And so another of the items on the world’s “This will never happen” list can be crossed off. Sony and Marvel Studios have come to an accord on the use of Spider-Man in proper Marvel films, and of other Marvel characters in upcoming Spider-movies.
While this initially sounds like a stellar win, I can see a number of ways that it won’t live up to the expectations of the fans.
Marvel hasn’t “gotten Spider-Man back” – This is very much a “two guys with half the map” scenario. A great deal of cooperation will have to occur between the companies, with permitted uses and appearances strictly defined. It seems much like the partnership between the various studios in the Lord of the Rings / Hobbit franchise, each hanging on to their piece for dear life to score a taste of that sweet profit stream.
According to the announcement, Sony and Marvel will cast a new Spider-Man after Andrew Garfield starred in the last two films, “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Tobey Maguire played Peter Parker in the previous three installments for Sony.
Sony will continue to distribute, finance, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man pics. They’ll work with Marvel, owned by Disney, on how to weave Spider-Man’s character into Marvel’s upcoming superhero films, which includes the popular franchise “The Avengers.”
Movies based on comic books have had to fight a practically never-ending battle for respectability but, for now at least, it seems that they’ve won. Superheroes are hot commodities at the box office and studios have embraced the idea that making them more like their source material is preferable to making movies that anger the core fanbase for an attempt to appeal to the mainstream. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is what happens when that faithfulness goes too far and instead of making a simple movie filmmakers try and cram in all of the ancillary subplots of an ongoing series with none of the capacity to pay any of those threads off.
The trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is out and you’ve no doubt seen it here on ComicMix and elsewhere. It looks pretty spiffy, I think, and I’m ready to shell out my shekels to see it.
I came into the living room the other day as My Mary was watching the end the previous Amazing Spider-Man on the tube. She mentioned how her friend Sherry preferred Toby McGuire’s Spider-Man to Andrew Garfield’s and made an interesting observation: McGuire’s Spider-Man was more Todd MacFarland while Garfield’s was more Steve Ditko. I found that pretty astute.
McGuire was also Sherry’s first Spider-Man and I think that also plays into it. Who your favorite artist (or even writer) on a given character or property may depend on who was on the book when you first read it. For me, my Spider-Man artist was John Romita – and that’s Senior, not Junior (who is a fine artist in his own right). I would only encounter Ditko later, in reprints (this was long before the Internet or even comic book stores with longboxes). I’ll be honest; I was not keen on Ditko at first. My guy was Romita Sr. My Spider-Man was the one he drew.
I don’t know who was drawing Batman when I first read the book; the first one I remember was Neal Adams (and scripted by our own Denny O’Neil). I think my first Doctor Strange artist was Marie Severin, inked by her brother John, a mighty duo.
The idea (I wouldn’t call it a rule) also extends to Doctor Who. The definitive Doctor for an individual is often the one you first saw in the role. For me, it was Jon Pertwee, with the capes and the bouffant hair. The episodes were aired sporadically in my area and one day I came across one with a horse faced actor in a big multi-colored scarf swanning around and being called the Doctor. I was resistant to Tom Baker for a good while; my Doctor was Pertwee. I came around and Baker became one of my faves along with most of the rest of Who fandom.
I found it interesting in a special mini-episode where David Tennant’s Doctor comes in contact with Peter Davidson’s Doctor and said, “You were my Doctor!” I think that was true for Tennant; he would have been the right age.
The concept doesn’t always hold. My definitive Avengers artist would have been John Buscema, definitely not the first artist I saw on the book. OTOH, my definitive Conan artist would have been Barry Windsor Smith and not John Buscema. BWS was the first. Gene Colan was the first artist I saw on both Daredevil and Iron Man and remained the definitive artist for me, over both Wally Wood and Frank Miller on Daredevil and Bob Layton on Iron Man.
These are all artists whose work I have enjoyed on the various books but they don’t hold the special place in my heart that the first artists did. They marked the first time I encountered the characters and fell in love with them and there isn’t anything quite like your first love, is there?
