Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The problem with comic book movies

I've been into comics since I was around four or five. I can still remember (in fact still own) the first ever UK comic I was bought (Spiderman UK Weekly with a cover including Spiderman and the Lizard fighting over the Statton Island ferry) and my first US 'proper' comic, an issue of Marvel Team Up featuring Spiderman and the Shroud (powered by the evil god Kali and able to manipulate darkness - bit of a batman ripoff to be fair in terms of design). So comics and Spiderman are kind of in my cultural DNA.

This is the actual cover of that book - yay !

With that in mind let me tell you a story :

There's this science geek kid who struggles at school with alienation, he lives with his Aunt and Uncle and kind of doesn't really get how important they are. Through a bizarre series of events (involving people who may be important much later on in his story) he gets bitten by of all things a radioactive spider and is granted miraculous super powers. Learning an important lesson in responsibility this new Spider-Man tragically loses his Uncle through negligent manslaughter but then decides to use his powers for good and in the course of many adventures gains lots of insane mega-powered opponents who seem to want to rip out his spleen for no rational reason other than it looks good as a CGI effect.

Stop me if you've heard this story before - at least twice and now possibly a third time to follow.

See, this is the issue for me, a new Spiderman has been cast in the Marvel Cinema Universe and we have a cameo from Spidey in the third Captain America movie (Civil War) and of course his own outing due in 2017.


It seems as if film makers seem to think that no one is culturally aware of anything that has ever happened before. Granted no one knew the origin story of Spawn or Men in Black (?) or possibly even Thor (although what happened to Don Blake and the walking stick WTF Marvel!) and of course in the forthcoming Black Panther pic no one other than the privileged few know of the majesty of Wakanda and it's reigning monarch so fair enough do a Panther origin story.

But Spiderman - isn't he the one who was rocketed to earth from the doomed planet 'SeenItAllBefore' or perhaps he was the one who saw his parents murdered outside a movie theatre and then a giant Spider flew through the air before him and vowed to fight crime as ManSpiderBat.

Spiderman, like Batman and Superman are cultural icons and everyone (except your Gran) knows his origin. Plus we've seen Toby and Andy re-do it in the last 20 years over and over again. I therefore will only go and see a Spiderman film if it leaps straight into the crimefighting fun - any origin, even in flashback and I am withholding my support.

It's not just the Spiderman franchise though - Fantastic Four reboots this summer after an absence of only an 8 year absence - admittedly the origin in the new movie seems to be around dimensional travel (a la Ultimate Fantastic Four) but you can bet there's still mention of cosmic rays.

Let's hope that Batman Vs Superman manages to cram in origins for Batman (again), Superman (yawn, again), Aquaman (who) and Wonder Woman (Greek Gods anyone ?). A three act movie with plot and character development only in the final act after two hours of stuff I already know.

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