Rant: The So-So Spider-Man

Before I rant about the problems I had with this movie, I want to point out the things it got right. Andrew Garfield had all the wit, sarcasm, and intelligence that I expect from Spiderman, yet he still felt like a vulnerable teenager. The effects were great, the sense of discovery was engaging, and Spiderman’s use of his newfound abilities was exciting and innovative.

Having said that, this movie needs to learn a lesson about building a realistic foundation.

Gwen Stacy is in Peter Parker’s class? Cool!

Gwen Stacy is also an intern for Peter’s dead father’s partner who will eventually turn into Peter’s arch-nemesis? Okay… I guess I buy it.

Gwen Stacy also works at the facility where Peter gets bitten by the spider that turns him into Spiderman? Uhhh…

Gwen Stacy is also the daughter of the police chief who vows to bring Peter to justice?

I’m sorry… WHAT?!

An audience can buy one coincidence. In fact, it’s usually a coincidence that sets up the story. Two coincidences rarely work, and they risk losing the audience. Three coincidences is called “bad writing.”

Here’s another tip: if you want the audience to believe in Spiderman’s powers, make us believe in his world! This is the best way to keep us on board with the crazy things that are about to happen. If you establish a world that operates under the same rules as OUR world, then we’ll be even more excited when something other-worldly happens. For every fantastical element, there should be ten reminders that this story takes place in a real world.

If a group of kids sees Peter knock a football into a goal post so hard that it bends the post, there MUST be consequences. In a real world, the kids would freak out. They would jump on Peter and ask him how he did that. They’d tell their friends and their parents and post about it on Facebook. They’d say, “The only person strong enough to do that is Spiderman… therefore, Peter Parker must be Spiderman!”

If this was the only time I had to suspend my disbelief, I would accept it. But the writers ask me to do it again and again and again. Where did Peter learn how to sew? I made a quilt in college and it barely stayed together… yet this high-school junior managed to sew a Hollywood-quality costume overnight? How did this same kid order miles of experimental, military-grade cable?

I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll just say it: “But Jake, it’s a superhero movie! You just need to go along with it!”

This excuse worked in the 90s. Even better in the 60s. But today, it doesn’t fly. In 2012, audiences expect more than cartoon characters with unlimited power.

In 2012, audiences have Batman.

Why does Christopher Nolan’s vision of Batman work? Because we believe in it. Gotham City has rules that we understand. The characters behave and react like we would in the same situation. There’s a logical reason why Bruce Wayne can afford his gizmos. There doesn’t need to be a plot-hole to explain why he can sew.

People call me a buzz kill for ranting about these problems. But the fact is, I LOVE superhero movies when they’re done right! The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies of all time. Heck… I even WROTE a superhero story!

So Mr. Spiderman, you gave me some cool sequences and some funny lines. I even kinda liked your character development! But if you want me to invest my emotions in your story… if you want me to care about your plight… if you want me to return to the theater to watch your inevitable sequel… I need to believe in you.

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2 comments

  1. Kallie Colton

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I loved this little rant. :) That many coincidences would irritate me as well. I hate when movies or books do that because it makes me feel like they think their audience is stupid. That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen. And the picture on the side was hilarious. XD.

    • jakevanderark

      Hahaha, I wish I could take credit for the pic : )

      And yeah… you really can’t use the excuse “It’s a superhero movie” anymore. I’ve seen superhero movies do it right… so that’s a standard they should all strive for!

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