Spider-Man versus the dreaded sequel bait

Be warned, the following contains spoilers, so if you haven’t seen The Amazing Spider-Man then avert your gaze!

Took the family to see the Amazing Spider-Man in all its 3D glory at the weekend.

 

There were terrific performances throughout; Andrew Garfield has wanted to be Spidey since he was three and he gives his all, Emma Stone is as smart and watchable as she ever is, and Martin Sheen is… he’s Martin Sheen! When he’s not acting, he gets arrested for civil rights protests, and for that, we love him and truly believe that he’s the morally-centred Uncle Ben. Director Marc Webb wrings every drop of acting juice out of his performers, and the 3D swinging-through-New-York stuff was almost worth the extra moolah that the cinemas extort from you… almost.

But the story… The one thing that drives me nuts these days is franchise sequel bait syndrome. I watched so many threads set-up in this story, only to then see them unravelled, abandoned and left as loose ends for the sequel(s): what happened to Peter’s parents, Norman Osborne’s fatal illness, will Peter find Uncle Ben’s killer, to name but three. And had these been cut, the film might’ve been a good twenty minutes shorter, bringing it under two hours, saving my bum from numbness and my eyes from 3D strain.

This strikes me as being symptomatic of the producers being in charge of a bigger franchise. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies had his unique style all over them, he was driving the ship and he told stories that were self-contained. Yes, there were sequel hints at the end, and overriding story arcs, but nothing that bogged down the story you were watching at that moment, and certainly not to the level they do in this new movie. In Amazing Spider-Man there are great chunks – entire scenes – that have little to do with the story you’re watching now and everything to do with the story that has yet to be written. Marc Webb is a fine director, but I’ll be surprised if he’s back for the sequel as this time round Marvel’s producers are running the show and they have a master plan. I guess that’s all well and good for a mega-studio riding high on the success of The Avengers, but there’s an arrogant assumption that I’ll be back for episodes two and three, and at thirty-six quid a pop for the whole family that’s (taps calculator) a lot of money!

I’m currently working in a script that’s practically gagging for a sequel, and I know all too well the temptation to drop in all kinds of hints to whet the viewer’s appetite for future adventures. Fortunately we’ll be working to a very, very tight budget and we can’t afford to waste a word or a scene on this indulgence, so we’re obliged to tell our story and that’s that. So when in twenty years’ time I’m working on Spider-Man 15: We Finally Get Some Answers, and I have the luxury to indulge in franchise sequel bait syndrome, feel free to digitally slap me around the face with this blog post and demand a single story, well told.

Update: I was wrong! Director Marc Webb is back for the sequel. And good luck to him.

 

 

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unusuallytallstories

Author, screenwriter, and co-founder of the Bestseller Experiment podcast.

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