7 Vexing Questions About Spider-Man, Answered
I think it's safe to say that we'll be rebooting Spider-Man movies until the end of time, as every series so far has ended with a surprise "Oh wait? We're doing a new one now? Shit. OK. Good luck." And since each incarnation arbitrarily changes some of the details about the characters and universe, it can get pretty confusing. Here's my attempt to clear things up before we get a new Peter Parker in, like, three years, probably.
Is Web-Shooting A Built-In Superpower? Or Does Peter Make His Own Shooters?
The first Spider-Man movie seems to be checking off "Classic Spider-Man Requirement" boxes at first. He's a dork, he's friends with Harry Osborn, he has a crush on Mary Jane Watson, and he fights a pro wrestler, because apparently that's a real sport in that universe. But then he shoots webbing, not out of some wrist gauntlets, but out of his own gross wrist flesh. If you're new to the character, it makes sense. If a souped-up spider bit you and gave you all sorts of new abilities, you'd be disappointed if web-spinning wasn't one of them. That's like 90% of what a spider does!
But in the Amazing Spider-Man films and the MCU, Spider-Man has artificial web shooters, which is how it's almost always been in the comics. It's the story of a guy who gains the well-known spider abilities of wall climbing and magically sensing danger (if you ever see all of the spiders fleeing your house, follow them out), and then decides to lean into it by building some web shooters.
So why did the first film make the change? Well, before Sam Raimi was attached, James Cameron was gonna take a crack at it. And in his treatment, Spider-Man's webs were biological, and this is one of the only things from it that Raimi liked, because he felt that it made Peter Parker less of a relatable everyman if he was a teenage engineering prodigy along with being a powerful arachnid hero.
And I get that. Also, to get across that Spider-Man is a nerd, you don't need to make him every single kind of nerd. I don't have a problem with artificial web shooters, but I do think some of the character's vulnerability is lost if, on top of everything else, Peter can take some junk he bought off the shelf and slap together a gadget that not even DARPA could make with $50 million in black project money.
Why Is He Always In High School?
Comic book characters obviously don't age along with the rest of the world. Current Batman comics don't take place in the 1940s, and their Bruce Wayne isn't shambling around at age 105. Writers' solutions to this range from periodically rebooting the characters to just not giving a shit. But movie Peter Parker seems to be living the weirdest version of this, doomed to repeat the same few awkward years of life forever, like the world's cruelest wizard curse.
In 2002's Spider-Man, Peter is in high school, but graduates in the same movie. In The Amazing Spider-Man films, Peter spends the whole first movie in high school before graduating at the beginning of the second one. And in the MCU, Peter starts out in tenth grade, which means at this rate, his high school days will be over when I'm long dead. Why can't we have a fully adult Spider-Man?
Well, to some it works best this way, because you get to empathize with him as he grows up, and also get to watch his clumsy learning curve. The MCU had him in high school because it helped to balance out the older heroes -- aka they needed someone young to carry the franchise, since Robert Downey Jr. won't want to be quipping with the X-Men when he's 70. But even though Spider-Man started as a teenager in the comics, Stan Lee had him graduate 28 issues in. He barely lasted three (real) years in that setting.
So when Sam Raimi barely let Peter Parker get to Act 2 before jettisoning him the fuck out of Midtown High, he was being pretty comic accurate. Will the newest incarnation age alongside Tom Holland? If he lasts as long in his role as RDJ did in his, he'll be playing Spider-Man at 34. Will fans be OK with a Peter Parker technically old enough to have a teenager of his own? Or will de-aging CGI get so good that they can keep him a teenager until Holland is in his 50s?
What's The Deal With Peter Parker's Parents?
Comic book parents don't tend to die of natural causes. Batman's and Daredevil's parents were gunned down in the street, and Superman's parents exploded so hard that they took a whole planet with them. So when we meet Spider-Man living with his aunt and uncle (until the latter is ALSO murdered), you don't question it. At this point, it'd almost be weirder if the parents were alive.
And in fact, Peter's parents are rarely mentioned in the Sam Raimi trilogy. In the MCU, they're referenced even less. But the entire backbone of the two Amazing Spider-Man films is the question of what happened to Peter's parents. They were scientists, but also secret agents who were trying to solve Oscorp-related mysteries. They're a big deal, but even when Peter's dad shows up alive in a deleted scene from Amazing Spider-Man 2, we never learn anything concrete. He just speaks in vague "Maybe in Amazing Spider-Man 3 we can REALLY dive into this" phrases for six goddamn minutes while the main theme is played in sad, slow piano.
This intense focus on the parents turns Uncle Ben's iconic death into a side note, so there must be comics precedence for this, right? Sort of. Peter rarely mentions his parents in the classic run of the comics until 1968, when it's revealed that they were indeed secret agents who got killed by the Red Skull. This, combined with the story from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics in which Peter's dad was a mysterious scientist, probably influenced the Amazing Spider-Man interpretation.