A week or so ago I was talking about how in the Man of Steel movie they had Superman kill someone. No spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen the movie yet, it’s your own damn fault. It did violate one of the traditional tenets that marked Superman as Superman – he doesn’t kill. Lots of innocent bystanders must have also died during his battle with Kryptonians in Smallville and Metropolis but hey – collateral damage.
I did note, however, that characters that have been around a lot need an updating to keep them relevant to the times in which they are being read/watched. The question to me is – how much change is acceptable before you’ve altered the character so much that they are no longer really that character. What defines each character? What are the essentials?
I read in a recent Entertainment Weekly that Andrew Garfield, the current movie Peter Parker/Spider-Man, suggested that the next Mary Jane actually be a guy. Have Peter explore his sexuality with a guy. Even the director, Marc Webb, when asked if he had heard Garfield’s idea, seemed to do an eye roll.
That idea certainly isn’t traditional Peter Parker and got some discussion, but is it that far off? I’m not saying I endorse the idea but wouldn’t it make Peter more contemporary, something to which younger readers/viewers might relate? Would a bi-sexual Peter Parker be any less Spider-Man? Would a Peter Parker in a lip lock with a guy be more shocking than a Superman who kills?
The comics’ Spider-Man has taken it further. In the book, Spider-Man’s old foe Doctor Octopus has taken over Peter’s body and life and identity of Spider-Man with Peter looking real dead and gone. Otto Octavius is now Spider-Man. WTF?
The powers are the same, but the character sure isn’t. Is it the powers that define who Spider-Man is or is it the man behind the mask? If the latter, is this really Spider-Man?
This isn’t the only character to which this has happened. Iron Man has had people other than Tony Stark in the armor. Batman has had a couple of people under the cowl. And let’s not start on Robin. Or Batgirl.
The stories of Sherlock Holmes have also lent themselves to numerous interpretations. There are currently two TV series that put Holmes into modern day. I only really know the BBC series, Sherlock, but despite changing the era it feels so Holmesian to me. It feels like they got the essentials right.
I did it myself with my own character GrimJack. First I killed off the main character, John Gaunt, then I brought his soul back into a clone of himself and then, eventually, I had him reborn into another person, James Edgar Twilley, although again, it was the same soul. Munden’s Bar remained but the supporting cast was different and I had bounced the whole thing down the time line a hundred years or so and the setting of Cynosure was also changed.
I knew why I did it at the time. I felt my writing was getting stale and the character was as well. We hadn’t been around all that long but I felt we were getting tripped up on our own continuity. Sales were eroding. My editor asked me to come up with some way of making the book dangerous again. That’s how I chose to do it.
Was it still GrimJack? Yes, I felt it was – in its essentials. An alienated and violent loner in a strange city living by his own code. Same soul, two lives. It still felt like GrimJack.
I’m willing to bet that most re-examinations of a given character or concept stems from that – to look at it all with fresh eyes, to make the reader/viewer do the same. To me, that’s trying to get to the essentials.
Maybe we aren’t all agreed as to what the essentials are in any given character or concept. That may vary from person o person, fan to fan. I think that’s why there are quibbles right now about Man of Steel; if Superman not killing is essential to the character, there’s a problem with the newest version. On the other hand, if “do not kill” rule is just like wearing red trunks, then it’s not essential. Is the Man of Steel Superman?
Sony has released the first formal details on the sequel to last year’s hit reboot, Amazing Spider-Man:
In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, for Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), life is busy – between taking out the bad guys as Spider-Man and spending time with the person he loves, Gwen (Emma Stone), high school graduation can’t come quickly enough. Peter hasn’t forgotten about the promise he made to Gwen’s father to protect her by staying away – but that’s a promise he just can’t keep. Things will change for Peter when a new villain, Electro (Jamie Foxx), emerges, an old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, and Peter uncovers new clues about his past.
The official, announced cast list: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Shailene Woodley, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Paul Giamatti and Sally Field.
Additionally, the studio said that behind the camera Dan Mindel will be the cinematographer, Mark Friedberg is the production designer and Deborah L. Scott will be the costume designer and Pietro Scalia and Elliot Graham are the editors.
The film is scheduled for production this year, to be released May 2, 2014, one month after Disney’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and two months before Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, scheduled for July 18.
