Author's Note (2011): I'm a little embarrassed about this entry four years later...I feel like I've become a better writer since then and now I can find all sorts of flaws in my proposal here. And of course it never became a trilogy. Oops. I'm leaving it up here still, but go easy.
This is the first in a trilogy of entries that will outline how I would envision the next three Spider-Man films if I had any sort of power whatsoever within Hollywood. I'm aware that unless some Sony staffer miraculously stumbles upon this blog, this may be an exercise in futility. However, I know of what I speak, and I'll be immodest for a moment and claim that I know just as much about the vintage Spider-Man lore as Sam Raimi, and definitely more than your average money-grubbing producer.
Before that, some further recollections on Spider-Man 3. I think the backlash has been excessive, though I doubt that many people involved with a movie that has utterly smashed box-office records for the moment are too broken up about it. I still derived a great deal of enjoyment out of it, even with little puke teenagers making smart-ass comments throughout, but that may be because my expectations weren't especially high.
I smelled trouble when I first heard that Venom would be appearing in a film that was already going to include Harry Osborn's Green Goblin and Sandman. Too many villains spoils the soup...at least I thought that was the lesson learned from Batman and Robin , which included Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy and Bane. Bane's fate was actually similar to what happened to Venom. Huge villains with an enormous impact on the hero's world dumbed down into second tier antagonists on film. I still think that the alien costume arc should have been spread over two films, giving Venom the entirety of the fourth movie to kick some ass.
Alas, we can't do anything about that. The only thing to do is move ahead and try to get the series back on track with Spider-Man 4. Only one villain this time, but he's a classic one.
After the usual Spider-Man swinging opening bit, we'd start things off with Parker doing what he wasn't able to do successfully last time: propose to Mary Jane in some comedic/romantic way. Maybe he could be hanging off the ceiling or something. She says yes and start spreading the good news. Aunt May hears the news, but that gets MJ thinking about her own family. Her Aunt Anna (a long-running character in the comics, but she's never appeared in the films) is the only relative she has nearby at the moment. They visit her and she makes some offhand comment about how MJ's relatives in Philadelphia aren't in very good shape. This gets Mary Jane in a contemplative mood, but Parker has to be at the Daily Bugle soon.
I guess if this is too much plot for that coveted teen demographic, we could have Spider-Man beat up some thugs on the way to the Bugle or something. But when he gets there, he meets the new big-shot reporter: Ned Leeds. (This three-film proposal of mine concludes with The Hobgoblin as the villain for Spider-Man 6. Ned's involved in all that, so we gotta start laying the foundation for that very complex plot line as soon as we can!)Parker notices that Ned also gets along extremely well with Betty Brant (Elizabeth Banks).
Ned mentions that he's on his way to do a story about experiments being done at whatever university Parker has classes in. In the comics, it's a fictional place called Empire State University, I can't remember if they've ever named it in the films. When Parker hears that his professor, Dr. Curt Connors (Dylan Baker), is involved, he decides to grab Mary Jane and meet Ned there to take a few photos. Unfortunately, Dr. Connors had a line in Spider-Man 3 that complicates this a bit. While talking about the alien symbiote, he said "I'm a physicist, not a biologist." *sigh* So it seems he would have to be working with another professor who is a biologist.
That role can go to Debra Whitman. She was one of Parker's fellow students in the comic, but it's no big deal to upgrade her to full professor to make this whole sequence a bit more cohesive. Peter, Mary Jane and Ned arrive at the university's lab and the two professors talk about their experiments: Using the genes of lizards, who can regenerate lost limbs, Connors and Whitman hope to devise some way to restore human arms and legs. While snapping photos, Parker talks with the two professors while Ned takes his notes. Meanwhile, Mary Jane befriends Martha and Billy Connors, the professor's wife and son, who are visiting. Mary Jane and Mrs. Connors can bond while sharing humorous dialogue about how in the dark they are about all this detailed science their significant others are so enamored with. Professor Whitman reveals she has already tested the formula on a rat who lost his leg....and lo and behold, the rat's leg has returned! This could be perhaps the greatest medical feat of all time....except we all know it's going to go bad.
