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    Memo To The Executives: Spider-man 4

    In spite of having a cold, it is time for yet another round of ‘memo to the executives’ where I try to pitch the best direction to take the film franchises of today, tomorrow and yesteryear…..

    ….and boy have I been dreading this one, but it has to be done.  I’ve been dreading it because, unlike X-Men where I’m still energised enough to think it can be saved, Spider-man 3 screwed up that series and left such a bad taste in my mouth, that just trying to discuss any hope for a fourth outing literally saps the energy from me.  Yet I cannot take the easy way out and pitch a reboot this time.  We are getting a Spider-man 4 whether we like it or not and I have to try and figure out what I would like to see that could excite me again.

    Which in itself is such a hard task as the entire team is returning, and despite the fact that they have been hiring new, and very talented writers, and that Sam Raimi is still a great director, Tobey ‘I just don’t care anymore’ Maguire will be back, Kirsten ‘he should have a spider baby with MJ’ Dunst will be back, and I keep hearing these rumours that Uncle Ben will be back, as will Uncle Ben’s killer, and both Osborns will probably be haunting Peter Parker in large mirrors.

    It has to stop; following the formula of the first two films to the letter would have made Spider-man 3 a poor film even if they hadn’t screwed up the symbiote saga so much.  I was so bored of seeing CGI Spidey swinging through the city to that goddamn theme music again and again.  They could have shaved 30 minutes minimum from the third film if they didn’t feel the need to bring back every single supporting character.  Spider-man 4 is going to have change a hell of a lot to convert the fans who have turned their backs on the series.

    And I don’t think most of the changes would be that hard to implement.  Let’s start from the beginning.  Each of the three films has begun with an impressive title sequence quickly retelling the story of the previous film for the benefit of the two people in the audience who haven’t seen it.  The problem this time is that people don’t want to be reminded of Spider-man 3 or anything that happened in it.  The tone needs to be set from the start that changes have been made, in the right direction.  The film needs to start with a bang and not the “look how great my life is/oh shit these pizzas are gonna be late” kind of bang.  Spider-man 4 needs to start immediately after the logos with Spidey in an action sequence, in the grand tradition of James Bond.  There are so many villains in the Spidey Universe that are not interesting enough to carry a full motion picture by themselves.  What better way to use them, to almost instantly re-convert the disillusioned fans, and to get the general audience hooked and in sync with the film than to have them act as an opening sequence villain; Scorpion, Rhino, Mysterio, Chameleon, Shocker, Prowler, Hobgoblin, Vulture, the list is endless.

    The scenes of Spidey swinging through New York need a drastic overhaul (or a new special effects crew at least).  If we are to get a kinetic rush as our hero does his thing, we need to at least partially believe that the character is actually interacting with the environment.  Parts of Spider-man 2 succeeded at that brilliantly, the train sequence in particular.  It would be so great if they could shoot real stuntmen swinging in blue screen and integrate them with live action plates of the city.  It doesn’t matter if Spidey isn’t doing as spectacular a jump or swing as he can when computer generated; the audience will actually feel a rush.

    Get new theme music; I’m sick to death of Danny Elfman’s theme.  It isn’t that it’s not a good piece of music but it has been used in the series now to the point of overkill.  Getting a completely fresh composer and fresh theme will help tremendously to make the fourth film………erm, fresh.

    Don’t bring back every single character.  Mary Jane and Aunt May can’t just vanish without a word but everyone else can leave without anyone missing them.  Though if Aunt May is going to be in the next one, make it count.  Integrate her into the plot, make her a driving force.  There is, of course, one major piece of character development left for her to go through and that is to discover that Peter is Spider-man.  There is one particular moment in J. Michael Straczynski’s comic run where Aunt May  comes into Peter’s room to find him collapsed on his bed, still wearing his costume which Marvel President Kevin Feige has sworn to put on the big screen in a future film.  I guess now is as good a time as any.

    Remember how Spider-man 2 was about Spider-man no more?  Well the fourth film needs to be about Peter Parker no more.  I would like to see a story where Peter, desperate to atone for his actions in the third film, actually sacrifices one half of his double life in order to be Spider-man 24/7.  He is commitment to his responsibility.  He’s terrified of letting the city down again.  He has left school, he’s quit the Bugle, and say 80% of the time we see the character on screen, he’s in the suit.  He doesn’t sleep without it.  He barely sleeps at all and he has moved out of that shitty apartment and back in with Aunt May.  You get rid of that landlord and his dorky daughter and you integrate Aunt May into the story.  Surprise the audience and have her discover Peter is Spider-man early in the film.  Have her confess it to Peter about halfway through and have them deal with it together.  Just give her something to do.

