Spiderman's Web

I think it's fair to say that the topic of the week has been whether or not certain sequels and/or prequels to certain games and/or movies will live up to the standards and/or mythos of the originals. The debates have been spirited, but we're all adults here (even those of us with action figure dioramas in the living room), and aside from the occasional feeling, nothing has been seriously hurt.

I think that we each have an Achilles' Heel of sorts, in the form of some game, movie, TV show or book which possesses a precious place in our palpitating heart just below Mom, but a little bit above the next most important woman in our lives (and I'm not talking about Wonder Woman). This may be Star Wars, Sonic the Hedgehog or Homer's Odyssey, but whatever it is no amount of logic or reason will allow slanders against our precious to roll like water off of a duckilama's back. We love them far too much to allow some visionless hack to go in and start messing with the details. Be they large or small.

This is what I call "Spiderman's Web Syndrome." I call it that because A) naming things is fun, and B) "… well, it just sounds better than "Obsessive Nerd Syndrome" doesn't it?

Back in 2002, I went to see the Spiderman movie with a group of friends and friends of friends, the ring-leader of which was a 300lb man I had never met, named Gustav. Gustav was a graphic designer, video gamer and comic book collector. He was also a rabid Spiderman fan. His expectations were high, to say the least. We chatted a bit before the film, but seeing as his focus was on talking Spiderman and mine was on buying candy, we didn't have much to say to each other.

I had read a few Spiderman comics as a child, and had seen the TV version of the story, but I have to admit that I'm not now nor was I then a Spidey expert by any means. Thus, the film offered me few surprises. I did see some discrepancies between what I had expected from a Spiderman film, and what was actually presented, but on the whole, there wasn't anything that I couldn't live with.

Except the web thing.

The film producers had decided that Spiderman, as part of his transformation from nerdy Peter Parker to muscle-bound wall crawler, needed to grow organic web shooters under the skin on his wrist. This is somewhat of a departure from the original story in that Spiderman had previously needed to construct his own, and then strap them on. This alteration troubled me a little, I have to admit. Although it obviously upset Gustav a lot more.

As Mr. Weepy Eyes discovered that he could shoot webs by twitching his hand, a stream of Pepsi emerged from about one person's width to my right, arced three feet over the heads of the people sitting in front of us, and landed four rows down. Then there was coughing, then choking and then gasping. The entire theater became deathly silent. We were afraid someone had died or was dying. Even the actors onscreen, it seemed, lowered their voices out of respect for the frailty of human life.

Then, into this silence, the word "What?" emerged like a cannon shot. The utterance was so loud that our fellow cinema patrons were literally too stunned to shush it. The "What?" just hung there in space, unshushed, and with a very large question mark at the end. It was Gustav. He had shared his outrage so successfully that everyone within a twenty-person radius of him was completely unable to enjoy the humor of the following scene, in which MWE tries unsuccessfully to repeat the web shot and then pulls a George of the Jungle into a nearby building.

For those of you who have no idea why the web thing may be disconcerting to a certain set, I'll explain. Spiderman is not a mutant. He lives in the same world as those, most uncanny of mutants, the X-Men, but he himself is not one. Or at least he wasn't in the past.

This lack of mutancy on Spiderman's part had many ramifications for him in terms of how he interacted with other heroes (particularly the X-Men) and how he went about his business of being heroic. He may have been a bit stronger, and a bit more intuitive than your average man thanks to his encounter with a spider, but he had no "super powers" in the traditional sense. This necessitated a little ingenuity on his part, and as such, made him far more accessible and interesting to teenaged underachievers than some other heroes who had been blessed from birth with the power to throw footballs long distances, run the mile in under thirty minutes and have sex with Bonnie Smith under the bleachers "… or "… er "… fly.

The point is, Spidey was Spidey. He had a unique story, unique abilities and a unique perspective. With that one change, suggesting that he actually had been mutated by the spider bite, Raimi and Co. altered the entire Spiderman mythos in a very subtle, but substantial way.

Now here's where I stand on that sort of thing: Things change and we have to change with them or risk getting blown away by the winds of time, like Scarlet's wardrobe. Ten minutes later I was over it, and settled back in to enjoy the rest of the movie. Gustav, on the other hand, walked out of the theater in disgust. Literally. You could see the disgust coming off of him in waves. That one change was enough to ruin the entire film for him. He didn't see the MWE splat into the side of the building, didn't see him kiss whatshername while hanging upside down, and didn't see the climactic end-battle or the shout out to the original Spiderman in the end credits. He was so bitter, so devastated that he just couldn't deal.

