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.