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The tangled web of Spider Man

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader

2017-06-19


Let this sink in for a minute ó itís been 15 years since the first Spider-Man movie was released. That first film was something the fans of the comics had been waiting years to see. Originally announced in the 1980s as a low-budget film, then a film James Cameron was set to write and direct after Terminator 2: Judgment Day in the 1990s, rights issues kept Spider-Man from the big screen for years until those details were finally ironed cumulating with a film directed by Sam Raimi and written by David Koepp finally making it to the big screen in 2002.

Now he seems like the obvious choice, but Raimi as the director of a Spider-Man movie back then didnít make a lot of sense. Personally, I was excited to see what he could do with the character. I knew Raimi from previous movies and figured that if given the opportunity to bring his kinetic style of action to the character Spider-Man might be really interesting. But to most Raimi seemed like a wildcard.

Back in 2002 Raimi was mostly known for the blood splattered Evil Dead movies and had received a bit of critical acclaim for the 1998 movie A Simple Plan. But otherwise nothing in Raimiís resume, other than perhaps the Darkman movie, seemed to indicate that he was the right person for the Spider-Man job. Iíve come to the conclusion that perhaps the reason that Raimi got the job was because no one else wanted it.

Iím not saying that there was no director in Hollywood in the early 2000s who was pining for the Spider-Man directing job, but I am saying that back then when superheroes were an unknown quantity I donít think major talent would have been lining up for the job of directing a comic book movie. Looking at the top grossing movies of the year 2000 the year the first X-Men was released, they were, wait for it, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, then Cast Away and then Mission: Impossible II. X-Men didnít even crack the top five highest grossing movies of 2000, it was eighth at around $160 million.
Now $160 million might seem like a lot of money, but these days thatís what a successful movie might do in a weekend, not its entire run. So back then a Spider-Man movie seemed less like a slam-dunk no-brainer for a director to take than something that had a lot of negatives with not a lot of positives attached to it in a time when comic book movies were openly derided.

But, surprise-surprise, Spider-Man made over $100 million dollars in its opening weekend, more than $400 million overall, and went onto become the highest grossing movie that year.

Which, of course, meant sequels. Spider-Man 2 would follow in 2004 and while it made less than the first was still an improvement on the original in terms of character and story. Even the third movie that came out in 2007, while the weakest of the bunch was the highest grossing movie that year.

Ironically, Marvel created the Spider-Man character but sold the movie rights to the character years ago so that character technically exists outside the Marvel movie universe. So Spider-Man was the biggest superhero of the early 2000s, Marvel technically didnít have anything to do with the big-screen version of that character.

After the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, two The Amazing Spider-Man movies would reboot the character to a more darker version of the Peter Parker universe beginning in 2012. Funnily enough, while those movies would make a combined $1.4 billion at the world-wide box office, they were considered failures by the fans, hence the new Spider-Man: Homecoming movie out July 5.

Starring Tom Holland in the title role who originally appeared in last summerís Captain America: Civil War as the character, this Spider-Man, while still not officially a part of the Marvel universe kinda is with the inclusion of Robert Downey Jr. in the Tony Stark/Iron Man role on loan from the Marvel movies. This time, Spider-Man along with Iron Man, whom I think will be in less of the movie than trailers indicate, must do battle with the evil Vulture (Michael Keaton) who wants to do really bad things to NYC.

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