    MJ on the other hand, is hampered with the problem that I (and I assume you as well) cannot possibly fathom why she and Peter would still be in a relationship.  So answer that problem for all our sakes and separate them.  They still care for one another but Peter has committed himself to his Spider-man persona and MJ just does not fit in with that plan anymore.  They have reconciled, she will keep his secret and she will still protect him but no more than that.  A decision which will have tragic consequences.

    I know it’s cliché to kill her off but, who are we kidding, it’s the death scene everybody wants and there is no reason that it can’t be done well.  Rather than have her kidnapped (AGAIN) and die at the hands of a loony villain like a Green Goblin, do something different, which brings us to our villain.

    We have been told that Spider-man 4’s villain will have close ties to the city of New York and many have been wishfully thinking that this could mean the Kingpin.  Apart from the fact that this is not possible due to the character being retained by 20th Century Fox for the moment, I think that’s the right way to go.  Rather than giving us a lead villain with a funky suit and power, as isolated and on his own as Spidey, give us a bad guy with real power, real muscle (both literally and metaphorically), and an army at his command.  For once, make the odds against Spidey seem insurmountable.  For once (and this is really important) don’t feel the need to have a villain who has a close connection to Peter Parker and finds out his identity at the end of the film.  Don’t have a villain who is totally psychologically justified in his actions; give us an evil, ruthless shit.  Transfer the personality and status of Kingpin to another character.  Either create a brand new Kingpin of crime just for the film or use a character from the comics like Hammerhead, the mafia hood whose head contained a massive steel plate.

    Imagine a villain who literally controls all crime in New York but is smart enough to personally regulate his operation so things don’t get out of his control.  His men are unswervingly loyal and he has portions of the police and state in collusion to ensure what crime there is, can go off without a hitch in return for whatever favours he can grant them.  Spider-man is potentially a huge problem to this otherwise immaculate operation as a do-gooder with no agenda other than to protect the people of the city and see justice done.  Our Kingpin will try to convert Spidey to his way of thinking of course.  After all, he can provide money, he can supply information on his competition, and he can buy off the press that criticise him such as the Daily Bugle.  Spidey won’t accept of course and thus our villain begins a smear campaign and brings the law down on our hero (a plot device which was thrown into the first film but seemed like an underbaked afterthought).  For one thing, much good as he has done, Spider-man has now been indirectly involved with the murders of both Norman Osborn and his son, something which could be easily twisted to make the public believe he is an unhinged sociopath (not to mention his activities whilst in the black costume - none of which will have been explained to the people or the police).

    A premise such as this gives us the opportunity to see set pieces such as a massive city wide police pursuit of Spidey through the alleys and rooftops with every member of New York’s finest on his tail, an enemy he must evade but cannot fight.  After all, Spidey can dodge tentacles and sand but try evading guns and helicopters, lots of them.  Imagine Mary Jane being arrested for her association with Spider-man, interrogated by crooked cops, tortured by Hammerhead’s, and all through it showing her devotion to Peter and not giving them anything they want to know; a decision which naturally costs her life.  Such a final act might even endear her to the fans when all is said and done (though just like Rachael Dawes, they’ll really just be glad she’s dead).  Imagine after all this high action, spectacle and drama, at the end of the day Spidey comes home, drained and unable to fend for himself any longer, where his Aunt May is ready to protect him until he can regain is strength.

    And since they already did a complete 180% reversal on Peter’s love life with MJ coming first and Gwen Stacy after her, I see no reason why Gwen shouldn’t become the Black Cat (queue reader groaning).  She may be one character too many for this story but since we are talking about a plot with a lot of underworld crime and where Peter is Spider-man all of the time, she makes a perfect fit; a woman that Spidey can be with and not give up his commitment to Uncle Ben. 

    I would also love to see (though the positions would be reversed), my personal favourite moment in Spider-man comics brought to the screen.  Occurring on the last page of issue 122 where Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin pays the price for murdering Gwen Stacey by being killed himself, Mary Jane tells a distraught Peter how sorry she is about Gwen’s death and is verbally assaulted with Parker assuming that she doesn’t really give a damn and is too busy being her usual care free party girl self.  With tears in her eyes,  Mary Jane closes the door she was about to leave through and stays to be by Peter’s side, thus beginning the relationship that will define them both.  It would be great to see Gwen in that place at the end of Spider-man 4, standing over a distraught Peter who mourns Mary Jane’s death and being rebuked by him for faking that she cares.  As Peter yells, Gwen (who has been living her own double life as Black Cat) realises that he is Spider-man and, no matter how harsh his words, does not leave the room.  She stays, now a rock for Peter in both of the lives he leads.

    So that is enough rambling for another week.  Hopefully you agree that at least one small idea in this piece has the potential to breath life into this horse which, if not already dead, really is on life support right now.  And the great thing is, this time next year we should know enough about the film to see if I guessed right about any of it.