Gustav's reaction may seem severe, even by obsessive nerd standards, but if any of us were to say that we haven't felt equal disgust at the perversion of one of our Achilles' Heels, we'd be lying. Why do we behave thus? Are our affections so fickle that a new idea will endanger the love we feel for something we enjoyed a decade or more ago? Perhaps it would be nice if every new thing met all of our criteria and lived up to all of our expectations, but such a thing can never be. Partly because people who create entertainment occasionally just don't care whether we'll be offended by their choices or not. Other times because we ourselves are far too obsessed with the niggling details (some of which exist only in our minds) to ever be pleased by someone else's vision.

Thus, in a world where anyone can reproduce anything in any form, we are constantly faced with the possibility of having our heart ripped right out by someone or another. Be it by Ben Stiller's bastardization of Starsky and Hutch (which didn't include my favorite quote "If we play our cards right maybe, just maybe, we can ice both Starsky and Hutch!" anywhere) or Brad Pitt's "interpretation" of Achilles himself (Achilles didn't live to see the fall of Troy. Hello? And where was the man-boy love? Dammit!). How we deal with this constant potential for disappointment therefore is what ultimately separates the men from the boys. Or perhaps, what separates the outraged obsessives from those who would rather concentrate on the joy of living.

Comments

Actually, for all intensive purposes, Spiderman DID have super powers... just not the ability to make webbing.

That said... I do find the need of so many to be entirely true to mythos in EVERY medium a little silly... some things just don't translate well... Spiderman making a web-slinger didn't for the movie... just like I don't think Bambadil (how do you spell that again) wouldn't have worked for the screen version of Lord of the Rings... sure, he's a great character, but he's just too complex for a few minutes of screen time. *shrugs* Happens.

That said, in the case of Star Wars... I really think it SHOULD be said that George seems to be diverging from his own mythos in several ways that are vaguely unsettling... the M-word being a particularly big one... especially when the M's banged Anny's mom to create him. But... ya know. What can ya do? I'd LIKE to think that when you're doing EVERYTHING yourself in one medium, that you'd stick to your own backstory... but... eh, whatever.

Ahhh yes obsessive compulsive nerdism - I have it on occasion especially when it comes to movies and TV where the military (particularly the Navy) or intelligence (no jokes please) are major parts of the storyline. Last time I checked most JAGS were not former F-14 pilots, did not have a bunch of hotties working for them nor did they chase down the baddies themselves. If our intelligence apparatus was as frazzled and riddled with internecine warfare as illustrated in 24 (a show I really dig) then we would be up sh*t creek without a paddle in major hurry. I think we all have "things" we like to see and "expectations" we expect to be met and just like 24, Spiderman, Star Wars or any number of movies I am willing to sit back and enjoy the show as long as I am entertained and will continue to annoy Mrs. Spy by saying oh and thats an MP-5 and that is an M-4 and so on and so on :). And for all the "thats not right" crowd - space combat would be pretty boring if portrayed realistically - sound doesnt propagate in space nor would there be huge fiery explosions except for a brief burst of Oxygen igniting (maybe depending on amount). Where was I - I lost track - another great piece Fletch.

Good article Fletcher, and very topical indeed.

I would, however, caution against being too quick to dismiss the criticisms of others as being nothing more than "Spiderman's Web Syndrome". Certainly, SWS is a common enough occurence, and it seems likely that the 300 lb. man you mentioned was indeed suffering from it, but let us not forget that oftentimes when a narrative is reinterpreted, it is done with such disrespect or incompetence on the part of the interpreters that one need not suffer from SWS in order to be critical.

For example, I've now been to two stage productions of Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale. I've read the play and I think it's pretty good, although nowhere near his best. Anyway, the first time I saw the play, the actors were a strange mix of classical theater types and jive-talking urban hipsters. I tried to keep an open mind, but it soon became apparent to me that many of the lines had been rewritten, and even some of the scenes. The play ended in a truly surreal fashion, with all the actors joining hands and singing John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads". I sat there, my jaw agape, thinking over and over to myself "WT-everluvin'-F?"

