Thursday, July 2, 2015

Ideas for the new Spider-Man franchise

I already wrote my thoughts on the new Spider-Man re-reboot, but after doing so I kept thinking about stories that I would like to see adapted into the movies. After all, one of the best of the current superhero movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier came right out of the comics. Did it follow the story beat-for-beat? No, but the comics were a clear inspiration. That's the kind of thing that I'm talking about here. I'd like to see these stories as a starting point for some movies as perhaps direct adaptations wouldn't work as well in a movie as they do in monthly serialized comics.

Before I get into specific stories, there are a couple of other things that I'd like to see. For one, the Marvel movies have shown us that you can have a lot of villains without bogging down the story. For instance, to use The Winter Soldier again, Batroc the Leaper, one of Captain America's oldest foes, was in there. For people who don't know the comics, he was just a really tough bad guy for Cap to fight, and they didn't need to know what the fans knew about him. Cap knocked him out, and the story moved on from there. I think that with Spider-Man, you could do the same thing. For instance, I don't think that Mysterio could carry an entire movie as the villain, but he'd be really cool for an opening action sequence, much like how The Avengers took down Baron Strucker and Hydra in the beginning of Age of Ultron.

Also, both versions of the Spider-Man movies got caught up in a bit of a formula. Every villain that Spider-Man fought was a good guy at first and had some sort of a connection with Peter Parker. This really isn't necessary. Sure, they did a good job of it with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2, adding a whole new dimension to the character that previously did not exist. But did we really need it for Sandman and Electro? There's nothing wrong with just having some bad guys.

Okay, so here's what I'd like to see inspire the movies:

Kraven's Last Hunt - Yeah, I know that pretty much every Spider-Man fan is saying this if they're making suggestions like I am. What can I say? Just like a lot of other fans, I remember reading this one when it originally came out when I was in middle school. The gist of the story is that Kraven the Hunter, a bit of a C-list villain, finally decides to "kill" Spider-Man rather than get into one of their standard grudge match fights. Kraven traps Spidey, shoots him, puts him in a coffin, and he buries him. Then, to finally prove that he's better than Spider-Man, he puts on the costume and goes out fighting crime, as well as bringing in a particularly nasty villain named Vermin that Spider-Man failed to catch. (Spoiler alert - Kraven didn't actually kill Spider-Man. He just knocked him out. He did bury him though to complete the ritual. Still, he wanted his old foe to live so Spider-Man could know that he had been bested once and for all.)

As much as I'd like to see this, I think that it would be a capital mistake to hit the ground running with this story. Maybe save it for the second or third new Spider-Man movie, as it's a bit intense for an opener when they want to establish a younger, lighter version of the character for starters.

Hooky - This was a graphic novel by Susan Putney and Bernie Wrightson that came out when I was a kid. Just like "Kraven's", it had a pretty profound affect on me. In fact, I think that I need to do a "Read These Comics!" entry on it one of these days as I want to get into how awesome Wrightson's artwork is.

But that's not the point of this. I want to say why I think it'd make a good movie. The premise involves Spider-Man meeting up with a young girl who turns out to be the daughter of a couple of really powerful wizards. She asks him to come to her dimension to help her out with a little problem of hers, as there's a curse that's been placed on her, resulting in a monster that's trying to get her. Spidey agrees to go with her, and he quickly finds himself getting way in over his head, as the monster transforms and gets bigger and bigger. Ultimately, it's a coming-of-age story for the girl, as she learns to handle the problem herself (and Spidey is there to inspire her).

Perhaps adapting this would be too much of a risk, as audiences might not be expecting this much magic in a Spider-Man movie. All they need to do is establish some ties with Dr. Strange (who's getting his own movie) and maybe they can do something with it.

The Spider-Totem - The original appearance of Morlun would be a great inspiration for a movie. Essentially the premise behind Morlun is that he's a being who periodically hunts "totems" down and drains all of their life energy. He's been doing it for thousands of years, and in the story, he has his sights set on Spider-Man. What was so great about the original story was that Morlun was just so unstoppable, and the suspense was really high as to just how Peter was going to defeat him. He'd throw everything he possibly could at Morlun, and the villain wouldn't even get winded. This could make for a pretty intense movie.