    Till then.............EXCELSIOR!

    Reader Comments (11)

    i hate reading things like that. and my reason for that is, what you described would be a great movie, yet i know we have no chance of seeing something like that. but great article

    09-20-2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaFluer

    Oh you've got to have faith brothers and sisters.

    09-20-2009 | Registered CommenterPhil Gee

    After listening to MovieMoan so many times, I can actually hear Phil's voice in my head as I read his Memo actricles. lol

    I agree about Gwen. It would be great to let her have the spotlight in a new trilogy instead of being memorable just for getting her neck snapped. I think Marvel would be okay with this since they went to the Devil to get a single Peter Parker.

    09-20-2009 | Unregistered CommenterCjeff

    You lost me Phil
    You can run, but you cannot hide

    1. Danny Elfman was NOT the composer on Spider-Man 3. While some cues from the past two films were used, the third film's composer was Christopher Young (who also scored Ghost Rider the same year)

    2- Movie verse and comics verse are two different things- but not to the point where Gwen Stacey becomes The Black Cat Nobody would make such a blatant error in a Spidey sequel. It would be caught and corrected if they used Black Cat (the character's alias is Felicia Hardy) By the way---I don't think they will use the character. As for an alternate Parker love interest? How about Betty Brandt?

    3- I don't think for one minute they would cheat the audience out of The Lizard.

    4- There has to be some mention of the events in part 3. I would like a mention of Sandman "joining up" with a section of an INTERPOL like group (code named Wild Pack) run by Silver Sable. But that's my wishful thinking.

    5- "Very New York" I was brainstorming about this---I don't know where Fox is going with a DD film or not, but I doubt it is The Kingpin...but what about Lionsgate? Will they do another PUNISHER film, after all, I think he's Very New York City. The PUNISHER was first intro'd in the pages of Spider-Man after all. But I'd like to see Hammerhead (with no connection to Wilson Fisk) who also has Jonas Harrow under his employ (Harrow also would enchance The Kangaroo and Willow Wisp, which would "take care" of your "new" opening sequence, BTW)

    6- The problem with the killing off Mary Jane argument you present is that you compare the character to a made of character for the current Batman films. That's an apple to an orange, Phil. While I agree that MJ should not be kidnapped again, I still think the character could be in the middle of a greater threat that threatens NYC or a section therof. Say, Electro gives NYC a massive power outage, ...or there is a horde of Smythe Spider Slayer robots creeping down Times Square...or she is witness to Spider-Man fighting The Vulture and she sees innocent people about to be hurt and she acts, doing her part (think like Catherine Zeta Jones in Mask Of Zorro in that climax). Lots of possibilities. Killing her off sounds like a cheap and desperate move; if they wanted to get rid of said character move her to L.A. or elsewhere.

    "For one thing, much good as he has done, Spider-man has now been indirectly involved with the murders of both Norman Osborn and his son, something which could be easily twisted to make the public believe he is an unhinged sociopath (not to mention his activities whilst in the black costume - none of which will have been explained to the people or the police)."

    Let's take a look at that.
    The Bugle's editor would have it in for Spider-Man regardless. If any of the above quote was accurate, that would be a setup for The Scorpion and not The Kingpin. It would also make sense additionally because after Max Gargan becomes The Scorpion, he might also find the leftover symbiote, and become the new Venom. Not that I'd want that to happen, but that would be a better setup in regards to your statement.

    You'll note I said "it wasn't accurate" That's because, between the previous films:

    * It was Harry who blamed Spider-Man for the death of his father. However, it should be noted that no other party, not even The Daily Bugle's editor J Jonah Jameson has held Spider-Man accountable for Norman's death, not even in an accidental sense. Harry dies as a result of helping Spider-Man against Sandman and Venom.

    *It would be more reasonable that public opinion would more critical of letting Sandman go; likewise the "disappearances" of Green Goblin and Otto Octavius might also be questioned.

    *Since Brock had faked the pictures, there is no evidence of Spider-Man in the black suit doing anything "wrong". Yes, Peter went emo and pushed MJ to the floor as Peter Parker and Peter did assult Brock in the Bugle as Peter Parker and his anger is justified in the latter. But as Spider-Man he only smashed Brock's camera and "thought" he killed The Sandman. In addition, it was stated that Venom was first mistaken as Spider-Man, but "clearly wasn't" so anything Venom did would fall on Venom. (It should also be noted that nobody knew publicly that Brock was Venom)

    * Why would Spider-Man need to explain the (brief) change in costume to the public? If so, what would be the reason? Let's put in context: Eddie Brock says: "Like the new look".

    Generally I don't read you the manifesto, Phil, but I felt you were off the deep end of the empty pool on this one. I could not let it go unchallenged.

    09-21-2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarren J Seeley


    Sorry about that sir. I know my voice is not the easiest to listen to.