The second production was better, but not by much. In this case, the director had decided that instead of portraying the events of the play as real, they would instead become nothing more than the imaginary figments of a bunch of churchgoers who were in the process of cleaning out the burned-out husk of their fire-gutted place of worship. Again: WTF?

The point is, I wasn't suffering from SWS, but I hated those productions with every fiber of my being. And if I had attended those plays with a big Shakespeare buff, I would not have diagnosed her with SWS if she didn't like what she saw, either.

On an unrelated note,

Demosthenes wrote:

...for all intensive purposes...

Repent! Repent!

I find Gustav's reaction a bit over-dramatic, especially since it was known well in advance that in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man the Webslinger would indeed mutate to the point of being able to shoot webs from his wrists, sans the webshooters. Pfft. Gustav must not have been that big of a fan, as most of us couldn't believe Raimi was skewering the mythos so badly . . . yet, it worked and was believable.

Yes, Troy was butchered. But then so was Ben-Hur. And let us not forget an entire trilogy that was altered in order to make the movies more dramatic . . . Lord of the Rings.

The whole Star Wars debate is a non-issue at this point. Fanboys have been seething since The Phantom Menace; I was really disappointed at the story, and especially at the casting of Jake Lloyd (in hindsight, and after seeing some of the other youing actors whom tried-out for the role, I think Lucas chose wrongly). I saw the first movie when I was 10 years old and had expected to be whisked away like I had been then . . . except that time and age do make a difference, to a certain degree. But I still expected to be entertained, which I was for the last 30 minutes of the movie.

Oh well. Nice article, Fletch.

I always thought it was silly that he had to [b]make[/b] his own web shooters. I was actually glad that it was organic. It made more sense to me.

Very awesome article Fletch. I'm a very mellow guy myself and don't feel strongly or obsessive about just about anything except my favorite bands. Yes, I'm a music snob. Yes, my favorite band is better than yours. Yes, your favorite band stinks, etc, etc, etc. Half the time I berate someone's music choice, it's because I'm right and their music is terrible, the other half it's just for fun. And I'm a huge fan of the Music Doctor Thorpe over at SA. I don't know why I'm letting everyone know, probably so people don't take me seriously if/when I poke fun at their music choices and they'll chalk it up to SWS.
At any rate, obssessive nerdism is a problem that's gripping our nation and sending it into a downward spiral of hate and fear! Won't someone please think of the children?

Lobo wrote:
Demosthenes wrote:

...for all intensive purposes...

Repent! Repent! ;-)

Hehe, this is one of my favorite malapropisms, although I'm a big fan of 'star craving mad.' First time I saw that in print I almost spit Mt Dew all over the place. English really is a dieing language and the internet is just twisting the knife harder and deeper.

I'm with KrazyTaco on this one. The man could climb walls, jump super high and was strong enough to crush a car. But he had to build his own webs? Oh noes! Now he can shoot them! That totally throws off his character. He's a superhero. A teenage, nerdy, akward, reluctant superhero, yeah. But still a superhero.

And Lobo I don't think your post was an example of SWS. SWS is being outrages that someone dared change something. You sound like you're outraged that the plays really, really sucked

And if you want to give yourself a case of SWS, think of your most cherished childhood TV show, Movie or Book. Then search for it on Google and add the word "erotic". For bonus points, try it on Google Images!

English really is a dieing language and the internet is just twisting the knife harder and deeper.

I think we need a cleanup on aisle Hilarity!

I always figured that the internal webshooters were a kind of back-handed 'tribute' to the short-lived Spiderman 2029 series; same with the little doohickeys that sprouted out of his fingers (yet still somehow let him stick to walls through gloves...). The only thing that was really lost (IMO) was the constant - and possibly overused - possiblity of his webshooters running out.

Nice article, Fletch. Entertaining, as always.

Pyroman[FO] wrote:
English really is a dieing language and the internet is just twisting the knife harder and deeper.

I think we need a cleanup on aisle Hilarity!

F me!

Brianw should have wrote:

English really is a dieting language and the internet is just twisting the knife harder and deeper.

I always thought it was silly that he had to make his own web shooters. I was actually glad that it was organic. It made more sense to me.

I agree, that doesn't seem too far of a stretch from the Spiderman canon. The one thing that really irritates me about Hollywood and entertainment companies, though, is taking excessive liberties/bastardization of a branded product to make it more appealing for the larger demographic which is what Gustav saw this as.

