I have never seen – and with any luck I never will see – The Amazing Spider-Man.
I simply have no interest in seeing it, but maybe not for the reasons you’d expect. It’s not because it looks terrible, it’s not because it looks like a rush-job by Sony to hold on to the rights, it’s not because it looks like it craps on the characters of both Peter Parker and Curt Connors, it’s not because the art-design looks awful, and it’s not because Andrew Garfield’s Twilight hair makes me want to stab him in the eye. While all of those things are true, they’re not what stopped me from seeing it.
The truth is that I refused to see it on principal, because it sets a dangerous and worrying precedent. Supporting The Amazing Spider-Man tells studios that it’s ok to reboot a strong franchise just because one film wasn’t quite as well-received as the others. It tells them it’s ok to sell us the exact same origin story that they already sold us less than a decade ago. It tells them it’s ok to base a series purely on brand-name rather than story. And, I’m sorry, but it’s not bloody ok.
So I made a stand. I voted with my wallet and refused to see this film. And d’you know what? It worked! The Amazing Spider-Man was the least-successful of all the Spidey films, and that’s even before you adjust for inflation.
Sony seem to have gotten the message because, this year, they abandoned the Amazing Spider-Man series and returned to the original continuity instead. Just look at the costumes – the new film does away with the ugly, rubbery, overdesigned costume from the reboot, and brings back the comic-accurate costume from the first three films (i.e. the greatest superhero costume ever). It’s a clear indication that we’re back in the original timeline, albeit with a new cast, and that The Amazing Spider-Man now exists as a standalone experiment in the vein of Marvel’s classic What If? comics (What if Peter Parker was a Total Douchebag?).
Unfortunately, in the rush to correct their mistake, Sony have accidentally gotten ahead of themselves and released Spider-Man 5 without first releasing Spider-Man 4. There’s a hole in the timeline, without which the new film doesn’t quite make sense. But, if we look closely enough, the clues are there and, if we put them together, the story of this missing film slowly becomes clear.
The untold story
Spider-Man 4 opens where Spider-Man 3 left off: Peter’s life is a wreck. His best friend is dead, his relationship with Mary Jane is in tatters, and both those things are basically his fault. He’s drinking heavily, eating badly, and his hair is greasier than ever. Aunt May has stopped answering his calls. His work suffers (both his crimefighting and his actual job) and J. Jonah Jameson has no choice but to fire him. Finally, after another huge fight – the third one this week – MJ has had enough. With one last tearful “Goodbye, Tiger,” she walks out of Peter’s life forever. Heartbroken, he visits the bridge where he failed to propose in the previous film. Looking down into the cold, black water, he wishes that he hadn’t made such a mess of his life… and a sinister voice behind him says, “That can be arranged.”
This is Mephisto. He’s a red-skinned bloke with too much hair and not enough clothes and, for all intents and purposes, he’s the Marvel version of the Devil.
You see, Spider-Man 4 is based on the infamous 2007 comic One More Day, in which Peter made a deal with said Devil-stand-in after his beloved Aunt May was shot. Mephisto offered to save May’s life, but only in exchange for Peter and MJ’s marriage – scrubbing their wedding from history and, it was later revealed, preventing the existence of their future daughter. Peter, stupidly, took the deal and sacrificed his love, happiness, and basically his entire world, just so an ancient old woman could live maybe a couple more years at best.
Spider-Man 4 wisely foregoes saving the ninety-five-year-old. Instead, Mephisto says he can fix Peter’s broken life but that, in exchange, Peter will never have met Mary Jane. Peter, knowing that he’s lost MJ either way, reluctantly accepts the deal. Cackling triumphantly, the demon works his evil magic –