Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oh No! Spider-Man 4 Script Problems Threaten to De-Web Wallcrawler!

Or some such nonsense. Sometimes I can channel the spirit of Stan the Man and sometimes I can't. This is obviously one of those can't times. In fact, I'm having as much trouble with this post as Alvin Sargent is with the screenplay to Spider-Man 4. It's giving him such a terrible time they've postponed shooting indefinitely; it was scheduled to start next month. And they've moved the Thor movie into Spidey's sweet May 2011 opening date.

But have no fear, True Believers-- this movie will get made. And hopefully it'll be better than Spider-Man 3, which had its moments but was very much a "tell, don't show" kind of flick with just too much plot, none of it particularly interesting.

As a comic book doofus with a blog no one reads, I feel obligated to share some of my asinine opinions about Spider-Man 4. In fact, as a comic book blogger, I'm contractually obligated to make a complete ass of myself by being a total blowhard about all of these superhero movies. It's an implied contract between me, the dork and you, the reader. But a contract is a contract, so here goes!

According to the story, director Sam Raimi wants John Malkovich to play the Vulture. I think that's a swell idea. He's a little too Malkovich to become the part totally; I think we're still going to see him as "John Malkovich essaying Marvel Comics' the Vulture" but he's got the look and we know he can menace on film. But here's where things get a little screwy. The studio wants names to draw in suckers... er... I mean viewers. If you're spending 400 million on a movie, you want asses in the seats. So at one point they were thinking Anne Hathaway as the Black Cat.

Insert needle-scratching-record sound effect here.

That's a really bad idea if you're going all Malkovich on us. Plus, they already muddied the Peter Parker-Mary Jane romance in the third movie. Putting another romantic rival for Pete's affections in this one would seem like a rehash of movie few, if any, are particularly fond of at this point. Also, Anne Hathaway has reached the point where she, like Malkovich, is Anne Hathaway on screen. She's a fine actor in her own right, but one major problem superhero movies have to deal with is willing suspension of disbelief, and the more big name stars you pack onto the screen the more difficult it is for the audience to believe in the story.

Call it the "Batman Franchise Effect." Jack Nicholson alone was a minor distraction in the first movie, but at least he was playing to type, and Kim Basinger wasn't that huge a star at the time. Christopher Walken was not much competition for the megawattage of Michelle Pfeiffer in the second movie but things were starting to get crowded with Danny DeVito. Again, perfect casting somewhat spared us. If Kim Basinger had appeared again, it would have been Hollywood overload. Which the third movie suffered mightily from with Val Kilmer, Chris O'Donnell, Nichole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey, who was already too Jim Carrey for his own good. Kilmer alone might have pulled it off, or Kilmer and Kidman, but instead of enjoying a Batman adventure, audiences were starting to play Spot the Star.

And the fourth movie? Batman & Robin? The tendency towards glitz and camp begun in the third completely overwhelmed the meagre story. George Clooney, Alicia Silverstone, Uma Thurman, Chris O'Donnell and Arnold Schwarzenegger. These kinds of casts are fun for things like Ocean's 11, 12 and 13 but when your main character is a guy in colorful longjohns too many red carpet habitues can spoil what little veracity the film can muster.

But this is just my way of thinking. Obviously, studio executives think in a completely different, more inhuman way. Veracity and suspension of disbelief mean nothing to them compared to spectacle and cost-benefit analyses and Q-ratings. This is a world where Nicholas Cage almost played Superman, and these clowns were fine with that.

And no doubt a Spider-Man 4 with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, John Malkovich, Anne Hathaway, Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Balloon Boy, Octomom, Elizabeth Taylor, the late Dean Martin and the late Sammy Davis, Jr. making a swingin' cameo with the late Frank Sinatra plus the cast of TV's Glee in all the supporting roles and a special appearance by Ellen Page and Michael Cera reprising their Juno parts (they'd be on a whirlwind romantic tour of Manhattan and run into the Wallcrawler outside an abortion clinic) would recoup its costs and be a fairly solid summer hit...

But we'd have to read all the whining, complaining posts about how much we actually hate it on the Internet. There'd be a new "nuke the fridge" meme as lame as the current one. "Flip the spider" or "meet the Juno" or something like that. Spider-Man 4 would set the Tweeter world ablaze with hatred, send hordes of comic bloggers into hastily typed crescendos of exaggeration and rape metaphors, which in turn would set off a counterattack of offended feminist bloggers followed by an opposing outburst from conservative bloggers, then general recriminations and backbiting, friend against friend, brother and sister against each other, and, finally, the movie would not quite live up to its record-settting expectations and some entertainment pundit would use it as the centerpiece of an essay full of tortured, circular logic about how the superhero movie genre is dead. And the whole damned thing would start all over again.

Can we risk that, Marvel? I think not.

Leave out the Black Cat. Simplify the storyline and get back to the emotional content that made the first 2 Spider-Man flicks so enjoyable. That way you could avoid all those over-expository lines from the third one, like when Sandman says, "I'm not a bad man, I've just had bad luck," but all we'd seen so far was a lot of nothing. Give Spidey one strong villain like the Green Goblin or Dr. Octopus, or at the most two.

And if you must stick the Black Cat in there, I suggest Zooey Deschanel.

1 comment:

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