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Pretty big article in Friday’s Star-Ledger regarding the loss of classic Aunt May in the Spidey movies in recent years. Nice to see I’m not the only one mourning this loss, and even nicer to see a classic panel of Ditko Spidey taking up such space in the paper.

The panel reproduced for the above article is from Amazing Spider-Man #1 (March 1963).

That’s the real Aunt May in that panel. I don’t think the creative people behind the movies (or even the modern comics) realize the artistic cost of tossing her aside as they have. As the article states: “While it’s perfectly OK for movies to take liberties, fundamental changes to Aunt May are likewise fundamental changes to Peter Parker.”

…And of course, fundamental changes to Peter Parker are fundamental changes to Spider-Man.

The movie’s already tracking to do fantastic business. I was able to see it in a matinee on Friday; it’s a fun movie. But it’s not Spider-Man. I’m going to offer up some reasons why right after the spoiler space. For those who don’t want anything spoiled, you’ve been warned.

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Most of the fears I’d recently expressed were proved well-founded, unfortunately. There’s too much Iron Man/Tony Stark and way, way, WAY too much suit gimmickry. It’s even got an AI for Peter to interact with and the spider on the chest is a mini-drone. And, of course, they got Aunt May all wrong.

They also deviated from the Lee-Ditko-Romita canon in other ways. Peter’s high school life is different and the supporting characters are radically altered. They felt the need to give Pete a best friend, which they accomplish by making Ned Leeds Asian and making him a classmate, which… just, why? I understand the impulse to diversify the supporting cast, but why not just use one of the pre-existing Asian characters, like Phil Chang? The original Spider-Man comic was fairly pioneering in terms of multiculturalism and inclusion, so a change like this was simply unnecessary.

In any event, Ned learns that Pete is Spidey early on; and Aunt May finds out at the very end. This is in addition to Stark/Iron Man knowing, along with Happy Hogan and possibly Pepper Potts as well. This is very unlike the original comics, where absolutely no one knew who Spider-Man really was. Pete also lacked a best friend in those comics—or any friends, really. That was part of the tragedy of his character: his utter isolation and loneliness.

MJ is also extremely different—she’s apparently a brainiac and something of a social outcast; nothing like the party girl from the comics. In fact her real name isn’t even “Mary Jane,” it’s Michelle-something. Betty Brant’s another student at the school, but nothing more than a name and a face here. There’s no Jameson, no Joe Robertson, no Daily Bugle.

And while I appreciate them not rehashing the origin again, Uncle Ben’s name isn’t even dropped once in the entire film. A major omission and misstep.

Oh, and this Spider-Man would seem to lack a “spider sense.” The suit gimmicks seem to take the place of this power in terms of plot.

None of these things make the movie bad, necessarily. But it’s just a fun little Marvel movie, on par with Ant Man. It’s not the film that Spider-Man is supposed to have or deserves. It’s not the true Spider-Man, period. This is the third cinematic iteration of the webhead in fifteen years and I still have yet to see my Spidey up there on the screen.

I actually enjoyed the film for what it was (I’m mellowing somewhat with age, apparently… or perhaps I’ve just finally learned to adjust my expectations with these things), but still can’t help but lament what might have been.

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