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Mindfood: No More Origin Stories, Please

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Jul 21, 2011 | 7:46am EDT

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If you’re anything like me—and I like to think you are, because then I’d also be like you, and I think you’re super—you watch more movies than your average bloke. We know film better than most. We can name actors and directors and screenwriters and release years. To non-movie buffs, this type of knowledge probably comes off as weird, OCD-like behavior, but it’s just the side effect of being passionate enough about something to learn more about it. It’s understandable, and often times even expected, if we’re a bit more in the know when it comes to an upcoming movie production. That’s why I usually don’t get up in arms when a movie—and this is the case with almost all tentpole films out of Hollywood—is written so as to be accessible to people who aren’t like us. 

ALTHaving said that, The Amazing Spider-Man is already getting off on the wrong foot in a big, bad way. It doesn’t matter if you’re a walking IMDb or if you see two movies a year, everyone on the planet knows that Peter Parker turns into Spider-Man after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Okay, maybe a starving kid in Somalia hasn’t traded his one ration a week for that knowledge, but anyone who is going to go see a movie called The Amazing Spider-Man knows that Spidey only becomes Spidey after meeting the bitey end of an experimental arachnid. Why, then, does anyone involved with The Amazing Spider-Man think it’s necessary to redo an origin story?

I understand they want to make it clear from the get-go that their Spider-Man movie has nothing to do with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movie, particularly if Raimi’s wacky third installment in the franchise left a bad taste in people’s mouths.But what they’re ignorantly (yet intentionally) overlooking is the small fact that 2002’s Spider-Man made over $800 million at the global box office. It’s the 10th highest grossing film ever released in the US, for crying out loud. More than a few people saw it. A decade will have passed since Raimi’s first film came out by the time Marc Webb’s new film hits, but a mere 10 years isn’t nearly enough time to forget about a freakin’ radioactive spider. Believe it or not, Sony, but Spider-Man kind of has that plot point on lock down. We don’t need to see it again.

Show us his parents if you want to be different, that’s fine—but we do not need another origin story. We do not need to see Peter Park being a dweeb, longing after the girl next door that he just can’t get. We don’t even need to glimpse him getting chomped on by a science experiment and then flexing in front of a mirror. We’re not morons.

Superhero movies aren’t going anywhere, and I’ve come to terms with that. What I’m not okay with is studios pretending like we all have the memory of a goldfish. What are we going to see from David Slade’s upcoming Daredevil reboot? Are we going to once again have to sit through a blind guy discovering that he has super senses and no fear? What about the new Ghost Rider movie? Do we have to see him make a deal with the Devil all over again? Is The Wolverine going to once again walk us through Logan’s tortured past? Is The Man of Steel going to start on Krypton all over again? I’m already dreading the next crop of superhero films being planted for harvest.

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Yeah, Batman Begins was a damned good movie and was absolutely necessary that we saw his origin, but that reboot works because no one had actually put a Batman origin story to film. Sure, past Batman films dealt with the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents through flashbacks and what not, but they weren’t about the creation of the character. I realize that Christopher Nolan’s films are what all studio execs are attempting to emulate whenever they greenlight a new franchise hopeful, but why not take notes from Superman Returns. The Incredible Hulk or Punisher: War Zone? They’re all fine films (yeah, that Punisher sequel you didn’t bother to see is actually the movie the first Punisher should have been) because they don’t treat their audience like they’re toddlers who can only learn through repetition.

Basically, if you’re going to make a movie about a huge chunk of popular culture, you don’t need to remind us why it’s a huge chunk of popular culture. Plenty of moviegoers may have bad taste (see Zookeeper’s box office haul for proof of that), but that doesn’t mean they’re morons. It may not make us automatically eligible for Mensa, but we can, in fact, recall images and ideas from 10 years ago-- especially when they involve a damned radioactive spider whose bite gives you superpowers.

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