Pre-Spidey Jitters

I don’t know why I have them. So far, I’ve really loved these Spider-Man movies. And it isn’t like I’ve got any doubt that this one will be good: I think that’s probably a lock. So why the apprehension? Maybe it’s because I don’t like Venom. Maybe it’s because Venom has already been done to death five million times under every conceivable condition, whether restarted, rebooted, reimagined, or just plain reheated. Maybe it’s because I associate Venom with the beginning of the long, slow slide into the latter-day excessively-laboured high-concept circle-jerk Spidey that I disliked so much.

(I should have something more to say on that shortly, after I let Tom’s recent thoughts percolate in my head a bit…honestly, Tom, I’m almost back! Just five more minutes!)

Or maybe it’s because I guess I figure that in order to even make Venom worth doing, it’ll have to be yet another amping-up of the basic thing that Venom’s all about, and I ask myself: do I need that? Because Venom also constructs Peter Parker, obviously…and even if I understand why that story would be rightly considered to have a fair amount of snap in movie form, I’ve seen that construction process so many times that I don’t know if I’ve got the patience to sit through it again. Venom just tires me, at this point. “Spider-Man No More” has been done fewer times than the whole Venom bit now, you know? And why oh why couldn’t it have been the Lizard and the Sandman and the Green Goblin? Why couldn’t John Jameson just have gone all nutso from space spores, or something?

I wish for the moon, clearly. It’s got to be Venom. People (not me!) really like Venom, and want to see him: they don’t mind sitting around while the Mouse Trap is set up. I’m a whiner. A worry-wart. A despoiler of harmless fun.

And Venom works. You can build a story around him that gets you to the right place, cinematically. It’s all there in the commercial: interlocking revenges that decapitate happiness, a lost ring and a lost promise, the allusion to a necessary sacrifice…all very nice and neat, really. So…why…yes. Tough question.

That I don’t know the answer to. Possibly it’s just that I sense the hand of editorial/directorial fate hovering over this Spider-Man, all Damocletian-like, in a way that a non-comics guy wouldn’t, and so I’m getting a double message. Which boils down to: hey, maybe it’s just that Marvel comics are so eager to be movies these days, maybe it’s deja vu, but Good God, don’t you think May Parker’s odds of getting out of this in one piece might be a little, y’know, not too good? I mean obviously I could be wrong about that. Maybe I’m picking up telegraph signals that aren’t really there. I could be.

Not that I’m saying I’m making them up

Yes, because when Venom shows up you know things are mandated to get really bad, not just run-of-the-mill bad…I mean why else is he the last Boss in the Spider-Man game? Eh? There are expectations there, too, that need fulfilling…but then again, why should I even be perturbed by the idea that there might be a little genuine life-and-death tension in this installment of the excellent Spidey movies, whether it’s mandated or not? Oh, hell…well, you know, isn’t it always that same stupid life-or-death tension with goddamn Venom, isn’t that kind of my point? And isn’t it always that same stupid life-or-death tension with Peter Parker these days in general? He really is pretty poignant. But this poignancy is becoming a poison, a poison that the dose makes. In Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter’s life isn’t too enviable. In USM#1, though, it is hell. And I won’t even get into JMS’ junior Molten Man stuff, let alone The Other (remember that?) but really…gosh. Keep your spider-powers, I don’t want ’em. They cost too much. I can’t identify with that anymore. You’re going through stuff now that I don’t even have a name for, it’s so damn poignant. Ask me to be interested, ask me to be excited, ask me to hold my breath and bite my nails and fall out of my chair from shock at your cleverness, but just stop asking me to feel, damn it! I’ll feel when I’m damn good and ready!

And another thing: get off my lawn!

If it was the Lizard, I don’t think I’d mind so much. I like the Lizard. Just about everyplace you can get to with Venom, you can get to with the Lizard just as well, if not better. In my opinion. Then again, I grew up with the Lizard, so no wonder I think that. I hated Secret Wars, too. I think the Punisher is kind of boring. I miss Mike Murdock and Karen Page. In short, I’m just an all-round old geezer fan who isn’t willing to let the young people have their own things, is what it is. And I swear, if you kids hit that ball into my yard one more time…!

Yup, that’s it. I just don’t like Venom. I’m bloody sick of all things Venom. Of course, that’s what I said before the USM crew did their Venom story, too, and look how good that was! Very pleasantly surprising.

Grumble. Now if they make me eat my words again, then I’ll really be pissed…

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7 responses to “Pre-Spidey Jitters

  1. Thought you might appreciate this. From Newsarama:

    NRAMA: I read that the Vulture was originally going to be the villain in the third film instead of Venom. Did that make it into your book at all?