Saw my niece Isabel last week. She’s finished The Complete Bone Adventures, Volumes 1 and II and is now reading a collection of Calvin And Hobbes. She also told me that she’s in love with the Percy Jackson And The Olympians series by Rick Riordian; she had already read The Lightning Thief, and was deep into the second book, The Sea Of Monsters. Although by now she’s quite possibly onto the third title, which is The Titan’s Curse. She’s a fast reader. Based on her critiques, I have ordered The Lightning Thief from Amazon, and expect I’ll be ordering the rest of the series, too.
Last I heard Watchmen had not entered the public domain, so I will not be buying any of the Before Watchmen books. I think the whole idea stinks. I don’t understand how other creators who profess to respect creator’s rights could sign on to a rotten deal brokered on a broken promise by DC to Alan Moore. It’s a slap in the face to Alan, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins. Oh, wait. John Higgins participated in this mockery? Says a lot about your character, doesn’t it, John? If you need money that badly, there are other ways to prostitute yourself. And that goes for the rest of you, too.
John Ostrander’s latest column about “bad things he hates that he loves” caused me to go to my DVD cabinet and pull out a couple of movies that I should despise but actually love:
World Without End (1956), in which a rocket ship returning from Mars breaks through the time barrier and deposits four astronauts on an unidentified planet, which turns out to be Earth in the year 2508, 400 years after a nuclear war. The surviving humans live underground and are dying out because the men are scrawny, weak, and unable to perform their manly duties. In other words, they’re impotent. Which sure sucks for them, because all the women of the year 2508 are curvaceous, beautiful, and very, very horny. The reason the humans don’t live on the surface is because of the “surface beasts” – the descendants of those who did not flee underground during the atomic holocaust – roam the countryside. They look like mutated Neanderthals, and all they want to do – well, the men, anyway – is get their paws on the hot tomatoes living underground. Our brave, resourceful – and, of course, American; this was the 50’s, remember – astronauts reinvent the bazooka (“The good ol’ bazooka!” one of the astronauts says with a backslap to his pal) and defeat the mutated Neanderthals, and help restart human civilization on the surface for the Eloi. Oops. Sorry, wrong story. The horny women get the horny astronauts in the end, so everybody lives happily ever after. Except for the impotent guys, I guess.
Queen Of Outer Space (1958) in which ZsaZsa Gabor plays a Venusian scientist on a planet on which once again all the women are curvaceous, beautiful, and very horny. Except for the Queen, who is curvaceous and very horny, but mysteriously wears a mask. But even though Venus is the planet of love, there’s not a man to be found. The story begins when our brave, resourceful, and yes, once again, American astronauts, on board their rocket ship – which looks exactly like the one in World Without End – and on their way to a space station in orbit above Earth, are hijacked to Venus by a strange red ray, which turns out to be the Beta Disintegrator. The ship crashed into snow-covered mountains that look exactly like the snow-covered mountains into which the ship from World Without End end-crashes. Turns out the Queen hates all men, and she imprisons the astronauts. But she’s got a hard-on for the Captain. “A Queen can be lonely, too,” she tells the Captain. The Captain decides to take her up on her, uh, offer to “get information.” This makes ZsaZsa very jealous: “30 million miles away from the Earth,” says one of the astronauts, “and the little dolls are just the same.” Because she has a hard-on for our Captain, too. (No, his name is not James Tiberius Kirk.) Anyway, just as the Queen goes in for the face-suck, the Captain rips off her mask, and – OMG! Her face is burned and scarred and horribly mutated! “Men did this to me,” the Queen says with hatred in her voice. “Men and their wars.” Then she seductively turns to the Captain. “You said I needed the love of a man,” she whispers as she puts her arms around him. “If you will be that man, I will let you all go.” But the Captain is trying not to vomit. Dumb ass. Put a bag over her head and do it for the flag. So the Queen sends him back and aims the Beta-Disintegrator at Earth. Talk about a woman scorned! You really have to see this movie!
It really sucks when your parents are sick.
Here’s the truth. The only thing I really hate about women’s costumes in the comics is that I’m not buff enough to wear any of them.
