by Jake Thompson
I should start off with a spoiler warning here. Though if you’re somewhat into the Marvel universe, you probably already know a bit about the strange twist of The Superior Spider-Man comic book series. However, if you’d rather your Spider-Man remain ‘Amazing’, you may want to think carefully before reading on.
Peter Parker is dead. Sort of. Old, frail, but still brilliant Otto Octavius devised a clever scheme to save his own skin – by switching his and Parker’s brains. This resulted in poor little Peter’s demise, and Otto becoming Spider-Man. It all sounded like a bit of a stretch, even for Marvel. But The Superior Spider-Man is pulled off exceptionally well. This whole new side of ‘Peter Parker’makes things very interesting, and pretty dark at the same time. But as cool a story as it is, there are some aspects that are sure to stand in the way of any attempt to translate into live action. And hey, maybe that was the point.
Firstly, ghost Peter! I admit I’m glad Parker’s still around in some form, because it didn’t take long to miss his sense of humour. He’s represented as a ghost no one can see or hear, not even Otto. Though he does act as his silent conscience in a desperate attempt to maintain Peter Parker’s image (and relationships). If this were done in the world of Sam Raimi, or even the quirkier new vision of Marc Webb, it would just come off as laughable. It would be like that time Edward’s ‘ghost’came to warn Bella not to ride motorbikes. And see, already we have Twilight comparisons. So no good live action potential here.
Doc Oc Blocked
Secondly, Spider-Man the killer. So if you somehow forced the above ghoulish scenario into a film, it would be a kid’s flick at best. But now with Otto in charge of Spidey’s criminal busts, there’s no longer a ‘friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man’to tie up those pesky villains for the police. Otto is considerably more calculating and lethal than Peter. This reaches the surface when Massacre, a particularly brutal nemesis, escapes the Ravencroft Institute and goes on a city-wide…well…massacre. Otto/Spidey knows he could catch the guy, put him away, and wait ’til the next time he escapes and kills more innocents. Or he could disarm Massacre, and simply shoot him in the head. Which is what he does. For Otto, with great power comes great power. Not even his Peter Parker conscience could stop that one. And his behaviour becomes even more savage thereafter. Now the kids who enjoyed the cheesy ghost story are out. What target audience is left?
Finally (and I hope I’m wrong about this one), Otto’s relationship. This is actually the point I really started to like Otto Spidey, though it seemed a little forced at first. Otto meets the brainy Anna Maria Marconi, who’s a dwarf. It’s bluntly laid out from the word go, with one of her first lines being‘The words you’re looking for are “little person”’ to which Otto responds with ‘…that’s obvious.’He doesn’t care in the least, and their relationship builds from there. This is all great in comic book world. I just…don’t see it happening in a movie. In the books, she’s drawn at an inconsistent height. Sometimes her head is around Otto’s hip, while at certain angles I can’t actually tell she’s any smaller than others in the scene. I just don’t know how you’d cast her. I can see the Captain America trick being played, with a digital shrinking of a known actor to fit the mould. And that’s not going to go down well. Honestly, what I’d love to see here would be a little lady with serious acting chops break out the way Peter Dinklage has in recent years. I gave a quick Google, and Meredith Eaton (from various TV procedurals) has a resemblance to Marconi, though I daresay she’s a little old to play the role of a university student. Oddly enough, Elisha Cuthbert was a top hit in my search. Did you know she’s only 5’3”? Not that I’m saying she should date Doc Oc. And as I said, I’m hoping I’m wrong about this one.
So, then, how could it work. If the above elements are abolished, we’re left with a fairly flimsy story which is unlikely to work on its own. So what if the Superior character was worked into a larger world with, say, The Avengers? I’m not entirely up-to-date with the Disney/Marvel/Sony relationship, but there’s clearly good reasons Spidey hasn’t thwipped into the MCU yet. But The Avengers make an appearance in the comic book in a violent quibble with the renegade Parker. And I have to say, Spidey put up a pretty damn good fight against the gang, and with Otto’s brain, he’s smarter than any of them (albeit without Stark’s quick wit). How cool would it be if this new, in many ways improved, Spider-Man was the villain in Avengers 3?
What are your thoughts? Whether or not you’ve read the comic book (by the way, I’m only halfway through the 33-issue run myself, and the more I read, the more I’m sure about the above observations), I’m keen to get some other perspectives. It would be cool to see it happen one day. I mean, there’s only so many times they can do the high school reboot…right?