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It’s difficult to continue defending a film that you have enjoyed when the star of said movie admits the blockbuster has problems. I’ve been vocal of my support of the work director Marc Webb did on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and continues to do with his current Spider-Man saga. But following the pointed quotes of Peter Parker himself, Andrew Garfield, it’s hard not to acknowledge that Spider-Man’s cinematic universe has issues that need to be addressed before it continues.
The future looked bright for Sony’s wall-crawling hero. He had a third and fourth story on the docket, and a possible appearance in a standalone Sinister Six movie. Now plans are murky. Fluid. Uncertain. So we have seven items we’d love to see addressed – and repaired – to help get everyone back on board for The Amazing Spider-Man 3.
Focus On One VillainStop trying to build a massive universe, or lay the groundwork for a Sinister Six movie. The Amazing Spider-Man 3 needs to place a laser focus on one adversary – preferably one of Spider-Man’s two chief villains. That would be the Green Goblin, or Doctor Octopus. There’s a reason why Sam Raimi started his eventual trilogy with those key nemeses. Marc Webb drifted closer to this inevitability by casting Chris Cooper as Norman Osborn. And there were hints to Doctor Octopus dropped into The Amazing Spider-Man 2, with his trademark mechanical arms featured in the vaults at OsCorp. But the next standalone Spider-Man series needs to give complete focus and full attention to one villain, creating reasons for Peter Parker and this threat to continuously lock horns. Don’t split time between numerous villains who have scattered, unfocused and/or watered-down motivations. Choose one Spider-Man villain, then give that character proper attention.
Ditch The Love InterestThe emphasis of the Raimi Spider-Man movies fell on the relationship between Tobey Maguire’s Peter and Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane… for better and for worse. Marc Webb also got wrapped up in Peter’s complicated personal life, introducing Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) and building to her fateful demise. If The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did one thing right by this franchise, it’s that it left Peter (Andrew Garfield) in a place where he doesn’t have to be bogged down by a relationship. He can open The Amazing Spider-Man 3 mourning the loss of his one true love. He can plunge himself into a new, deadly adventure without the fear of endangering a loved one (though Aunt May likely will become bait in some villain’s nefarious plan). Yes, love interests were – and are – a large part of the character of Peter Parker in the comic books, but every Spider-Man movie doesn’t automatically need a love interest, and I think it’s time for Spidey to put his melodramatic plot twists on the shelf so we can get down to some needed action.
Hire A New DirectorListen, no one has cheered harder for Marc Webb than myself. I appreciate how he has rebooted the Spider-Man franchise, and admired the ways he laid multiple plot threads that could be picked up and explored by subsequent filmmakers. His two Spider-Man films, hands down, are my favorite Spidey films, and I’ll always be grateful for the version of Spider-Man he brought to the screen. But it’s time for new blood. Webb was hired to bring some of that 500 Days (of Summer) magic to the teenage relationship between Peter and Gwen. And he did. But we don’t need that anymore. He increased the action quotient with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but it wasn’t what audiences were looking for. Spider-Man is a rich, multi-faceted character with story elements that could be explored by filmmakers from all different backgrounds. Now that Webb has set the ball rolling on a much larger Spidey universe, I think it’s time to give someone else a chance to see what they can do.
Abandon The OsCorp PlotThe next Spider-Man movie truly should be a standalone story that’s centered around our hero but separates itself from the larger mythology that Marc Webb and his screenwriters laid out. The OsCorp experiments went a long way into establishing the villains that we have seen on screen so far, from the Lizard (Rhys Ifans) to Electro (Jamie Foxx) and the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan). That can be explored in Drew Goddard’s Sinister Six movie, but leave it alone for The Amazing Spider-Man 3. Find a solo, standalone mission for Spider-Man. Pit him against The Kingpin, Doctor Octopus, or Chameleon. Bring in Mysterio. Heck, introduce Gerard Butler as Kraven, come to Manhattan to stalk the OsCorp "monsters," but focus on Spidey versus Kraven. The third Amazing Spider-Man movie needs to exist on its own, contain terms. The mythology raised by Marc Webb’s first two movies has been interesting to some (myself, included), but not to enough. Stop building up, for now. Strip down. Focus on one story. Your movie will be better served by that economical decision.
Move On From Peter’s ParentsI’m pretty sure that this message was received when Marc Webb sliced an entire reunion scene between Peter (Andrew Garfield) and his allegedly deceased father, Richard (Campbell Scott). Which means that Sony hired a fantastic character actor for a handful of scenes that lacked payoff. But still, the storyline of Peter’s past has sailed. It was a tricky story to keep up in the comics, with Peter finding out that his parents didn’t die but went on to become spies. That plot line always interfered with Peter’s more important relationship with Aunt May. You have Sally Field at your disposal. So far, she has been a rock for your franchise. Use her. Get away from the "mystery" of Peter’s parents. It has no place in The Amazing Spider-Man 3, or any subsequent Spider-Man stories moving forward.
Recast Spider-ManAnd finally, it’s time to recast Spider-Man. What?! I know. Again, I’ll emphasize that I’m a fan of what Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield did in their two Spider-Man movies. The latter is a born-and-bred Spider-Man fan, and his passion for playing both Peter Parker AND Spider-Man shone through. But I think Garfield has shown us all that he’s going to show us in the Spider-Man suit. I think that the character needs to move away from the melodramatic fare that has bolstered – or, some would argue, weighed down – the Webb Spidey-verse. Plus, by the time that The Amazing Spider-Man 3 hits theaters in 2018 (as scheduled), Garfield will be 35, and pushing the credibility of playing "puny" Peter Parker, the college-aged savior of New York City. Could a screenwriter flash forward down Spidey’s timeline for the third film? Absolutely. Peter Parker has been fighting in his Spidey suit for decades now, and an older Spidey story would be compelling. But the general consensus on Garfield is that his talent is being wasted if he can’t star in movies like The Social Network, Never Let Me Go or the upcoming 99 Homes.
Here’s the compromise. Give Garfield one last swing in the suit. Let him fight the Sinister Six in Drew Goddard’s movie, and go out with a bang. But we should have someone else in the suit for The Amazing Spider-Man 3, so our beloved hero can soar on screen once again.