The Sin Eater / Return of the Sin Eater - Both of these stories could probably be adapted together into a movie if they did it right. Essentially, the Sin Eater is a villain who winds up killing a good friend of Spidey's, Detective Jean DeWolff. When Spider-Man finally catches up to the criminal and unmasks him, he loses his cool and beats the ever-living-crap out of him. In fact, he gets so out of control that it takes Daredevil to pull him off.

In the "Return" story, the Sin Eater is let out of jail. A bit more is learned about the man behind the mask, Stan Carter, who turns out to have been Jean's lover. Stan is "cured" of his Sin Eater personality, but Spider-Man goes to him to threaten him that he'll be keeping an eye on him. During the confrontation, Spidey learns that Carter has some permanent injuries due to the beating he took. As a result, Spidey becomes nervous about using his powers, and in a confrontation with Electro, he winds up getting his butt handed to him.

The story packs a pretty emotional punch, and it has a good story arc for Peter Parker as he has to find his purpose again. It's another look at the basic premise of the character and the "great responsibility" that comes with this "great power".

So, those are the story ideas off the top of my head. Any of you Spidey fans have some other suggestions?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Read These Comics! - Dark Empire

Back in 1992, the world was getting ready to get excited about Star Wars again. Technically, this resurgence began in 1991 with the novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, but it all started to get really exciting when Dark Horse Comics published the first Dark Empire series. This began a wave of Star Wars comics by the publisher, which was exciting because for the most part, there hadn't been any since 1986 when Marvel stopped publishing them.

It was also going to be another seven years until The Phantom Menace, and it was looking less and less likely that we'd ever get to see what happened beyond Return of the Jedi. With this series, we got to see the next step in the evolution of Luke Skywalker, as he fully embraces the dark side of the Force just as his father did before him. Why would he do such a thing? He figures that it's the only way to learn the secrets of a resurrected Emperor and ultimately defeat him. Unfortunately, he gets in too far, and it takes his sister, Leia, to bring him back to the light.

Lucas always declared that all of the novels, comic books, etc. were officially "non-canon". In other words, if he wanted to make movies that contradicted what happened in them, then it was the movies that were the official version. That's a bit different now that Disney owns the property, and everything fits into one large continuity. One way or the other, by the time the prequel trilogy came along, this story really doesn't work for a few reasons:
  • Clones - The Emperor resurrects himself using clone technology. There are references to the Clone Wars, but they don't really jive with what happened in the prequel trilogy.
  • The nature of the Emperor - In this series, Palpatine seems like more of a force (no pun intended) of nature rather than just the latest in a long line of Sith Lords. His power is almost god-like, being able to not only resurrect (although with the aid of technology) but to summon vast "force storms" that swallow everything in their path.
  • The ambiguity - Part of the appeal of this series is the references to what went down with Luke's father. Since we didn't know the official version of those events, the reader is left to wonder if maybe Anakin Skywalker tried to join the dark side just to defeat it as well. (Turns out, not so much.)
There were two things that were somewhat controversial in this series, and I've heard fans complain about them. The first one is the resurrection of The Emperor. I have to admit that I kinda liked it. It makes a lot less sense now that we know what we know about how Sith Lords work, but I liked the idea of Palpatine being an embodiment of evil rather than just an evil guy, and to defeat him was to completely eradicate all evil - which is impossible. Plus, whenever I'd play with my action figures as a kid, I'd often do a story where The Emperor had returned, and it was going to have to be Luke himself who would have to defeat him once and for all.

The other problem was the return of Boba Fett. All he said was that the sarlaac found him "indigestible". (Later stories would elaborate on this.) I didn't have a problem with this one either. For starters, we didn't see him "die" so much as enter the mouth of the monster. Second, the sarlaac was said to take 1000 years to digest his victims. Looking at that monster, it was obviously gravity and some tentacles keeping people (and aliens) inside of it, and it didn't seem to chew its food at all. Lastly, Fett was wearing a jet pack. It had a malfunction, but with all of his body armor protecting him while he was inside the belly of the beast, I could easily see him rocketing his way out of there.

Re-reading the series recently, I was also struck by what a distinct artistic style artist Cam Kennedy employed. He not only did the art but the colors as well. As much as I like the new Star Wars books that Marvel is doing, they all have a very traditional look about them. Dark Horse let Kennedy employ some interesting color choices, giving the book a very distinct mood that went along with its rather grim theme.

