It’s 2016 and another Spider-Man reboot is not too far away, and from the glimpse we saw in the Captain America: Civil War Trailer he looks okay. But I’ve found myself wondering, after the mess that was Spider-Man 3 and the mild disaster of The Amazing Spider-Man films, what would I do if I was given creative control over the web-slinging superhero’s next film franchise? Now, I’m basing this on the here and now, a world where those other incarnations happened – so some of the choices I’ve made are influenced by them, giving me a desire to mix things up a little and try find something new while also honouring the source material. It wasn’t easy, but here’s what I ended up planning for Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man…
Setting and Backstory
As ever with Spider-Man, the setting is New York City – but instead of starting with Peter in High School, we’re jumping straight in as he joins Empire State University (a fictional institute). Peter’s home with his Aunt May remains in Forest Hills, Queens. A couple of other setting tweaks from previous versions include starting with Peter’s Uncle Ben having already died (it will be explored in the film, but as we’ve had two versions of this in recent years I’m looking to tweak its presentation) and Peter already being in a relationship with Gwen Stacy (who he usually meets at university). In making changes I am looking to honour the comics, but craft a new story with these beloved characters – a new version of this universe. This is also intended as a stand alone film, rather than part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Characters and Dream Casting
When I thinking of my casting choices here, I imagined making the film on a very high budget. My choices should hopefully give you a flavour of what I’d be going for. The three leads would be unknown actors. It worked well in the new Star Wars film, and I’d be keen to give these actors a chance to create something new without the weight of people wondering, ‘Ooh what will Tom Cruise do as Spider-Man?’ The actors would have a clean slate, so to speak.
Peter Parker aka Spider-Man: The story’s hero, science student and freelance photographer by day, spider-themed crime fighter by night (and sometimes the day – depending on when crime happens). Casting: unknown actor.
Gwen Stacy: Peter’s girlfriend, and daughter of Captain Stacy. She majors in molecular medicine, and has a knowledge of science greater than Peter’s. Casting: unknown actor.
Mary Jane Watson: A student at Empire State who becomes friends with Peter. She is studying literature and is dating John Jameson. Casting: unknown actor.
Harry Osborn: Peter’s university roommate. The two begin to form a strong friendship during the film. He’s studying business at his father’s behest, who envisions him taking over his company, Oscorp. Casting: John Boyega – an actor with great talent who can bring strong support to the cast.
May Parker: Peter’s Aunt / surrogate mother. No matter how mad and/or bad things get, Aunt May is there to provide an anchor for Pete. Casting: Meryl Streep – Big guns here, aiming for a truly world class actress to bring the weight needed.
Otto Octavius aka Doctor Octopus: Otto is a lead researcher in the physics department and initially a good friend and mentor for Pete, but all that changes after an accident in the lab… Casting: Seth Rogen – probably not the first name to spring to most minds, but Rogen is actually a very good actor and can use his comic skills to help bring levity to the film. I think he could sell being Doctor Octopus.
Captain George Stacy: Gwen’s father and a Captain in the NYPD. George also acts as a mentor and something of a father figure to Pete, and he is accepting of his relationship with his daughter – but is still protective of her. Casting: Aaron Eckhart – he has the clean-cut look of an officer of the law, and brings star quality.
Kasady: The man who killed uncle Ben, an only in television footage, newspapers and flashback. He is only fleetingly referred to by name, and surname alone. Casting: Richard Brake – a really good and underrated Welsh actor, who can capture the joy Kasady takes in crime.
Ben Parker: Peter’s Uncle and surrogate father, killed in an attempted robbery. He is featured fairly prominently, but through discussion, photos and flashbacks. Casting: Jonathan Banks – The Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad star has the chops to stand up to a robber convincingly and also dispense living advice.
John Jameson: Mary Jane’s boyfriend, and an astronaut in training. He is also the son of J Jonah Jameson. He’s a clean-cut good guy, and is unconcerned by Mary Jane’s friendship with Peter. Casting: Jack Reynor. I mean, he’s hot. Really quite the specimen. He could rock a spacesuit.
J Jonah Jameson: Loud-mouthed editor of the Daily Bugle and Spider-Man hater. He’ll be bringing a lot of energy and comedy to the mix. Casting: JK Simmons, because some things are just perfect. Absolutely perfect.
The film can open on something fun, perhaps a close-up on a spider making its progress across a kitchen before it is shooed away by Aunt May. This develops into a wholesome scene, with Pete packing the last of his things into a car with the help of George and Gwen Stacy. George and Pete have a fun relationship where he can tease him about dating his daughter, but it is clear he really approves. We find a moment where Gwen and Pete are alone in his room and they can both confess that the move is a scary one. We learn in this scene that Gwen turned down offers from far more prestigious universities to stay with Pete, and he is thankful for this – but there are subtle hints even this early that this could easily become a hairline crack in their relationship. Peter says a bittersweet farewell to Aunt May, but assures her he will visit and he’s only a phone call away.
