Dec 10 2013 5:35pm

Do the Amazing Spider-Man Movies Need Peter Parker?

Amazing Spider-Man 4 Death of Peter Parker

Although Sony has already announced Amazing Spider-Man 3 and 4 for 2016 and 2018 respectively, Andrew Garfield recently revealed that he’s only signed up to play Peter Parker through to the third film. ComingSoon.net highlighted a statement from him in a recent press junket:

I mean I’m under contract for another after [Amazing Spider-Man 2]... as far as a fourth one? That’s not anything to do with me.

This is pretty straightforward contract talk and it doesn’t mean that Garfield won’t be in the fourth Amazing Spider-Man film, or that they won’t just recast Peter Parker if Garfield doesn't return. But it does make me wonder... does the movie Spider-Man need to be Peter Parker?

Spoilers and speculation for The Dark Knight Rises, Ultimate Spider-Man, and the forthcoming Spider-Man films ahead.

Having a Spider-Man who isn’t Peter Parker as the star of the fourth Amazing Spider-Man film isn’t a step that anyone would expect the moviemakers to take, but it’s not all that foreign a concept to comics fans, and it could be done in a way that revitalizes the Spider-Man movie mythos without sacrificing the character growth from the first three Amazing films.

As we enter our second decade of The Summer Superhero Blockbuster, we’re seeing studios and moviemakers take tentative efforts towards shrugging off the tropes and plot structures that the first decade of superhero films established. Now we have cinematic universes (Avengers, X-Men, Superman), less fear of or outright celebration of the weirder elements of comics (Guardians of the Galaxy), reboots that aren’t satisfied to be simply origin story retreads (Batman, Spider-Man), and huge casts of heroes and villains, of which Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only the latest example.

So what’s to stop them from killing Peter Parker and continuing the story of Spider-Man past that point?

It’s the same question that Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis must have asked himself at some point, eventually resulting in Peter Parker as Spider-Man being replaced with Miles Morales as Spider-Man in 2011. Although Parker’s death was in some ways a stunt, Bendis made certain to write it as a logical thematic conclusion to Peter’s journey of maturation, guilt, and responsibility. Peter dies saving Aunt May in the way that he was never able to do for his Uncle Ben. He’s there, he’s present, and taking responsibility for the insanity that being Spider-Man has brought to his family. He can’t stop the overwhelming force beset upon them without losing his own life in the process, which is heartbreaking, but true to who Spider-Man is. If we’re honest with ourselves, Bendis seems to say in the story, this violent end was always how Peter’s story was going to conclude. It was that or stop being Spider-Man. Stop being a hero.

By the time Miles Morales discovers his spider-powers, Spider-Man has become more than Peter Parker and has ballooned into a concept that embodies certain qualities of justice and responsibility. This is what Miles is inspired by, and his story is an interesting alternate exploration of Spider-Man because of it. Do you still get Spider-Man if he’s not as motivated by guilt?

Depending on Andrew Garfield’s commitment to the movie series, the Amazing Spider-Man films have an opportunity to explore this same story. By the end of the third movie, will the hero be less of a person and more of a symbol?

This is not a character progression that viewers of superhero movies are unfamiliar with. Although we didn’t realize it in the years leading up to The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy concludes by asking the same question. Even though Bruce’s personal need for Batman is now concluded, Robin obviously feels a fierce desire for Batman to exist in Gotham as a symbol of justice. As he stares at the plinth rising from the water the message is clear: Batman no longer needs Bruce, but Gotham will always need Batman.

Does Spider-Man no longer need Peter? Will New York City always need Spider-Man?

I have no idea if Sony would even consider this a viable direction to take Spider-Man, but...wouldn’t it be cool to see a horde of Spider-Men square off against Venom in the fourth Amazing Spider-Man movie? The inspired going after the corrupt would certainly be a potent underscoring of the larger-than-life message of Spider-Man....

Chris Lough almost revealed he was Spider-Man during a news conference but Harvey Dent got there first.

Christopher Morgan
1. cmorgan
I love this premise Other Chris, and as much as I prefer Garfield's Parker/Spidey, I wouldn't mind seeing them take this direction. But it does lead me to have to ask, what are your thoughts on Superior Spidey? I for one have been won over by Ock-Spidey. I think it makes the character a bit more interesting, but I know that it is going to return to status quo soon because Pete IS Marvel Prime's Spider-Man.
Matt Stoumbaugh
2. LazerWulf
Besides Miles Morales, there are several others who have taken up the Spider-Mantle (see what I did there?)

