It all lies in the story structure
I took a little too much inspiration from Tarantino films and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film. Not that these films were bad because they are far from it, but rather I took inspiration from them in an attempt to make a different Spiderman film, but in the wrong ways.
The initial plot of Peter suing Norman Osbourne for the death of Dr. Connors seems simple enough, but when you add in the Chameleon and an entire Sinister Six Gang plot with a lot of other Easter eggs, you bury what could have been a more focused and coherent story.
While I tried the Tarantino style, with drawn out dialogue scenes, this didn’t work in Project Spiderman because it made the film too long and was underdeveloped. Some extended dialogue scenes worked better than others, but some fell flat as completely boring an unnecessary for the development of the plot because they were adding filler-common sense knowledge instead of engaging information. Tarantino makes long dialogue scenes work because they build to something and often either explore philosophical subject areas or cool stuff most people do not know about, depending on where one is from. Mine did not work because I was new to the style and I did not fully understand what I was doing–hence the reason I gave my audience speckled bits of some good and some bad dialogue pieces.
Another problem is that I am a huge Spiderman fan so I knew all the little things, right down to Peter’s middle name, and tried too hard to pay homage to all of Spider-Man’s history rather then tell a good story.
It came off as more of a confusing montage that kept going on and on when it should have stopped 45 minutes ago, but in filmmaking that’s how you learn what works and what doesn’t. After the fact. I also paid no attention to plot structure at the time because I wanted to do my own thing and I thought three-act story structure was a cliche to avoid. Of course now it’s readily apparent that I need it to tell a story that actually makes sense and has a driving goal.
The plot should have gone like this: Peter Parker starts an internship at Oscorp where he gets to know Gwen Stacy and Dr. Connors on personal levels. Dr. Connors dies because Norman puts too much pressure on him to get the serum done. Peter, as a young teenager who wants to make a difference, sues Norman. Norman gets sent to prison and his company is foreclosed–a company he worked so hard to maintain. It is discovered that Norman has schizophrenia and he breaks out of prison. Everything builds up to Gwen’s death and the audience actually cares because the whole first two acts have built up her character along with Captain Stacy’s character investigating crime scenes around ‘The Spiderman.’ The ending is harder to get right, it would need to be a good resolution. I want to say Peter kills Norman, but most fans can predict this because in the comics Norman gets stabbed by his own glider. If I had another chance at making a Spiderman film, I’d want to throw in a twist.
Through all the confusion of flashbacks within flashbacks (flashception gazzillion), I have actually found a few hidden meanings in Project Spiderman:
- It’s a coming of age film within a crime film drama. Anyone expecting this film to be a Spiderman film will be gravely disappointed. This film is strict formalist dialogue driven film with not much action. While the film may have a lot of different plots, it takes its time on some parts of Peter’s life, such as the drug bust scene that uses about 10 minutes to get to know Trevor Fernando, a drug dealer, right before he gets blasted off screen right after. There’s no scenes at all of Spiderman climbing walls or swinging through the city (the fact is, we had nowhere near the budget to do that). But I think of it like this; I was more focused on the character of Peter in these situations as a teenager dealing with seeing horrors of a serial killer’s doing, dealing with his uncle–really, to him, his father’s–death, and the pain he must have gone through when Gwen also died, that I forgot it had Spiderman in it. I mean there’s not even one scene of Spiderman saving anyone, and that leads to my next BIG point..
- This film heavily explores the hero that fails, keeps trying, but NEVER actually accomplishes ANYTHING. I actually had not planned this or realized this until I saw my completed film afterwards, but Peter Parker never actually accomplishes anything heroic he sets out to do other than successfully suing Norman Osbourne. Now, it seems like suing Norman would be a good thing, but if you look at it from Norman’s POV, he has been struggling to keep his company afloat after many losses to failed experiments and has just found out that he has Schizophrenia. Then Dr. Connors dies after he tells him that his serum is the company’s only hope to survive, and Peter comes around and sues him–he loses his company and goes to prison for about 20 years. The thing is, Peter thinks he did the right thing, but he does not realize that Norman has a serious mental condition that could get drastically worse in the stressful prison environment.
Peter inevitably causes Norman to go insane and eventually to kill Peter’s wife, Gwen, along with several other innocent people. Not only that, but if we back trace to the beginning when Peter first becomes Spiderman in this film, we find that he really does not get much done. Peter goes to a fight club to win some money for his aunt and uncle, but he loses the fight. A producer picks him up for a TV series based on Peter’s ‘Spiderman’ character, but it ends up failing too. Uncle Ben dies and then everything falls apart. Peter falls into depression. He becomes the ‘noir Spiderman’ to find his uncle’s killer, but he never actually finds the killer and gives up. Peter sees wanted posters for his ‘Noir Spiderman’ so he makes a different costume and his first act as The Spiderman is to attack a drug dealer who ends up beating him to death and getting away with the drugs. Peter tracks down Kingpin, but never actually gets to him. Upon finding a crime scene of the Chameleon–a crazy serial killer rapist in this universe–Peter does turn him in to Captain Stacy, so that’s one good thing.
During the Fernando Drug Bust, The Spiderman comes in too late and ends up confusing the cops–distracting them from the real bad guys–and ‘pepper sprays’ George Stacy with his Silk Compound. Peter fails to save Gwen when Norman drops her from a bridge and he probably temporarily cripples the S6 Gang by taking all their ammo, but he does not actually stop them. In the end, the SWAT team are the ones who save Peter from Norman when they break in Norman’s house to find Norman dead by an overdoes. It almost seems like the cops are the ones, along with Captain Stacy, that actually get the job done. Peter initiates a lot of things, but never gets them done.
The film concludes with Peter limping on a cane like Dr. House (inspired by Dr. House and the Spidergirl comics) and not him, but Flash Thompson makes up with Peter for all the ‘bullying’ he did to Peter in high school remarking in Peter’s supermodel wife which brings us to the final hidden message..
3. Bullies are not what they seem to be. I avoided the cliched film bully in this film because I know what real bullies are like and they are not the stereotypical thrown a kid in the dumpster type guys. It is much more subtle than that, and more complex. Flash mentions to Peter that his father is abusive but Peter does not show much concern because he is more worried about Flash bad-talking his uncle. The conflict does not just appear because Flash is a bully, but rather it stems from the fact that Uncle Ben fired his father and now his father takes out that anger on Flash and abuses him. Peter just sees Flash as someone who’s talking bad about his uncle. Flash Thompson ends up with a worse life than Peter’s (maybe not as bad in retrospect), but Flash does come back from war with PTSD and in a way Peter can relate to Flash for the first time and he forgives him and offers to help. In the end, they both end up walking with canes.