Political diatribe for the day: Vote for Romney, and we really will be living in the world of American Flagg! (We’re almost there now.)
I can wait for the Garfield/Stone Amazing Spider-Man to hit DVD. I loved the Maguire/Duns Spider-Mans. Perhaps if TPTB had moved the story forward, merely replacing Maguire/Duns with Garfield/Stone, I would have more interest.
Just finished The Lost Wife, a heartbreaking, “based-on-a-true-story,” and beautifully written story about a husband and wife, both Jewish, separated by World War II. He gets out of Europe, she is first is sent to Theresienstadt and then Auschwitz. Highly recommended!
In the middle of The Hunger Games. Loving it. Have to recommend it to Isabel.
The fourth film in the Sony franchise faced high skepticism as the producers resorted to rebooting Spider-Man for the second time in a decade — and as “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” have loomed large as the summer’s superhero tentpoles.
Turns out, Peter Parker’s origin story, in the right hands, is as resilient as a wrist-packed monofilament — even as the Marvel webslinger turns 50 this year.
“Amazing Spider-Man” continued to soar above studio projections by grossing $65-million domestically to win the weekend — doubling the take of last week’s champ, “Ted” — and lifting its six-day start to $140-million, according to studio estimates released Sunday. Final numbers are due Monday.
Buoyed significantly by the winning performances of Andrew Garfield (who has inherited the super-suit from Tobey Maguire for his own newly announced trilogy) and Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy), “Amazing Spider-Man” has now grossed a strong $341.6-million worldwide.
As Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee told Comic Riffs: Whoever decided to cast the talented Garfield as the new teen “Everyguy” should get a medal.
“Amazing Spider-Man” performed well right out of the gate, grossing $7.5-million Tuesday from midnight screenings; and through the Fourth of July, “Amazing Spider-Man” had grossed $58.3-million domestically and $108-million overall, according to the site BoxOfficeMojo.
“What a spectacular relaunch,” Sony worldwide distribution President Rory Bruer told the Hollywood Reporter, citing “the chemistry between Andrew and Emma” and “the out-of-the-box direction of Marc Webb,” who until now was best known for directiong “(500) Days of Summer.”
“Amazing Spider-Man” also benefited from its popularity with “family” demographics (25-percent of the film’s audience); its generally positive critical reviews and filmgoer scores; and its haul at IMAX theaters ($14.3-million).
”Spider-Man’s” performance dwarfed the domestic debuts of “Savages” (fourth at $16.2-million) and “Katy Perry: Part of Me” (eighth; $7.15-million).
Seth MacFarlane’s CGI/live-action “Ted” strengthened its claim as the R-rated comedy hit of the summer, grossing $32.6-million to raise its domestic total to $120.2-million. And Pixar’s animated “Brave” also remained strong, grossing $20.1-million to boost its domestic take to $174-million.
FUN WITH NUMBERS
Sony’s four Spider-Man films have now grossed $1.25-billion domestically and $2.83-billion worldwide.
“Amazing Spider-Man” had the fourth-best Independence Day weekend ever (not adjusted for inflation) — behind only two “Transformers” film (“Dark of the Moon” tops the list with $97.8-million) and “Spider-Man 2” ($88-million).
“Amazing Spider-Man” had the 12th-best weekend opening ever for Marvel character film — barely trailing last year’s “Thor” ($65.7-million) and “Captain America: The First Avenger”($68.05-million), though those two films didn’t open on a Tuesday.
And “Amazing Spider-Man” just beat the average opening for a Marvel character film: $65.57-million.
Glenn and Mike were at the movies – separately – just so they could have a heart-to-heart conversation about The Amazing Spider-Man. This time, each has a fairly different opinion.
Of course, there are spoilers ahead.
Glenn: So, this is going to be an interesting exercise. I believe I could hear your teeth grinding from Norwalk…
Mike: You liked it?
Glenn: Most of it, yes.
Mike: Jeez. I found only the last third the least bit tolerable. What did you like about it?
Glenn: The casting, for starters.
Mike: The casting was fine. But it was in service of a director who put everything he learned in community college up on the screen.