Just a quick thread hijack... let's look at two movie properties releasing this year with rabid fan bases... Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Doom. Now, the Hitchhiker movie looks to strike a perfect balance between fan expectation and opening up the storyline for people unfamilar with the book. The people creating the movie appear to respect the fans, their devotion, and the original storylines that made the book so appealing while creating new content for everyone to enjoy. Then there's the Doom movie... which takes the franchise and turns it into a Resident Evil-clone. There is no respect for the fan base when characters are named Dr. Carmack and Pinky (hmmm, I wonder what happens to him?) as tongue-in-cheek nods to the creators of the game. It's almost an insult to a fan's intelligence that these lame tactics have to be done to attempt to make the film appealing while changing the core storyline from "rampaging demons from hell" to "mutation virus accidentally gets out". I am half expecting Uwe Boll's name to fly-by in the credits as a creative consultant or some other BS position.

So there's where I stand, embracing the fandom and making necessary adjustments for a larger audience are acceptable but taking a property and dismantling it to its base parts ultimately ruins the experience. Gustav needs to move out of his Mommy's basement, find a girl, and realize that spinneretts or webslingers doesn't matter at all in the grand scheme of things.

Obviously people aren't all the same clones, but I know how this works with me. The movie that I clearly identify with the most is Rocky. Laugh if you want, but Rocky is a very meaningful movie to me. The whole concept of this guy who is a talented underacheiver and who eventually decides to take a shot for all he's worth really echoes with me. My wife likes the movie too, if only because she likes to see that I'm human and it's basically the only thing in the world that can make me cry. I just remember the line from the commentators at the fight, "What is keeping him up?" "I don't know." "He can't even lift his arms to protect his face, but he's still standing." Crikey, I'm tearing up just thinking about it.

There are a few things that happen in the movie that turn it to truly great instead of just OK. There's the speech towards the end where he says he figures there's no way he can win, but he'll try his hardest. Then there's the main point-- he loses, he doesn't want a rematch, and as far as he's concerned he's now a winner. Why is that important? Two reasons. One, it makes the movie real. Only in the movies would some total unknown actually beat the champ. Even Buster Douglas had some history behind him. It drives home the point that it's not the winning that's important for Rocky-- it's that he actually, for once in his worthless life, tried. Hey may not have won, but he's not a loser anymore, either.

Second, and more personally, it's because the first time I decided that trying was better than just fearing failure all the time, I failed. That makes it even more real, and that probably helps with identifying with the movie so much. (Personal aside: yeah failing hurt. A lot. But eventually I stood up and tried again and again-- it's averaged out pretty darn well).

My point (finally!) is the question of what would happen if people screwed with my closely held dream movie. Well-- they did. Rocky 2-5 (or however high it went). 2 was ok, 3 was silly, 4 was ridiculous, 5 was unwatchable. I don't really care, though, because Rocky 1 is still there. If they ever remake it, they'll probably change the ending so that he wins, and thus turn it from a great movie to a run of the mill movie. Again, though, I don't care. Rocky, as it is, already happened. That's the beginning and end of the experience. If somebody wants to screw with that, they can, and I can choose to ignore or accept it as I wish, but I know that I can always go back to the memories of watching Rocky turn his life around, and maybe tear up a little.

But that's just me

Perhaps SWS is why I detested (and still refuse to watch the DVD) Hulk so much? Odd, I never even really liked The Hulk, but, like most people my age, Dr. Bruce was pretty much all there was to watch saturday afternoons. Hmm.

Nah. On second thought, it was just a crappy movie.

My motto: Never try and think about these types of movies too hard. Just enjoy the ride.

Poppinfresh wrote:

Laugh if you want, but Rocky is a very meaningful movie to me.

No laughter, here. I happen to strongly agree with you. I think Rocky is an *amazing* film on many levels.

As long as what I interpret to be the spirit of the story is maintained, I don't care what a director/writer/whoever does to "my" favorite story.

I love LoTR. Both the books and the movies. I don't care that Tom Bombadil isn't in the movies, that Celeborn doesn't even get a mention at the Council, nor that Faramir is invulnerable to the power of the One Ring.

Someone needs to append the geek hierarchy with a "Spiderman's Web Syndrome" spot for each category (anime, gamers, scifi, furry, etc).