Once that's done, Mary Jane returns home and feels very contemplative. She's about to get married, but she has a lot of unsettled business with her family. She asks Peter to accompany her on a trip to Philadelphia to try and make peace. As far as the movies go, we had glimpses of MJ's bad home life in the first one. However, there have only been brief mentions of it since. On the train ride there (unless they opt to make the trip on that goofy scooter Parker rides), she goes into more detail about her family problems. Her father, Phil Watson, wanted to be a great writer, but he was too much of a perfectionist to be happy with anything he wrote, and took it out on his wife and two daughters. Gayle, Mary Jane's sister, got married really young and has two kids, even though the husband ran out on her. Her mother, Madeline Watson, died of cancer. Once Mary Jane was old enough to live alone, she never looked back.
They arrive in Philadelphia and the situation is worse than they thought. Gayle Watson is in prison, but she's way too proud to accept MJ's help. After all, where was Mary Jane when she was raising two kids on her own? There's a pretty good line from the comic version of this story that could easily be transplanted here. "Mary Jane, go back to New York," she says, "Look after yourself. It's what you do best." Naturally, Peter begs to differ, but Gayle is already on her way back to her cell. Looking for more answers, they have a very awkward meeting with her father. It doesn't take long for MJ and him to get in an argument, and the father orders Parker to leave. Not wanting to cause trouble, he agrees.
When Mary Jane emerges, she's pretty shaken up. The two of them take a walk in some Philly park and she drops the bomb: Her father has been stealing rare manuscripts and selling them off to private collectors. His latest target was at a college where Gayle works as a career counselor. He talked her into using her access to swipe one (called the "Javistock Papers" in the comics), but after she hid it away to retrieve later, security cameras caught her in the act and she got pinched. Now Mr. Watson wants MJ to find it and bring it back to him. Parker of course protests, but MJ says she's got a plan.
Back in NYC, Dr. Connors can't contain his excitement about the lizard experiments. The rat has been doing well and Connors wants to be the first test subject of the formula. Whitman cautions him not to react so early, which gives him a chance to talk about how he lost his arm. I would like to be war-related as it was in the comics (to give an idea of just how long ago this character first appeared, Dr. Connors's injury originally came from the Korean War), but that would surely be a hard sell. Sony's been sure not to ruffle any political feathers with this series; they make sure Spidey poses in front of the American flag at least once each time. Still, I'm in charge for the moment, so I say Dr. Connors lost his arm in the first Gulf War. The goal of restoring lost limbs is very important to him, not just because of his own experience, but from others he knew in the war who suffered even worse injuries. That's why he began the research and secured Dr. Whitman's help, despite a background in physics and not biology (Someone needs to find whoever wrote that line and deliver to him a swift kick in the butt). He takes the serum, despite the objections of his colleague. There's no immediate effect (growing another arm right away would be cheesy), but he's optimistic.
That evening, Peter Parker and Mary Jane are sneaking into the nearby college to try and find that manuscript. Parker, sans costume, uses his powers to sneak by security guards and various other stealth things...all with MJ in tow. But wait: Is our hero really going to help a thief? That's the whole mystery for the moment, but anyone with some knowledge of how these plot ideas tend to work probably has some idea of what's going to happen. It would be a fun scene; infiltration is something Spidey's powers are perfect for and we haven't seen him have a chance to do it in any of the three films. They find the manuscript.
The next morning, Dr. Connors wakes up to find his lost arm has returned! He and his family are appropriately ecstatic. But in Philadelphia, Parker and Mary Jane return to her father's house and get him to talk about Gayle. When he admits he's the reason she's behind bars, the police enter the house. See? They did the right thing after all. MJ's sister is free to go, and is invited to be the maid of honor at the upcoming wedding. On the train back, MJ feels like a big weight has been lifted. Parker's role in this whole escapade has convinced her even more than they're gonna do well as husband and wife.
Debra Whitman is back in the lab checking over a few things. She's horrified to discover that the rat they gave the serum to has mutated. It now looks like some kind of lizard-rat hybrid!