However, like most stories, characters, and themes in those two movies, they couldn't be bothered to actually do anything with it, instead hoping a later sequel would figure it out.
Why Did The Green Goblin Look Like That?
For the most part, the Raimi trilogy tried to stick to designs that were visibly identifiable as the comic villains they were based on. Movie Doctor Octopus has his tentacles. Sandman has his ugly green T-shirt. Venom has his goo. But what happened to Green Goblin? For the record, here's what he looks like in the comics:
And the film:
Gone are his rubbery imp features, and while I don't doubt that if Willam Dafoe ever lost his mind, he'd definitely create a big fanged robot head, the inclusion of body armor is a little jarring. He looks like the Spider-Man equivalent of the X-Men movie choice to put everyone in similar black leather because it would be unrealistic for a near-immortal man with a metal skeleton to wear yellow, I guess.
So you may be disappointed to find out that it wasn't always like this. The original mask was hideous, and by that, I mean it was awesome.
Sadly, the animatronic mask would also have required that the stuntman wear a heavy rig at all times, which would severely limit the amount of rad spin-kicks he could do. And since Willem Dafoe seemed dead set on doing most of his own stunts, it was only a matter of time before they'd go with a simpler, more Power Rangers-esque option.
Why Did Bruce Campbell Have So Many Cameos?
In Spider-Man, Bruce Campbell appears as a pro wrestling announcer. In Spider-Man 2, he's an obnoxious theater usher. And in Spider-Man 3, he's a French Maitre'd who oddly has to remind Peter Parker that he is indeed French. These cameos should be no surprise, as Raimi and Bruce have been pals since The Evil Dead, but isn't it a bit much? Well, it turned out there was a plan here.
If Spider-Man 4 had been made, it was supposed to kick off with Spider-Man defeating a montage of B-list villains, like Shocker, the Prowler, Rhino, and even Mysterio, who was gonna be played by ... Bruce Campbell. And what are Mysterio's main qualities, besides legitimizing a fishbowl as battle armor? He's a master of special effects and disguises.
So was Mysterio tailing Peter Parker all along, changing outfits to keep tabs on him? Is that why he "broke character" by reminding him that he's French? We'll never know, instead having to settle for Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home -- a casting choice that was surely made due to scheduling conflicts on Campbell's part. Surely.
What Movies Were Being Teased By Amazing Spider-Man 2?
Oh, did Batman v. Superman tease a few too many heroes? That sucks. But Batman v. Superman pales in comparison to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which you honestly may not have seen, considering it's the only Spider-Man film to not crack the box office top ten in the year of its release). Desperately trying to compete with the MCU, Sony had heroes and villains like Rhino, Alistair Smythe, Felicia Hardy, and various Sinister Six costumes bounce in and out of that film, hoping that it would lead to an expanded universe that could stand toe-to-toe with Kevin Feige's intricate parade.
First off, they were planning on an Amazing Spider-Man 3 and 4. They also wanted to do a villain-centric Sinister Six film, and a Venom movie (which they'd been planning since 1997). Add that to plans for a Black Cat film and a Spider-Man 2099 spinoff, and you have less of a coherent story and more of a two-and-a-half-hour pitch for potential Sony investors.
How confident were they that this would all work out? Well, they ended the film with a song called "It's On Again," while the credits flashed over the weapons of villains that hadn't actually appeared yet. THAT confident.
How Does The Sony/Marvel Spider-Man Deal Even Work?
We have Spider-Man in the MCU, which is owned by Marvel/Disney. However, Sony, which has owned the movie rights to the Spider-Man character for a while, can also use Spider-Man and that particular series' characters as much as they want. That's a really good deal, and a rare one. If another company came to Disney and was like, "We'd like to do a Thor movie please," they would strike them down with the wrath of a betrayed god. So how did the Sony/Marvel/Disney power couple come to be?
Well, as late as 2014, Sony and Marvel considered a partnership, but talks fell apart. Meanwhile, as you just read, Sony intended to make Amazing Spider-Man spinoffs until the Earth withered and died. But only a few months later, Sony and Marvel Studios were like " Surprise! We're having a Spider-Man baby, but he's gonna appear in another movie first!" And the deal worked like this: Sony would finance, distribute, and have final creative say over these movies (along with getting the profits), while Disney would "manage the process" and get all that sweet, sweet merchandising money.
Disney would provide Sony with $35 million for each additional movie, but would get to reduce that fee if the film made over $750 million worldwide ( which Homecoming did). Basically, Sony gets to milk the Spectacular Spider-Cow, and Disney gets to use the most famous Marvel superhero, and everyone goes home happy. Except me, a doofus who still kinda wants Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 4.
For more, check out The Awful Spider-Man Movie James Cameron Almost Made:
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