Avi Arad shines some light on the depth of thinking behind the Spider-Man reboots

Comic Book Resources shared an interview yesterday with Avi Arad, chief creative officer of Marvel Entertainment, regarding the upcoming sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man.

The interview is all of two questions long, and Arad’s responses are largely just salesmanship, but there’s a passage in there that reminded me of the review that Doom DeLuise and I did last year and some of the implications of the choices made in the rebooted franchise.

The CBR interviewer mentioned “…the first ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ film was marketed with the idea of telling an untold origin for Peter Parker,” but then pointed out that this so-called “untold origin” failed to materialize, and Peter’s transformation remained “as mysterious as the circumstances of the original.” True! But Arad’s response reveals that maybe the “untold” component is temporary.

So I loved the whole idea of what [“The Amazing Spider-Man”] did that never happened before was that, for the first time, Peter Parker asked himself ‘where are my parents? What really happened?’
So that’s the struggle we have, to make the best movie possible, marrying the origin but bringing in new ideas. And then you can depart from it. […] We looked at it like, if I’m Peter Parker, you’d say, “tell me about your life — like why do you live with your aunt and uncle?” Well, my parents disappeared. “Where to?” I don’t know. “You don’t know?” Of course he wants to know. So that’s how you have to look at the storytelling — what kind of questions do I have?

That’s edited somewhat for clarity, because the interview transcript seems remarkably faithful to some particularly rambly responses. But what comes across is that Arad seems quite proud of himself that these new films pursue the path of “What happened to Peter Parker’s parents?” which few have dared tread before.

In our Doom and Doomer review, DeLuise said that Amazing Spider-Man introduced midichlorians to the Spider-Man origin, by which he meant it “explains something that didn’t need to be explained.” While I disagreed with the severity of those implications (roughly paraphrased, DeLuise felt that ruined the relatability of Spider-Man’s character; I thought it changed the relatability from something like “I could be Spider-Man!” to “I too seek the approval of my parents!” Check out the full review for more depth to that), I agree with the nature of his claim. While I felt that there was potential in the changed focus of Peter’s relatability, in order for that shift to work, it needed to be handled carefully or everything DeLuise alleged would come true.

And Arad’s response suggests to me that he gave it no deeper thought than “Oh hey, nobody has ever done this before!” without any care given to how that affects the character, what he represents, and why he resonates with audiences. The implied self-satisfaction with Arad’s response doesn’t fill me with much hope for the sequel. Does he really think that five decades worth of writers haven’t even considered that? Or is it possible that maybe five decades of writers left that untouched because of what the ambiguity brings to the character? That thought doesn’t seem to cross his mind.

I enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man much more than DeLuise did, but unlike the first two Sam Raimi films, I’ve had no interest in seeing last year’s reboot again. Time is proving DeLuise right on this one.