They arrive at the university, getting a good look in at the campus – establishing this key location. George helps the pair unpack into their respective rooms, and we meet their roommates – with Pete is Harry Osborn, an enthusiastic and friendly individual, and with Gwen is Mary Jane Watson, who strikes up an instant rapport with Pete suggesting some potential friction with Gwen, though this is quashed slightly when MJ’s boyfriend, John Jameson, returns from the bathroom to the room. George decides he’ll leave them to it, parting with a playful request that Pete keeps Gwen safe – after all, you don’t’ want to be on the wrong side of the captain of the NYPD. The five new friends get to know each other over drinks, and we get to know them too.
Peter and Gwen are both studying science, with Pete focussing on physics and Gwen on molecular biology – Pete will talk about needing a part time job to help support him, and his hobby of photography, while Gwen will jokingly talk about them following different science threads so Pete can stop being embarrassed by being second to her in class. MJ is studying literature, and doesn’t know what she wants to do really – journalism or acting probably. Harry is studying business and has his future far more clearly mapped out, which isn’t his choice but it’s what his father wants – the plan being that one day he’ll succeed him as president of Oscorp. John isn’t at the university, he’s actually training to be an astronaut – he knows MJ from back home and is here to help her settle, and catch up with his dad, J Jonah Jameson – which reminds him, his dad is editor of The Daily Bugle, a good word might be able to set Pete up as a freelance photographer there.
Leaving this scene we focus on Pete’s first lecture, which he is very excited about as it is being held by one of the university’s more famous faculty members: Dr Otto Octavius. Pete arrives slightly late in classic awkward Peter Parker style, but this is laughed off by Otto – who also makes plenty of jokes about his own name too. He’s a funny and friendly guy, and there are signs in the class that already he’s taken a shine to Pete. In these early scenes we also see Pete and Harry signing up for boxing class together, thinking it might be fun – they are adorably rubbish. With John returning to his training, the bond that is growing between MJ and and Pete starts to trouble her again and again we see cracks in her relationship with Pete, and her friendship with MJ. Peter visits J Jonah Jameson and gets his job as photographer, in what should be a comic highlight in the film. During this time Pete gives updates to his Aunt May via phone.
Peter is impressing in Otto’s class, and an especially excellent paper on hyper-tensile string proves a real breakthrough in their relationship. Otto shares his progress toward his research goal: creating a stable and clean source of nuclear energy. Otto invites Pete for dinner. During this meal they share drinks and ideas about his research, and Otto is delighted with how insightful young Parker is. Their evening is put on hold by Pete so he can call his Aunt, which causes Otto to commend his dedication to her. Pete explains this in part comes from a feeling of guilt. He explains how his Uncle Ben died, killed by a man (Kasady) who had robbed a store that Pete had been in, and how he’d done nothing to stop it. He talks about wondering if he had done something, would his Uncle still be alive? Flashback scenes would be filmed for this, but if they don’t work they could end up on the cutting room floor. Otto tells him he shouldn’t beat himself up over it – he wasn’t to know, and if he’d stood up to the guy he could be dead too. He’ll also open up himself over losing the love of his life in favour of his dedication to his work.
Otto resolves to press ahead with an experiment he believes is the key to creating his energy source. The university have been holding him back, saying he needs more preliminary research, but he thinks – he knows – it will work. He resolves to head to the lab now and make an attempt, and he asks Pete to come with him. Pete gets swept along in the excitement, and goes along with him. There, Otto dons a set of mechanical arms, which he controls via a neural transmitter and uses to manipulate the dangerous materials in his work. Otto says he’s heard all the jokes, his favourite being that the technicians call him Doctor Octopus when they think he’s not listening. The experiment seems to be working, when suddenly the energy source beings to grow out of control and the containment unit shatters, flooding the lab with radiation – luckily Pete is watching from a viewing port and isn’t hit by the radiation – but a spider that has made its way into the lab is. Pete calls 911 and help is on its way, but as he is doing this the spider makes its way out of the lab to him, and manages to bite his hand.
We have a dual focus now on two origins at once. As the paramedics arrive in hazmat suits to help Otto, Peter is ushered away. He is feeling suddenly unwell, and manages to stumble most of the way to his dorm before collapsing. He calls Harry for help before passing out. Meanwhile Otto is bundled away and taken to the hospital. He is in a stable condition, but in a coma – and the arms have become fused to his body and can’t be removed. The next day Peter wakes up in bed to find Harry asleep in a chair, who had been watching over him. He wakes too and Pete explains about the accident in the lab – it must have been shock or something, but he is feeling fine now – though he worriedly scratches at the spider bite. Over the course of his day Peter begins to realise he has new abilities, at first struggling to control his strength – then noticing that things are sticking to his hands. There should be an element of fun to him discovering his powers, and it climaxes in him returning to his boxing class where (with the aid of his spidey-sense) he is able to take out his opponent with surprising ease. Harry is loving it – surprised, but full of enthusiasm. The class coach is stunned, but congratulates Pete.