    [Grant Curtis, SM3 producer]: I do cover that. We had to figure out how to best tell Peter Parker’s story in the third film so you start to look at villains who can help tell a part of that story. In the beginning the Vulture was one of those characters that we looked at incorporating.

    […]It was important to us to introduce Venom because as we started looking at the story that we needed to tell about Peter Parker, Eddie Brock was a natural off-shoot of that because of the relationships with Peter at The Daily Bugle and their similarities.

    Movie shorthand kind of demands dark-side-of-the-hero villains, but it seems to me like the Spidey films have gone from a “dark father” villain in the Green Goblin to a “dark mentor” in Doc Ock, and now to straight-up “dark counterparts” with Venom and Harry. I suppose this mirrors Peter’s maturation into adulthood, so maybe the time for the Lizard (another “dark mentor”) was in movie #2.

  2. The general moviegoing audience who didn’t know jack about Curt Connors probably didn’t see it this way, but I thought that just having him there without even turning into the Lizard in SM2 added to the “dark mentor” thing. Knowing about Dr. Connors’ significance added a little thematic weight for me, and a little touch of menace, like an easter egg with a purpose. Never knew if that was the intent or not, but if so, it was a nice trick. Rises above the standard fanwank cameo. Probably one of the few times that being a fan added to my superhero movie experience rather than opening it up for nitpicking ;) I’d still liked to have seen him as the Lizard, though.

  3. Yeah, I really dug seeing Connors myself, though I ended up having to explain to a lot of people why he only had one arm. Fans understand the significance, of course, but non-fan moviegoers needed to be able to make sense of it as well for it to be meaningful as part of the film structure. Honestly, I had just presumed that the Lizard would be in the next film because of that.

  4. Venom was part of my childhood, but I still don’t like the character much. I agree that the Lizard would have been a much more interesting idea.

    I do have to say that casting Topher Grace against Toby Maguire definitely sets up some major “identity usurpation” issues, though. I guess that’s the one element of the Spidey mythos the films haven’t really touched, but that is an important part of his character. So much of modern Spidey history has been about Peter struggling against personifications of his own self-doubts or dark side. Venom was the most bluntly obvious example of that storyline, so it makes sense for them to pursue it. And you couldn’t get there with any of his traditional Rogue’s Gallery (except maybe the Harry Osbourne Goblin, or maybe by adapting the Death of Kraven story).

  5. Aha, my old friend Usurpation! Yeah, movies love that plot, and why not? It’s pretty dramatic when done correctly. On the other hand, it feels like we’re swimming in a sea of usurpation-plots these days, everywhere we look, and it’s getting as tired as apocalyptic alternate futures. Well, actually, I read those futures as Usurpation, so…

    Very hard to argue with the cinematic logic of using Venom. I mean aside from pleasing all the people out there who know and love Venom (gah!), it also makes sense because Venom is right there…so why wouldn’t you use him? I think Venom is inelegant, but I’ve got to admit, inelegant in the comics doesn’t always mean inelegant on screen. And as Penguin said, to move on down from “dark mentor” to “dark reflection” is a step that also makes good cinematic sense, particularly if you’re going to the “Pete and MJ get married” thing…passage to adulthood means no more mentors, irrevocable decisions, etc., so Venom fits in pretty well. Harry, too, as a commentary. Flint Marko, I’m not so sure about…

    But if I was making these movies, I would’ve screwed everything up by having Peter and MJ just be living together for one installment.

    Of course, I wouldn’t have had Pete reject MJ at the end of SM1, either: my God (I remember thinking), give the guy a break, can’t he even go out for a soda with her?

  6. I agree that the plot feels a little overused lately, but c’mon — it’s Spider-Man. Virtually every major plot the guy’s had since that black costume was unveiled has been about Peter Parker fighting Himself. The seemingly interminable symbiote wars led into the Clone Saga (subtlety in the Merry Marvel Style!), with the character basically treading water until JMS came in with his Spider-Totems and Morlun. It’s getting to the point where he can’t whale on Electro or the Rhino without it turning out that they’re merely a representation of Peter’s externalized guilt or somesuch.

    Now I personally kind of hate how this has dominated the character, even though it makes up the vast bulk of my experience with him growing up. But if you’re going to adapt Spider-Man to the screen, you probably need to touch on it.

    I have to say, I really hope the “dark mentor” period of Peter’s movie life isn’t quite over yet because there are a LOT of great characters that fall into that mold.

  7. Ha!

    You’re right, of course, Blob.

    Although, yeah…what the heck are they going to do for villains for Spider-Man 4, if they don’t go to the Dark Mentors?

    Actually I can think of a wicked Lizard story like that right now…Peter comes across Curt Connors, who’s been fired from the university, helps him get back on his feet, gets him lab access…guilt and responsibility, and away we go…

    Christ, they’ll work in a Clone there, won’t they?

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