How high were the expectations? Chrysler Building high.
A new Spider Man movie came out last week. I went on opening day, and even though I had seen all the trailers and teasers way in advance of the release, I made a point of staying away from articles about the story and characters. Spoilers.
Still, I could have told you that Spider Man was going to rescue some folks, and he was going to have to face a foe much older and intimidating. It is what super heroes do, after all. Underdog to Iron Man. But Spider Man. That's a toughie. He's going to have to do more than that. All those unbelievable odds and he's a kid. He's still figuring out how to be a man, let alone Spider Man. This journey is the thing that makes him different. That and the fact that he's been in my life for nearly fifty years. For a period of time, as a much younger me, I signed my name Dave "Spider Man" Caven. I bought comic books that had tangential connection to my friendly neighborhood - well, you know.
I lived through the heartbreak of Gwen Stacy's death, and how Peter Parker lived through loss before: his parents. His uncle Ben. Tragedy was never far away from Spider Man. But he kept giving himself back to his community. A hero. So when they started making movies with my favorite comic book character, I was in line. I bought a ticket. I bought a T-shirt. I bought some action figures. For my son.
A very good friend of mine went to see the Broadway musical starring Spider Man and brought be back a souvenir: a signed photo of Stan Lee underneath a picture of everyone's favorite web-head. It hangs on the wall just to the left of my desk, reminding me of my childhood fixation. I still have those T-shirts, and a completely vivid recollection of the origin and subsequent adventures of Spider Man. With the Avengers. With the Human Torch. With Iron Man. Against Electro. Against the Vulture. Against the Green Goblin. When the people around Peter Parker started dying, I felt it. And every time Spider Man felt like hanging up his blue and red tights for good, I understood. With great power comes great responsibility.
That was the message I took away from the comics. And the movies. There have been four actors who have spun a web. Yes, I count Nicholas Hammond among them. Just like I count Adam West in my litany of Batmen. The radioactive spider bit this high school kid and set this whole thing in motion. There have been three different iterations of this legend on the screen in the past fifteen years. I bought tickets to all of them. Each time I hoped to have that I would plug back into that magic. The magic of youth.
When I sat in my seat, watching this young turk leap about in his Underoos, I felt old. Maybe the lessons that Spider Man has to teach me are done. Maybe I have gone down this path one too many times. In this version, spoiler alert, nobody dies. Maybe I need more dire consequences in my Spider Lore. Maybe I am too old for this stuff.