There Was Ben Riley, the Scarlet Spider, who was a clone of Peter who also took the mantle of Spider-Man after Peter quit (again, but it didn't take that time, either). There's the various Spider-Women, Jessica Drew (who, in the Ultimate Universe, is ALSO a clone of Peter... frickin clones...) Julia Carpenter (whose costume inspired the Black Suit Spidey which eventually became Venom), and Araña (now called Spider-Girl). Not to mention all the tangentally-spider themed characters, like Black Widow, Madam Web, or Tarantula.

So I do think it's possible to have Spider-Man without Peter Parker, but unlike TDKR, there's no way to have Peter Parker not be Spider-Man. The only way you get him out of that costume is to peel it off his cold, dead, body. (Something which BMB wisely realized.)
Chris Lough
3. TorChris
I don't have any thoughts on Ock-Spidey, Original Chris. :( The Spider-Man comics bucked me off at some point after issue #600 of Amazing and I haven't been back. (Pretty much the rest of the Marvel Universe followed suit, which is possibly a larger post in the making.) How long has the plotline been running? Has it been a pretty interesting exploration?

LazerWulf, I originally had a whole tangent about how the movies could actually do the Clone storyline really well, but then I realized that would mean a BUNCH of Andrew Garfields when they wouldn't even have access to one!

I forgot about Arana! She should totally show up.
rob mcCathy
4. roblewmac
1. I want Spider-Man to be Peter parker.
2. There are other twists I would accept. (The new spider-man is some new kid who is fairly normal.
3. I HATE Spider-ock! That's not "normal kid deals with being superhero" it's mad scientist deals with plot twist that's far fetched even in a superhero comic"
Colin R
5. Colin R
I think that they should just replace Garfield with Donald Glover. No explanations. Just do it.
Liz J
6. Ellisande
While this idea would be fine for Marvel itself, I suspect the use-it-or-lose-it provision of Sony's film rights for Spider-Man make this impossible. They have to use Spider-Man, and I bet spider clones and other secondary characters aren't enough on their own.
Mordicai Knode
7. mordicai
I'm with Colin R.

I think superheroes are stock characters. Peter Parker? Is a teenager in Queens who dresses up in costume & is an A-list superhero despite being kid. What I don't think matters is that he's white. Peter Parker is a teenage nerd from Queens raised by his aunt & uncle.
Matt Stoumbaugh
8. LazerWulf
@3: It's simple, you just have the Clone Saga be ASM 3, then kill off all the clones who look like AG. Clone Saga also cloned Gwen Stacy, so you could say that "Ben Reily" is a half-Peter half-Gwen clone, and use that excuse to cast a different actor. Plus, there's the whole Jessica-Drew-is-a-Genderswapped-Clone-of-Peter-Parker route (as I mentioned from the Ultimate Universe). Also, don't forget about Kaine, the aged-clone, who now wears Ben Riley's mantle of Scarlet Spider.
9. Ryamano

I don't even think Peter Parker/Spiderman has to be as young as a teenager. I liked JMS run over Spiderman, when he made Peter Parker finally graduate, become a school teacher and get married with MJ. Things were moving on. They rarely do in comics. (And sometimes they go back).
Colin R
10. Colin R
I think Peter Parker is probably necessary for Spider-Man movies. That's not a slight on other characters like Miles Morales--I just think that it's close to objective fact that Peter Parker: Spider-Man is the greatest superhero ever to don tights.

It comes down to the simplicity of formula--Uncle dies, Feels Guilty, Fights Crime. And that great line--"With Great Power comes Great Responsibility." Everything about the setup is what makes Marvel comics great and distinctive from DC Comics; they have one foot in crazy fantasy action and one foot in the melodrama of normal life, and Spider-Man is the very best of that. They would be CRAZY to throw out Peter Parker. People have been trying to copy Spider-Man for decades--why settle for something less than the best?

But I was totally serious about Donald Glover. It's not the superficial trappings of life that make Spider-Man great. It doesn't matter what race Peter Parker is. It doesn't even really matter that his name is Peter Parker. Or that he is from New York City (although I imagine you would have to place him in a similarly vertiginous city for the web-slinging). But the setup and principles of Spider-Man? Yeah, that's key. Miles Morales is a different character, very good in his own way, but his conflicts and background are different.
Mordicai Knode
11. mordicai
9. Ryamano

Well, for one thing, I think comics should just go ahead & be post-canon, or more or less, anyway. The success of movies, televisi0ns shows, games, comics & OTHER comics is proof enough to me that audiences are fine with a fluid understanding of comics. So it isn't like I mean to say there can't or shouldn't be grown-up Peter Parker stories, just Platonically, he's a teenager.