Glenn: Andrew Garfield won me over very quickly, with a naturalness that Tobey Maguire never quite seemed to have. Emma Stone could have carried the film even if she didn’t look just like a John Romita drawing.
Mike: The direction was amateurish and the script was worse. They’re lucky this wasn’t an adaptation of an Alan Moore story.
Glenn: I’m curious – what marked this as amateurish to you? The action scenes played fine, the character scenes worked to the actor’s credits – although I think the film may have trod a bit too much to the sort of aspirational stuff out of a Aaron Sorkin script… of course, that might have been a subconscious reaction to Uncle Ben Bartlett.
Mike: Gwen is the nexus of all coincidences. Her dad just happens to be a police chief in charge of the Spider-Man beat. She just happens to have an after-school job that gives her seemingly complete access to all areas and secrets of one of America’s largest high-science development companies – at 17 years-old – where she just happens to work for the arch-villain, who just happens to be the lab partner of the hero’s dead father.
Glenn: Yes, there’s a bunch of coincidences jammed there. But she was a science geek in the comics, just at the college level, and her dad was a police captain.
And yes, Connors and Richard Parker also happen to work for the upcoming big bad villain, too.
Mike: And all that was spread out over several years’ worth of comics. Here, this was all crammed into two hours – although, to be fair, it seemed like much longer. There’s coincidence, and there’s really bad storytelling. This is really bad storytelling. I really wanted to like this movie. Unfortunately, we knew two best actors weren’t going to make it out of the movie alive. There most certainly is such a thing as a great remake. The classic versions of Maltese Falcon and Wizard of Oz were both remakes. The Amazing Spider-Man is in absolutely no danger of joining this crowd. A remake has to answer the question “Why bother?” This movie, like the Superman remake, didn’t.
Glenn: Two best actors? I mean, we knew that Uncle Ben had to die. I can see a few reasons for retelling the story. For one thing, the effects work has improved a lot in places – the web-swinging in particular. Although the Lizard… well, you don’t always get it perfect.
Mike: Yeah, and we knew the Titanic was going to sink. But the latest movie was about a lot more than the sinking of a boat; ASM wasn’t about anything we hadn’t seen before. Why didn’t they show us Spidey actually using his powers? The webbing thing was fairly cool, but outside of that we rarely saw him in action. He’d be on the ground and there’d be a quick cut to him stuck to the ceiling. Web-slinging through the Manhattan cityscape? Nope; it was mostly long-shots or Peter’s point of view. You don’t have to get the villain perfect, just menacing. Certainly the Goblin looked less-than-stellar in the original.
Glenn: Just out of curiosity, did you see it in 3-D?
Mike: No, 2-D. Which doesn’t address a single one of my storytelling and direction complaints. You rarely saw Spider-Man being Spider-Man. Not even if he pops out of the screen and eats the popcorn out of your lap, 3-D has nothing to do with storytelling. Certainly not in this movie. It doesn’t come close to the Sixth Avenue shots in the first movie. Talk about your John Romita influence…
Glenn: The action sequences, web-slinging, etc. worked for me in 3-D. The Lizard – well, it’s a giant lizard. Hoping for emotion in a lizard’s face is going to be an uphill battle, no matter what insurance company mascots teach us.
Mike: You don’t have to get the villain perfect. Certainly the Green Goblin looked less-than-stellar in the original. But the Lizard looked like the Hulk had pooped out a baddie.
Glenn: Of course, there’s a point. How many times can Spider-Man lose his mask in this film?
Mike: About as often as they want the 12 year-old girls to go all Beatles over Garfield. Who, by the way, looks about 30. Did they cast Garfield and Stone because Dwayne Hickman and Tuesday Weld looked too young?
Glenn: Yeah, college age would have been easy to believe. High school?
Mike: And Peter, Gwen, and obviously ol’ Lizzieface certainly weren’t New Yorkers in the least. Flash might have been, Ben and May and Stacy certainly were, but the three leads seem like they never even visited New York. Conners had been there longer than Peter has been alive.
Glenn: I don’t think the Lizard was a poor choice of villain. Curt Connors was played well… except for that “must turn evil” bit, and even there, it played in character more than Doctor Octopus’s character turn in Spider-Man 2.
