Wednesday, May 16, 2007

This Time It's Personal

I mentioned in my review of "Spider-man 3" the totally unnecessary retcon of Uncle Ben's death. Basically, they changed the storyline to add a second shooter, unmentioned in the previous two movies, and said that he was the real killer so that Spider-man can go off to indulge his desire for revenge. Not only that, but he ends up being one of the major villains in the Spider-man rogues' gallery.

I really hate this. I've hated it for years, since Burton's first "Batman" film. In that film, we learn that the young Joker killed Batman's parents: a totally unnecessary twist that added nothing to the film, in my opinion.

My dislike for this particular trope got even worse two years later when Costner's "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" came out, in which we learn that the Sheriff of Nottingham killed Robin's father while Robin was out fighting the Crusades against his father's wishes.

This was a big change to the Robin Hood I grew up with, which was the Errol Flynn version. In that movie, Robin is a nobleman who refuses to join Richard the Lion-Hearted on the Crusades, thinking it a foolish waste. He acts out of principle to oppose a war which he thinks is wrong.

But when Richard is captured and Robin learns that John has usurped the throne and kept Richard's ransom money to line his own pockets, Robin then turns outlaw, again on principle, to support the rightful ruler. Robin puts principle above his personal feud with the king and puts his life on the line to save the man who had previously branded him a coward and traitor.

This is a story with real meat on its bones, and in the Costner version, it's all "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Let me call the Waah-mbulance.

Which is not to say that I dislike Inigo Montoya. I thought "The Princess Bride" was pretty brilliant. A character with a legitimate grudge against the person who killed his father is fine, fair game.

What I hate, hate, HATE with a passion is the retroactive addition of this particular grudge to any established hero of popular culture when the suits in the room think his origin needs spicing up. Why does Daredevil fight the Kingpin? I mean, "cause it's the right thing to do" is just so blah. But here's an idea: if Kingpin was the guy who murdered his father...

And in Spider-man 3, it's even worse, because not only did they change the origin story from the comics to make Sandman the killer, but they even changed their own continuity, because the first film told the story correctly. So they retconned a grudge that had already been resolved.

Just blind and stupid in so many ways.

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