(I actually think comics should fall into three clumps: early, middle, late-- so like there should be "young Spider-Man" where he's in high school, "adult Spider-Man" where instead of being a loser who lives in his mom's basement he's like "oh hi I've been doing this since I was a kid, I am the leader of the Avengers & the spirit of the trickster totem but no big deal, I'm still your friendly neighborhood Spidey!" & then "old Spider-Man" where he's the head of OzCorp & mostly acts as advisor to Mayday, but that's just me.)
Colin R
12. Colin R
Comic books ARE post-canon, more or less. I mean it's true that more or less everything that has happened in Marvel Comics since they started has happened--there have been no reboots, everything is in continuity. But the tone of Marvel is that basically everything is in the eternal present. Yes, the Clone Saga happened. But you don't need to know a thing about it to pick up a Spider-Man story and read it, and understand what is going on. Spider-Man is eternally young, and they just ignore the fact that he was a teenager from the 60s when his story began.

DC obviously handles things different ways, with regulare reboots and continuity reshufflings. But the result is pretty similar--you don't really need to know anything about the continuity. You know who Batman is--what happened last year or forty years ago doesn't change that.
Colin R
13. Bytowner
Marvel management may not be willing to admit it. But some of us in the audience are. We have Miles Morales, and - if need be - after him, Miguel O'Hara from the 2099 line of titles.

Spider-Man the Franchise can survive without Peter Parker.
Amey Chinchorkar
14. ameyc
This brings me to my whole beef with the debate about non-white actor playing Spiderman - Peter Parker is a white teenager in his 50+ years of history (unlike The Doctor, who is shape-shifting alien). So, a non-white actor playing Peter Parker will be at best a stunt casting, at worst what happened to The Last Airbender leads. On the other hand, bring me a good continuation of Spidey movies with Miles Morales taking on the mantle, and I am there.
Colin R
15. Colin R
I don't think that argument holds any water. If being Irish-American, Italian-American, or some other ethnicity was important or relevant to Peter Parker's identity, that might be one thing. But he doesn't have any of those traits. His background could belong to anyone who was born in America.
Amey Chinchorkar
16. ameyc
@15 I presume you are talking about my comment. So here's my argument - people talk about casting minority actors as Superheroes to have same role-models for minority kids as for white kids. In that case, what is better? Watching one movie with say, Donald Glover as Peter Parker and then going back to read a huge amount of comics with a white Peter Parker, or watching a movie with Miles Morales as Spidey and then reading comics which align with that?

My point is: Making one movie with a minority actor as a superhero will have far less impact than creating good minority characters in comics/movies/books which are superheroes.
Colin R
17. Colin R
@ameyc: Yeah. I think the comic books and the movies are different media with different needs. Spider-Man/Peter Parker is a distinctive character, and what is good about Spider-Man is tied up in that identity. What is important in that identity is not that he is white--if we went back in time and made Peter Parker black-latino when he was invented, it wouldn't significantly alter his character today (I mean, other than the obvious difference in the real world of having a black-latino superhero in the 1960s, but you know what I mean.) There are characters like the Flash or the Green Lantern who are specifically identified as mantles that pass on from person to person--obviously you can replace them with a different person and it works without a problem. There are thousands of Green Lanterns--any of them could fill in duties as the Green Lantern. I don't think it's quite as simple as that with Spider-Man.

Miles Morales worked in the Ultimate universe because they were willing to off Peter Parker and move on. But they were willing to do that because they already had a 'real' Peter Parker who will never really be killed off permanently. I applaud them for what they did, but it remains to be seen what happens with the character as the Ultimate Universe is shut down--by the very nature of how his character was created, he is probably going to end up as a second string to Peter Parker. I could be wrong--sometimes supporting or replacement characters end up overshadowing the original characters. Wally West is a lot more interesting than Barry Allen. But we're talking about Peter Parker--without question the most important and famous of Marvel superheroes who does not go "snikt". It's a more difficult transition.

By contrast, I think if tomorrow they just started making Peter Parker black in the comics, nothing changes. It would work just fine. Characters change their appearance all the time as artistic teams change. Nothing about the stories relies on Peter Parker's ethnicity or appearance. Likewise, if a black actor was suddenly playing Spider-Man, there's really nothing that needs to be explained--nobody is going to be confused any more than it was confusing when other actors started playing James Bond.

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