Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Next Spider-Man Film!
“Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can”

Yep, now that everyone else on the planet has moved off talking about Spider-Man 3, and is talking about animated ogres and anthropomorphic donkeys, or pirates (or both); I’m ready to talk about it. Actually — more to the point — I’m ready to talk about Spider-Man 4, and what I think that film should be about.

First of all, we have to understand that Hollywood doesn’t make films so much as it makes deals. That is to say that a film studio and/or production company and an actor’s agent will ink a three-picture deal, which — assuming a particular picture hits big, that actor’s character will return in the sequel. Which is good for the actor, but not necessarily for the writer or the audience (think about it, why should either the writer or the audience be forced to write for or endure a specific character just because his contract says he has to be there? This is sort of like the joke that says it takes two AFL-CIO guys to screw in a lightbulb, because it says so in the contract.)

Going forward, I suggest that future serialized films — specifically comicbook films — be produced in the same fashion that Bond films are made. Think about it, they have been making Bond films at the rate of about one every couple of years for some 45 years for a total of 23 films (counting the David Niven/Casino Royale and the Sean Connery/Never Say Never Again). Every one of which is, no disrespect to Bond, his creators, or producers, essentially the same.

All the films go like this, there is some international threat, a charismatic, over-the-top villain (who usually never returns — Blofeld and Jaws as the most notable exceptions), a bevy of bodacious babes (none of whom ever return), and Bond himself (who has been played by at least seven actors). Other secondary characters who rate on-going walk-on status (and don’t always show up in every film) include M, Q, CIA Agent Felix, and of course Moneypenny.

Seriously, what else do you need for a Bond flick? Bond, a bad guy, beautiful women, and a viable threat so that Bond can blow the crap of stuff. Oh yeah, and no film has anything to do with the next film, so why then, do comicbook films have to spill on to one another? Sure, sure, the comics themselves run one to another, but why do the films have to follow suit, especially as they are playing to an entirely different audience?

Currently, Marvel is publishing a Spidey book that is targeted towards kids, entitled Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. In this series, all of the stories are self-contained. The only things that are continuous within the series is that the guy in the Spidey suit is Peter Parker, he works as a freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle, and he fights costumed bad guys. Again, what else do you need?

Hell, I’m both a fan who’s been reading Spider-Man’s exploits for over 45 years as well as a professional writer who (sometimes) works in the comicbook industry, and I’ll tell you two things about the character; first, its Spidey’s cast of supporting characters as much as Spidey himself that drives the narrative forward. Second, if the secondary characters are getting in the way of the story, you have to toss them in the river, and stick with Spidey.

Think I’m wrong? There is no character more vital to the nature of who Spider-Man is than Uncle Ben — and he’s been dead since Spider-Man’s first appearance, the next most important character in Spidey-Lore is Ben’s widow, May, and even she’s not in every issue (in fact she was “killed” once, and it looks like she’s about to die again (from a sniper’s bullet that was meant for her nephew).

This is why I say that the next Spider-man film will either wind up being Superman Quest for Peace, or Batman Begins. To make it become the former, all the next director has to do is to make it bigger, badder and more bodacious than the first three combined. Utilize more villains against our hero (can anyone say Sinister Six?); introduce Ben Reilly (along with The Scarlet Spider) as Peter’s clone; and jam-pack everything and a ham sandwich into a no-holds-barred, extra-long blockbuster, extravaganza that cracks the $400 million/three hour mark.

However, if you want to ensure the health of the franchise, as well as the real possibility of other comicbook based movies ever being made in the decade that follows, you’ll do this, instead. Go in the completely opposite direction.

That’s right, strip it down and go for basics. A simple story involving one or (maybe) two villains (a major and minor villain — if you will). The way to get this next film really cooking is to jump right into the mix. Have the film take a leaf from the TV shows CSI and Law & Order, start it with the action already happening, then go back and explain only what needs to be explained. Give us a new villain, one not in the previous three films (I’m voting for either Vulture — who had been penciled in for #3 and then replaced with Venom at the last minute — or The Lizard — who, as Dr. Curt Connors, has already been in the last two films anyway — or both; they really would actually make for a good tag-team combo).

Then just tell the story. Sure, throw in some angst, a smattering of melodrama, and a cameo by Stan, but just tell the effin story. Give us a 105 minute film where Connors morphs into the Lizard, The Vulture stages a series of daring daylight robberies and our webbed hero has to go after both of them. Toss in a scene of Aunt May telling Pete to eat well and wear a scarf; have JJJ yell at someone over at The Bugle, we get to see MJ is in another play, but for the love of Stan, Steve, and JRSR, have Spidey kick the crap out of the bad guys and save the day. That film will make money.

How do I know? Well, it has been the plot of nearly every Spidey comic published over the past 45 years, and there are currently five on-going titles a handful-and-a-half limited series, and everyone wants to toss the occasional Spidey reference into their book.

So seriously guys,

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