Murphy’s Law – 10 ways to improve the Spider-man franchise

Joel Murphy

Joel Murphy

Last week, Sony announced that they are rebooting the Spider-man franchise, meaning Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst are all out of jobs.

While it seems a bit premature to completely “reboot” a franchise that is only eight years old, I can’t really blame Sony for their decision after the incredibly disappointing Spider-man 3. For the record, I think Raimi did a pretty good job overall with the franchise, but he and the studio didn’t see eye to eye, which ultimately made the onscreen product suffer. So finding a director who can give Sony what they want might be in the best interest of everyone.

That being said, before I can officially sign off on this reboot, I have 10 suggestions they should follow to keep from “Topher Gracing” this thing a second time …

1. Don’t dwell on the backstory.
While a “reboot” is necessary after the colossal failure of Spider-man 3, it would be silly to completely take this thing back to square one. I think having Peter Parker still be in high school is a good idea, but that doesn’t mean that you have to reshow him getting bitten by a spider and putting on the costume for the first time. We saw his origin onscreen eight years ago, there’s no point in bringing all that up again. Besides, it’s no coincidence that The Dark Knight and X-Men 2 were better than their predecessors. Origin stories are boring; just skip ahead to the good stuff.

2. Cast the right villain.
I am a fan of Willem Dafoe, but his Green Goblin character is nothing short of ridiculous. Dafoe’s performance is completely over the top and making matters worse was the costume, which made him look like a rejected Power Rangers villain. And the less said about Topher Grace as Venom, the better. Finding a believable and compelling villain (like Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock) is key to making the whole thing work. While a Topher-less Venom could be fun to watch, I’d recommend bringing in Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin, a role which he played in Daredevil (but don’t count that against him).

3. That’s villain, singular.
A big problem with a lot of these superhero films is that they feel the need to pile on the villains. Spider-man 3 saw our hero battling the (incredibly high) new Goblin, Sandman and Venom, which resulted in a clunky story that didn’t deliver. When it comes to villains, less is more.

4. Keep the mask on.
Dafoe’s aforementioned Power Ranger helmet and Spider-man’s mask made it difficult for the actors to convey emotions in the first film. Raimi’s solution was to have his characters remove their masks whenever possible in subsequent films so that we could see the actors’ facial expressions. It makes sense from an aesthetic point of view, but it’s absolutely ridiculous from a practical one. The entire reason Peter wears a mask and fights crime under a pseudonym is to protect his identity, so when an entire subway train full of people sees his face in the second film, it kind of defeats the purpose. Find actors who can convey their emotions through body language and keep the damn masks on.

5. Don’t go gritty.
Not every comic book movie can be The Dark Knight. Keep it light and fun and full of bright colors. There can be drama and tragedy, but at the end of the day, I want my friendly neighborhood Spider-man full of life and spouting off wisecracks.

6. Remember that this is an action movie.
Sony announced yesterday that they hired Marc Webb, the director of the highly-enjoyable (500) Days of Summer , to helm this reboot. In their press release, Sony said: “At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world … We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter’s shoes … while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man’s adventure.”

While I agree that hook of Spider-man is seeing how Peter balances being a superhero with his normal, unglamorous life, hiring a director with no real action movie experience to turn this into a “small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager” worries me. At the end of the day, this is still an action movie and it needs to deliver on that front. So while Peter’s personal struggles and some type of love story definitely belong in the film, if Webb doesn’t blow some shit up, I’m going to be angry.

7. Don’t cast Robert Pattinson as Peter Parker.
Or Channing Tatum or any of these other charisma-less, talentless, annoying young douchebag actors out there who make me want to throw things at my TV screen whenever they are on. But I’m specifically talking about Pattinson, who was actually rumored to be in the running for the part (a rumor which has since been dismissed). I’m too old and out of touch with today’s youth to have anyone specific in mind to play Peter (although with Webb as director, I could think of worse choices than Joseph Gordon-Levitt, even if he is a little old to play the part). I hope they find the right guy, since … you know … he’s pretty central to the whole film.

8. Keep J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson.
I know this is a reboot and you are supposed to be starting from scratch, but he absolutely nailed that role in all three films and anyone cast to replace him would simply pale in comparison.

9. Give us more Gwen Stacy.
Before MJ, there was Gwen Stacy. But in Sam Raimi’s world, Stacy didn’t show up until the third film, which was so unwatchable that her presence hardly registered. Introducing Stacy from day one and playing up the love triangle angle could add a whole new dimension that was missing from Raimi’s films. Of course, part of the reason Raimi couldn’t go all out with the love triangle was because when he did bring in Bryce Dallas Howard to play Gwen, she quickly outshined Kirsten Dunst, which ruined the whole dynamic. And that, my friends, brings us to our most important issue …

10. Find the right Mary Jane Watson.
One of the most iconic moments in comic book history is when Peter Parker, who reluctantly agrees to go on a blind date with the “nice” girl his Aunt Mae wants to set him up with, opens the door to find the drop-dead gorgeous Mary Jane standing there, who says, “Face it, tiger … you just hit the jackpot!”

Kirsten Dunst could have never pulled off a line like that. Not only does she lack Mary Jane’s gorgeous physique, but she also lacks the charm needed to say that line convincingly. There is a swagger to MJ, but in the hands of Dunst, she became a mousy wallflower. She was nothing like the real MJ, who is supposed to be one of the most captivating and vivacious women in comics.

If you are rebooting the franchise, finding the right Mary Jane is crucial. Sadly, there aren’t a ton of great redheads in Hollywood, but I’m confident that the right girl is out there. Honestly, I don’t care if we all have to suspend disbelief and watch 34-year-old Christina Hendricks play a high school student to get it right; we need someone who can pull off the role.

But luckily, I have a recommendation that is a bit more age-appropriate – Candice Accola, from Deadgirl and The Vampire Diaries (pictured to the right). She is still relatively unknown, but she certainly has the look and the gravitas to pull of the role. So get her, or someone equally as compelling, in the role, let her say the famous line and watch the sparks fly.

Just don’t forget to blow shit up.

Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. You can contact him at

  1. Joelle January 20, 2010
  2. murf January 20, 2010
  3. Thor January 21, 2010

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