Pete is understandably shaken by all of this, so he goes for a walk to collect his thoughts – wearing blue jeans and a red hooded top, the colours of his costume to come. While out he stops by a convenience store, and while he is in the back grabbing a soda his danger sense triggers, a man enters and pulls a gun. There are two customers and the shop clerk at gunpoint, but Pete is able to duck out of sight. He is conflicted about what to do – when he hears a voice ask “What are we doing down here, Pete? There’s people who need your help.” Pete looks over and sees a vision of his Uncle Ben, who persuades him to intervene. Here we get the immortal line: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Pete looks away at the people, and agrees to help – when he looks back to his uncle, there is nobody there. Pete pulls up his hood to hide his face as best he can, and is able to climb the wall onto the ceiling to get the drop on the crook. Pete takes him down, and the customers escape – he then looks for something to restrain him with but has nothing, so asks the clerk is he has anything like rope – they use gaffer tape. Pete refuses any reward and leaves.
The next day the story of the crime bust appears on the TV with the clerk describing how the hero climbed on the ceiling like some kind of spider-man. Pete realises this is his calling, and sets about assembling a suit. The suit should have a more practical feel than just skin-tight lycra, with armoured plating, knee pads and a tough, more leathery material. He also digs out his paper on string, and working in the university lab after hours he is able to create wrist gauntlets that fire his trademark web. He loses himself in his focus on the suit, leading to concern from his friends, especially Gwen, who challenges that they’re drifting apart. Pete will deny this, but things are getting rough. With the addition of his mask and a logo, the suit is ready and Spider-Man hits New York. We see Spidey in action a couple of times, as well as J Jonah Jameson demanding pictures of the vigilante, which Pete can supply. There’s also time for an awkward dinner with George Stacy, who talks about the need to stop the Spider-Man.
Meanwhile in hospital, Otto finally begins to stir from his slumber. The hospital staff contact as the university president, as Otto has no next of kin. On arriving, he finds Otto still not entirely with it, but conscious. He tells him that after that stunt he has to fire him, consider his hospital bills paid as severance but any work to remove the arms… that’s on you. Otto is somewhat changed by his experiences, and his anger is surprisingly great. His mechanical arms break loose, and he kills the president and rampages through the hospital. In the city police begin to head to the hospital, which Spider-Man notices, and so he follows them. There he finds Doctor Octopus, out of control – and he attempts to stop him. Their first fight is sloppy, neither a master of their powers yet, and Doc Ock wins, throwing Spidey from a hospital window, severely injuring him, before escaping.
Battered and beaten, Pete manages to make it back to his dorm room. Harry is out and Pete is able to collapse onto his bed and get his mask off. Unfortunately Gwen comes knocking, and discovers him – realising he is the Spider-Man. She is far from pleased, but helps to look after him. While doing this she tells Harry they need some space for a while. Meanwhile, Doc Ock is seized with mania. He is much changed by his accident, and is plagued by a sense of injustice. He resolves that he is owed his due, and now he can take it. While caring for Peter a news story breaks that a bank robbery is in progress – one that sounds like it could involve Doctor Octopus. Gwen realizes that Spider-Man is needed, and against her better judgement talks Peter around to heading back out.
Spidey makes it to the bank in time to confront Doc Ock as he is attempting to get away, and the two fight again. This time the fight goes Spidey’s way, and he is able to damage one of Octopus’ arms – who again runs. Pete has a good idea where he’s going though – the university, where he can recover his equipment. He gives chase, also followed by the police. At the University Doc Ock is causing havoc – his rampaging leads to damage being caused, with students getting caught up. We see Harry having a hero moment out-running debris, helping people. Police, led by Captain Stacy, storm the campus.
In the climactic fight Spider-Man is able to save some people, including MJ, but Doc Ock fatally injures Captain Stacy. Peter is able to stop him by taking off his mask and reaching Otto, who becomes very confused and conflicted and retreats. Peter runs to George, who shares his dying moments with him. His reaction to Peter being Spider-Man is somewhere between sadness and pride, and he states: “You’re a good kid, Peter – smart too. I know you won’t put gwen in danger, even if it means hurting her another way…” In the aftermath we see a devastated Gwen, her friends trying to comfort her – and Pete holding and looking at his mask. The film ends with George’s funeral, and much up in the air: for Gwen, if Pete saved all those people why couldn’t he save her father? And for Peter, can he continue as Spider-Man after this? Must he?
So there it is. That’s my plan for a first Spider-Man film. Huge thanks go to Siôn Clarke who provided the artwork for the article, and you can find more of his work at http://flyingcubs.tumblr.com. Please share any and all thoughts in the comments below, and if you enjoyed – share and like! Hopefully we’ll be back soon with Spider-Man Part 2!