    1. As I said in the piece, I am sick of the THEME being constantly played every time he swings around. It's been totally over-used.

    2. As opposed to what? Sandman killing Uncle Ben? It was just an afterthought (which I conceded may be too much) but if they took the time to dump Gwen into the series, and give her nothing to do. Now give her something to do.

    3. No I agree about that. I don't consider him a throwaway villain you'd use for just an action sequence at the start but I'm not interested in a Lizard story, so I didn't write about one.

    4. There has to be some mention of the events in part 3? I believe that's what I wrote.

    5. Glad we agree on something :)

    6. Take a poll Darren among the people who've seen the films and might just see the fourth and ask them what they want to happen to MJ. I'm having to deal with the fact that Dunst is coming back and somehow come up with something interesting. If it were up to me, MJ would have left the city and wouldn't be in the film.

    7. Well it was just an idea.

    09-22-2009 | Registered CommenterPhil Gee

    Yes, but Gwen isn't Black Cat...and I don't think she she should return either ...although it would make for an interesting dynamic with her being "in love" with Spider-Man but Peter Parker has turned out to be a jerk. Nor do I want her replacing MJ as the damsel in distress unless MJ does the saving. (note: it would have made more sense if BOTH MJ and Gwen were kidnapped by Brock-Venom) ...

    I also said, Phil, they don't need to knock MJ off, but simply have her move (at least for the next film) to another city, or at least have the character do something other than being abducted. Also, if I did the poll, it should be pointed out that some may not have a problem with "the character" of Mary Jane, but the actretss who plays her (I actually like Kristen Dunst, and there are others who do)...a better replacement romance wise is Betty Brandt.

    You also wrote:
    The problem this time is that people don’t want to be reminded of Spider-man 3 or anything that happened in it

    But I also wonder why you didn't put forward another request. In the previous film, Venom was literally 15 minutes of fame, in the hopes that that character might spinoff to a solo film, still in the works. The recent X-Men spinoff prequel had supporting characters who serve no purpose other than mild introductions for solo films of thier own; the Silver Surfer was last seen in the Fantastic Four sequel, the only reason anyone went to see it (all ten minutes of the character). The Nightstalkers of Blade never took off. Elekta was made off Daredevil and bombed badly.

    So why don't you, as I would, request that no more new characters ("guest stars") should be introduced for the purposes of having spinoff movies? I don't mean in-joke namedropping (Doctor Strange, or my proposal of Wild Pack)...there's nothing anyone can do about Spider-Man 3.5/"Venom Lethal Protector" (which I think will be put to bed shortly) but there is no need for a spinoff film of , say, Man-Wolf either. (Note: if MJ is no longer involved with Peter and Harry's gone...will she re-unite with John Jameson?)

    09-22-2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarren J Seeley

    as much as i would love to see this in a movie it will never happen but hey hope springs eternal ... nice artical by the way

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    09-15-2010 | Unregistered Commenteraaa

    I can't believe that you've wrote in nearly everything I wanted to see in a Spiderman film! Especially Gwen Stacy turning into Black Cat - that should've been done back in Spiderman 2 with a Gwen who resembles her Ultimate-Comics counterpart (a complete contrast to MJ).

    Although I wouldn't have agreed on MJ's death, it seems to be the only logical way to settle the character. Because killing Gwen Stacy would seem too superficial and forced in the context of the film-series. But does the romantic lead really need to die? Sure, one would say that it's Peter Parker after all -- a character with whom we mourn the loss of our first girlfriend (tongue in cheek) -- but I think it could've been settled with MJ and him simply breaking up. I loved the way you began the story -- with them separated, and probably sharing a bittersweet moment through the plot.

    The other thing I am going to point out is the need for a strong villain beyond the Mafioso. Although the misunderstood wallcrawler, fighting both against the mob and the cops and public opinion in general is something that the Spidey film franchise needs (especially after the events of the last film) and probably with a few of those Train-commuters voicing their disapproval for their fallen hero, HammerHead shouldn't be the only villain. Give us another one - Lizard or Electro maybe? Also, Pete's lamentations on the death of Harry Osborn should take center stage as well. Great idea for Spidey 4, in fact now I am even more excited to see a Spidey 4 just to see the continuation of the characters from the film - the characters I grew up with through High School and related to. Sad that the next chapter will be talking about an overhaul.

    09-28-2010 | Unregistered CommenterNave Hayder

    Spider-Man as it is has to be rebooted and I really hope that the 4th film is going to be the reboot film... well actually I heard the series will be rebooted and here will be no Spidey4 thankfully, all I hope is that this reboot is going to revive the legend of Spider-man that was killed in the 3rd film.

    Sildenafil Citrate

    10-15-2010 | Unregistered CommenterOliver

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