Mike:. It was in character for the original comics version that evolved over decades. In a two-hour movie (that played like an eight-day bicycle marathon), it was almost campy. At least Alfred Molena had the chops to pull Doc Ock off. I’d seen scarier villains on Doctor Who… in the black-and-white days!
Glenn: One thing that did work for me was the more naturalistic interactions between characters. Garfield and Stone clicked here in a way that Maguire and Dunst never quite did; for that matter, Garfield seemed more natural with everyone – Sally Field’s Aunt May, Martin Sheen’s Uncle Ben, Denis Leary’s Captain George Stacy, and even the crooks.
Mike: I agree, but those moments were brief. ASM wasn’t about the one-man Greek chorus, and that’s good. It’s about a 17 year-old, but only at times did they allow themselves to go there. Tell me. Did you like this movie as much this morning as you did last night?
Glenn: No, but I’ve had a morning that would make Pollyanna grumpy.
Mike: Did anybody applaud at the end? At my screening, absolutely nobody applauded. Not a one. Virtually everybody who wasn’t in the comics business left before the end of the credits.
Glenn: A decent amount of applause, nothing like the roar at the end of Avengers.
And I have to wonder how this plays in the rest of the country, since Spider-Man is really such a New York character.
Mike: That didn’t hurt the development and the success of Marvel Comics, which was almost entirely New York based for decades, and largely remains that way today. There was nothing particularly New Yorkish about the movie. It could have happened in Cleveland or Phoenix.
Glenn: There’s that same moment in this film that came in the first Spider-Man where New Yorkers pull together to help Spidey out.
Mike: New Yorkers like to think they live in the only city that pulls together in a crisis. It’s human nature. It’s what’s kept humans alive as a species. And wolves.
Glenn: Sadly, it didn’t work nearly as well as it did in the first one, mainly due to a big logic problem. There’s a helicopter right above him. Why doesn’t he just hitch a ride on that?
Mike: By the end of the movie I think only Flash Thompson didn’t know Peter was Spider-Man – and he was the one guy who should have figured that out, given all the scenes where Peter used his powers against him.
Glenn: Flash, despite his name, has never been that quick. And Aunt May – well, I don’t know if she knows or not.
Mike: I was never certain what Aunt May understood, except getting over her husband’s death right quick. Oh, and the costume really sucked. Seriously. Cirque du Soleil should stick to cribbing Mummenschanz.
Glenn: One of the nicer bits between Peter and Aunt May is there’s a lot of unspoken subtext there, with her obviously knowing there’s something Peter’s not telling her, but not knowing quite what – maybe that Peter’s suddenly going in for rough trade or something.
Mike: Sally Field handled each scene quite well; not once did I think “Flying Nun!” But together the movie made May Parker seem schizo.
Glenn: Was there anything you liked about this movie?
Mike: Denis Leary, both his performance and the way they handled his character.
Mike: This movie will do well opening weekend because opening weekend lasts six days and has a major holiday in there. But I don’t see it conquering the world. I can understand Garfield wanting to be in Avengers 2. He wants to be in a good super-hero movie.
Glenn: I’m still thinking Sally Field is too young to play Aunt May, but that’s purely a construct that carries over from the comics that has almost no logical basis. Of course she shouldn’t be old enough to be his grandmother, but still.
Mike: You’re absolutely right – if May was Ben’s husband and Ben was Richard’s brother, then Sally was the right age. In the comics Aunt May was born sometime before Barnabas Collins. I should point out I liked this movie more than most of my companions. One, who’s about 17, said it was the worst movie he ever saw. Ric Meyers (who thought less of this than I did) and I replied in unison: “You’re still young.”
Glenn: And ironically, my companion is one of the surliest bastards in comics and prose (David A. Mack, the killer of the Borg) and he enjoyed it even more than I did. This may be the rare film where I can’t easily say in advance whether or not a particular viewer will enjoy themselves.
Mike: Yeah, well I give it a thumb’s up – where the sun don’t shine.
Glenn: I give it a thumb, index finger, and pinky up. Which makes for a very tough review. But hey, kids, go and find out for yourselves.