Later that day, Dr. Connors holds a huge press conference to show off the big news. People are naturally totally stoked that he's grown his own arm back. Peter and MJ, one their way back from the train station, come across this and meet up with Ned, who has brought Betty along. After the interviews are over, Peter makes his way through the crowd and chats with the good doctor, but they're interrupted when Dr. Whitman rushes on the team and frantically tries to alert Connors about what could happen. He shushes her (can't say that stuff in front of the press!) and tells Parker he'll see him later. Our hero is a bit unnerved, but no time to worry too much. He's got a wedding to plan, after all.
After the inevitable humorous montage about working out the wedding details, Dr. Connors is at home with family. He flashes back to what happened after Peter and MJ left the press conference. Dr. Whitman had told him what happened to the rat and that he should be very concerned. Though he told her not to worry about it, he's certainly worrying about it now. He feels sick and runs to the bathroom...by the time he looks up at the mirror, he's looking a bit more green and scaly than usual. Martha Connors knocks on the door, and he's unsure of what to do. He doesn't say anything and that of course gets her worried. She eventually breaks the door down to see him in full Lizard form.
Unable to speak in anything except some kind of loud hiss/roar sound, The Lizard rushes out of the house, scaring the hell out of both his wife and son in the process. On the street, people run in terror as he rampages across town. At the same time, Peter and Mary Jane are sitting at some kind of outside restaurant having dinner and laughing about whatever wedding stuff they're dealing with. The sirens and shouts begin to get louder, and as they turn to see what's up, The Lizard rushes past. Time for Spider-Man to go into action. He follows Lizard into Central Park, setting the stage for a sweet wilderness-type battle. This fight will have to be especially awesome, because I've had about 45 minutes without much Spidey-action.
During their battle in Central Park, Spider-Man is unable to do much of anything against the Lizard. He lands a lot of blows, but they don't even slow the creature down. The Lizard manages to tear Spidey's webbing easily, which is something he doesn't see very often. Eventually the Lizard tosses him into the lake and runs off. Spider-Man emerges, soaked, dirty and just about exhausted. When he meets up with Mary Jane, she tells him that Dr. Connors's family was with the police and Peter learns what really happened. It all makes sense now, but he needs rest before he can hope to go up against The Lizard again.
At the scene of the destruction, Parker runs into Ned Leeds, who is writing up a story on The Lizard. It doesn't take long for the police to spot the creature again, who is now emerging from the park. The cops try to subdue Lizard...that doesn't go well. Peter rushes to get some of the cops away from the creature before they get too injured. To the shock of everyone there, The Lizard seems to calm down upon seeing Peter...and even speaks! Having been able to wrest some control over his reptile persona, Connors tells Peter he will find some way to reverse what's happened and asks him to keep an eye on his family in the meantime. A police helicopter arrives, surprising Connors and bringing him back into full Lizard mode. Peter tries to stop him, and is sent flying into a nearby building for his trouble. He struggles to get up, but he can barely move his left arm. It's broken...a first for Spider-Man. How strong is The Lizard? Can Spider-Man really hope to beat him?
At the hospital, Aunt May anguishes over Peter's injury and he has to make up some goofy excuse as to why it really happened (My favorite: In an early issue of the comic, Peter once "explained" that he sprained his arm during a volleyball game). When she leaves, Mary Jane expresses disbelief that The Lizard is strong enough to do this, and he tells her that he when Connors gained control briefly, he agreed to protect the doctor's wife and child. He also remembers other friends he could save under similar circumstances: Norman Osborn, Dr. Octavius....and Harry Osborn. He's determined to save Connors somehow. Wedding plans may have to be put on hold.
In the last movie, we saw Parker use a police scanner while he was after Sandman, so he brings that over to the Connors house. Billy Connors has a cover of some newspaper reporting on how Spider-Man failed to stop the Lizard the first time they met, and wonders if anyone else would be able to save his dad. Peter doesn't really have any answer. After a few tense minutes, Peter's cell phone rings. That's right, he got one. No more shitty phone in the apartment...he beat Eddie Brock for a full-time staff position at the Bugle last time, he can afford it. The police scanner is going off at the same time about Lizard being sighed near the university. Jonah tells Peter that Ned's already on his way and he wants pictures.
