Do the Amazing Spider-Man Movies Need 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. 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.


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