacy saga by tossing Mary Jane off the bridge at the end of the first Spider-Man, but she lived. My best friend once yelled at Brian Michael Bendis on his forum for doing the same thing in Ultimate Spider-Man. As he said in his post, “If you’re going to throw someone Spider-Man loves off a bridge, you kill the bitch.” The reasoning for that is Gwen Stacy.
When Goblin threw Gwen of the George Washington Bridge in ASM #121, Spidey was still a little cocky and still felt he was somewhat invincible. He thought his powers could save Gwen, but instead the force of the web stopping her fall so suddenly snapped her neck and killed his first love. The event taught Spider-Man a couple things. It taught him that he wasn’t invincible, and it finally cemented in his mind that with great power comes great responsibility. Unrelated to the story itself, the shocking death of Gwen Stacy also marked the end of the Silver Age of comic books.
Gwen was the perfect match for Peter Parker. She was a science girl in high school with him and really the opposite of MJ. The MJ that Raimi did in his trilogy wasn’t really the same MJ as in the comics. She was close, but not quite. And the Gwen in Spider-Man 3 couldn’t have possibly been more wrong. The Amazing Spider-Man has the right Gwen, in high school with Peter and the same beautiful science girl she was in the comics. Casting couldn’t have been more perfect with Emma Stone as in the movie she looks like Gwen from the comics come to life.
In this new series of Spider-Man movies, they cite the Gwen Stacy saga as one of the reasons for the reboot as it’s a story that people need to see to understand Spider-Man, and I couldn’t agree more. Now, they don’t kill Gwen off in the first movie as they have Emma Stone apparently signed for three movies and that’s fine as they need to establish the relationship before the tragedy. And while they have talked about her tragic arc in interviews, if they don’t throw her off a bridge and kill her in the third movie I will despise this trilogy the same as I did Raimi’s.
But the whole Gwen Stacy thing isn’t the only problem with Raimi’s movies. Organic Webshooters were another. I understand Raimi’s reasoning for it, and in a way it may have came from James Cameron’s whacked out puberty-infused Spider-Man treatment, but it ignored Peter Parker’s genius. If you read the Spider-Man comics, Parker is a scientific genius almost on the same level as Tony Stark. Him creating his own webshooters and webbing compound was meant to show how smart he is. Taking that away from the character in the Raimi trilogy just made Peter a normal kid who got powers, and that’s not really who Peter Parker was.
There were other problems with the previous trilogy. Tobey Maguire never really made a good Peter Parker, and his Spidey wasn’t the wise-cracking webslinger he was in the comics. Garfield’s definitely is. They also didn’t understand how Spidey Sense worked, as illustrated in Spider-Man 3 when his Spider-Sense could warn him about Venom. In the comics, what made Venom so dangerous was that Spidey couldn’t detect him via Spidey Sense. The Goblin in Spider-Man looked like a Power Rangers villain, and Sandman was completely wasted in Spider-Man 3 just to force in Venom, who wasn’t needed at all.
Of the three Raimi movies, I really can’t stand the first and third at all. Spider-Man 2, on the other hand, is actually really great and there are moments in there where the Spidey we’ve known and loved for fifty years is on screen. The train sequence is a standout moment showing who Peter/Spidey is, and the “Go get ‘em, Tiger” at the end is the closest the series ever gets to a “Superman catches Lois Land and the helicopter” moment.
But one movie out of three doesn’t manage to redeem a series that missed the mark with the characters so much. Spider-Man is the only comic I really care about reading, because of the character. That’s why what Quesada did with the Peter and MJ marriage traumatized me so much to boycott Marvel for years. When Sony showed eight minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man at the San Diego Comic Con last year, and I saw Peter and Gwen awkwardly meeting in the school halls and then Spidey wisecracking at a car thief while using mechanical webshooters…I was sold.
And in the year following that, Garfield’s lifetime knowledge and love of the Peter Parker character came out, which explains how he gets the perfect version of the character on-screen. Finally the Spider-Man character we’ve known from the comics has been adapted to the screen. While parts of the movie may not be perfect, the important beats are hit with this reboot. It’s a shame that the movie has that reboot cloud hanging over it, as for fans of the comic book Spider-Man character; the reboot is actually a good thing.
Look for our review of The Amazing Spider-Man tomorrow.