Actually, until L&L mentioned it... I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to bring up Doom. THAT is a classic example of why SWS SHOULD exist. What the hell is that? There's absolutely NO respect for the original "plot" at all! Instead of demon shooting on Mars... we've got... virus... on earth... oh... FUN! I loved that movie when it was called Resident Evil! *sigh* That said, I think Uwe made some big errors compared to saaaaay... LotR or Spiderman. Spiderman is still Spiderman, it's just that ONE facet of his character has been changed. Lord of the Rings, despite quite a few changes, is still pretty much Lord of the Rings... just a little easier to sit through (let's face it, Two Towers with Frodo and Sam would have been HORRIBLE without some editting)... but Doom? Doom has had the setting... parts of the main concept... the storyline... and "characters" all changed in the interest of avoiding Christian activists and parents groups... Why is it that all these people are more willing to see people shoot up human zombies than demons? You would think the Christian activists would be ALL FOR the destruction of the denizens of the Underworld... but... maybe they just relate a little too well.

Me, I find Fletch's use of word "niggling" offensive!

Great article otherwise. Just to drive the point home once again:

Uwe-motherloving-Boll wouldn't twist and torture the source material if he wasn't offered a license to do so.

And Spidey would have organic ingrown shooters from get-go if Stan Lee (or whomever) would have been any smarter. Mother nature-inspired web fluid formula!! How dumb is that?

Myself, I am far more appaled at the way they totally raped SpongeBob's TV series character in the recent full-length theatrical feature. The departures from the original character are simply outrageous!!!

Myself, I am far more appaled at the way they totally raped SpongeBob's TV series character in the recent full-length theatrical feature. The departures from the original character are simply outrageous!!!

Care to elaborate? I didn't notice anything.

Myself, I am far more appaled at the way they totally raped SpongeBob's TV series character in the recent full-length theatrical feature. The departures from the original character are simply outrageous!!!

But it did have David Hasslehoff's super man chest in it!

Spider-man wouldn't make web shooters. Spider-man would just go.

Pyroman[FO] wrote:
Myself, I am far more appaled at the way they totally raped SpongeBob's TV series character in the recent full-length theatrical feature. The departures from the original character are simply outrageous!!!

Care to elaborate? I didn't notice anything.

They made a Hassle The Hoff's vehicle out of it!! Arrgghh!!

Poppinfresh wrote:

4 was ridiculous

4 was awesome dude! I still quote heavily from that movie to this day, simply to irritate friends and family.

"He is not a man, he is like a piece of iron."

"Drago is the greatest boxer who has ever lived."

All said with my best Russian accent.

You forgot:

Drago: I will break you.
Rocky: Go for it!

*raises hand*

Guilty. I'd never walk out on a movie or spew soda on people though, I'd just rant to any friends unfortunate enough to be nearby afterwards.

Awesome article Fletcher. The Obsessive Nerd Syndrome is a personal pet peeve. You should have punched Gustav in the face as he was shocking up while telling him to go out more, move his fat ass once in a while and stay away from Pepsi. Zing!

RE: Doom being completely changed - Can you say The Lawnmower Man? /obscure

RE: Rocky - Why go back that far? Revisionist sequels? Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. They are dead to me. There can be only the one.

And finally, Frodo was never in Osgiliath, dammit!

Grumpicus wrote:

RE: Rocky - Why go back that far? Revisionist sequels? Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. They are dead to me. There can be only the one.

'Cause I care about Rocky. I'm invested, dammit!

Edit: Speaking of "There can be only one," I hear there was only one Highlander movie ever made, too...

Spleen wrote:

Spider-man wouldn't make web shooters. Spider-man would just go.

Hehe, awesome.

Also, throw me on the side of those who think the organic web-shooters make more sense. Sorry, but audiences would have snickered at scenes of Peter Parker developing his own web shooters through the wonders of CHEMISTRY! The costume-creation montage at least appealed to the humor of camp.

SpyNavy wrote:

I think we all have "things" we like to see and "expectations" we expect to be met and just like 24, Spiderman, Star Wars or any number of movies I am willing to sit back and enjoy the show as long as I am entertained and will continue to annoy Mrs. Spy by saying oh and thats an MP-5 and that is an M-4 and so on and so on

I've gotten better about keeping this comments to myself. (Except when Leno recently showed a prop 1911 in a Truth In Advertising skit and referred to it as a Smith & Wesson... except there was clearly no external extractor, so it OBVIOUSLY wasn't a S&W... that one I couldn't keep to myself. I know deep down my wife appreciated the correction.)