Parker is ready to leave, but Mary Jane can't believe that he would even think of going out with his broken arm. In front of the Connors family, they talk about whether he's in good enough shape to "take pictures," but we all know what's really going on. He responds that he has no choice. He leaves and it's Spider-Man time. Mary Jane returns inside the house and Martha Connors has finally broken down. She and MJ leave Billy alone for a few minutes. When they return, he's gone too.
Spider-Man sees The Lizard outside the university and they have a scuffle. However, fighting with one arm out of commission is no easy task, and the Lizard tosses our hero aside yet again. As Spider-Man gets up, Lizard goes inside the science lab. When Spidey catches up to him, he's shocked to see that the Lizard is calm again and working on various chemicals with Dr. Whitman. She's been hard at work on an antidote ever since she first saw what happened to the rat, and in the moments where Connors has managed to temporarily suppress the Lizard persona, he has helped as well. Connors apologizes for how much trouble he has caused, but both doctors are certain this antidote will do the trick.
However, The Lizard is not going to make it easy. Just as the antidote is about to be ingested, he drops it and Spidey makes a miraculous catch (well...probably not for him. That's child's play). Spider-Man doesn't really get what's going on, and Whitman responds that the Lizard persona likely sensed it was about to be permanently defused and isn't about to go down easily. The situation is grave. Spider-Man will have to force the Lizard to drink the antidote while he's in full berserk fury mode. And he can't drop the vial. And he has a broken arm.
The Lizard has beaten Connors's personality back and now is ready to fight. Spider-Man plugs the vial and webs it to his waist, hoping for the best. The battle rages all throughout the university. I'm talking walls being broken down, sinks getting destroyed and water shooting all over the place...just sweet-ass destruction. Ned Leeds shows up and Spidey has to work to get him out of harm's way. But that's not the worst of it. At some point in their brawl, Billy Connors arrives at the university (I'm thinking he rode a skateboard). The Lizard sees him, and seems to be hesitant. There's another battle going on for control...but Connors still can't break free. Spider-Man has to tackle the creature at the last possible second while MJ and Martha Connors catch up.
Billy's safe for the moment, but Spider-Man still has to find a way to beat The Lizard while handicapped. The fight continues into a kitchen area with a large freezer. Spidey's knowledge of science comes into play...lizards are cold-blooded (or "ectotherms....according to wikipedia, that's the more appropriate term) and rely on warm temperatures to function best. Luring The Lizard into the freezer, the cold environment begins to sap his strength. Finally Spider-Man has the advantage, and manages to knock his foe to the ground. He's about to deliver the antidote when The Lizard springs to life one final time, sending him flying to the other side of the freezer. The antidote almost shatters, but Spider-Man makes another last-second catch. The Lizard is weakened, but not out. Martha and Billy Connors appear again. She's found her courage and tries to get through to her husband. It works....kind of. The Lizard is subdued enough for Spider-Man to finally force him to drink the antidote. Lizard staggers for a bit, then falls over.
Everyone's at the hospital waiting for word from the doctors. Finally they get to see Dr. Connors. His face is still kind of green, but he's clearly on the way back to being human again; his arm is gone again. Connors extends his deepest thanks to Peter and Mary Jane...and Spider-Man, of course.
Wedding time. Everyone's there. Aunt May, MJ's Aunt Anna, Gayle Watson and her kids, Jonah, Joe Robertson and the other Bugle guys, Betty Brant and Ned Leeds, that landlord and his awkward daughter, Debra Whitman, and of course the Connors family. A happy ending for Spider-Man 4.
...Wow. That one really ran away with me. I didn't expect it to be so long. Well...it looks long on the blog, but I think the movie I just proposed would probably come in at about an hour and forty-five minutes. Pretty trim compared to the others, but I do think that's what the series needs right now. A scaled back, one-villain approach. Two villains can be next time.
Judging from the very early rumors, if Spider-Man 4 does go forward, The Lizard will likely be one of the villains. They'll likely try to squeeze in one more, but I don't really like that idea. Still....I don't get to make decisions unless the right person reads this and likes it. So I guess if you did....tell your friends!