Basically this story has become a "What If?" or "Imaginary Story" or "apocrypha" if you want to sound more religious. It's worth a look, or a re-look for long time fans. You might have to do some searching if you want to find it. Oh, and for the record, go ahead and skip the two sequels. I didn't even bother to keep those in my collection.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Welcome, our gay overlords!

Next step? I marry all of my students. And my fish.
I wasn't sure if I'd ever write about the whole gay marriage issue again. I used to write about it frequently during the dark times of California's unfortunate Prop 8. Man, was that really seven years ago when I was standing out in the rain with my wife and friends protesting it? It's hard to believe, but I remember what an awful feeling it was when it passed (which meant that gay people would be unable to get married). It meant that I lived in a state where the citizens voted to take rights away from people. Not a good feeling.

Of course, things got better as it was struck down as being unconstitutional by a federal judge. I think that some folks were hoping that we'd vote on it again, as polls showed that people were more and more in favor of marriage equality, especially young people who were just becoming old enough to vote. But there really wasn't all that much point to funding another campaign, was there? Especially when it started to look more and more likely that it was going to go to the Supreme Court of the United States.

For those of you living in Martian caves, that's exactly what happened, and now gay people have the right to get married throughout the entire country. It's fantastic news, unless you're my four year old. When I tried to talk to him about it, he eventually steered the conversation to honey bees. That's more interesting to him.

Oh, and of course there's all sorts of people complaining about what happened. I'm not going to dignify them by naming them or linking to what they said. You can find it if you want to bad enough. They're saying everything from how we're living in dark times to how this isn't a democracy anymore. (Hint - we're not a democracy. At least, not a pure democracy. Never have been.) Some of them, who are the same ones who love to talk about The Constitution, can't seem to understand that the whole idea of the Supreme Court is exactly what our Founding Fathers intended. (Of course, if the decision went their way, the rhetoric would be that what Jefferson & Company intended prevailed.) There's also the talk of the judges being "activists" which simply means that the judges didn't rule the way they wanted them to rule.

I don't think that I can go over all the reasons why all the arguments against marriage equality are wrong yet again. Some folks seem to think that it's going to open the doors for people having their religious freedom taken away and that churches will be forced to perform same sex weddings. Guess what? Churches already get to discriminate as to who they marry and who they don't. I can't sue the Mormon Church (to name one of many examples) if they don't want to marry me, a non-Mormon. I have to wonder if the people who put forward these arguments know how misleading they are and simply don't care because they know it will worry people.

There's also the whole bit of psychological projection where the anti crowd like to say that those who speak out for equality are being the bigots. I was once compared to the judges in the Salem Witch Trials. It's crazy because if I have my way, they get to keep living their lives exactly how they want to live them. If they win, there will be a group of people who will have less freedom than others.

How can you tell if you're being a bigot? When if your side wins, people are affected negatively. My position doesn't pass that particular test, so there ya go.

There's also some rhetoric coming from the Republican Presidential Race Clown Car of making this an issue in the upcoming election. (Seems like a mistake considering that polls show that the majority of Americans are in favor of the ruling.) One of the particularly nutty ones is suggesting that states ignore the law.

This just goes to show that while we've won a major victory for gay rights, there are still battles to be won in the hearts and minds of people. I figure that with more gay couples getting married and showing us that they're just as boring as everybody else, we'll slowly inch our way there. But as of this point, those who oppose same sex marriage need to ask themselves if it's worth battling this anymore. Give it a year. If it hasn't affected you by then, you'll know that it's time to just drop it and be happy for your gay friends and family.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Are video games art?

Years ago, the late Roger Ebert wrote that "Video Games Can Never Be Art". I wasn't playing a whole lot of video games back then, so I didn't really have a horse in that race. I could see where he was coming from, but I understood those who took him to task for his assertion as well. After all, even with the most basic video game like Pac Man, there is an art to the design of the characters and concepts. There's obviously a reason why some of them became more popular than others, and just as we can critique one novel as being "better" than another, we can do the same thing for video games. In other words, I leaned toward the "video games are art" camp.

I've been playing more video games in the past year though. One major reason is that my four-year-old son really took a liking to our old Wii games, especially anything to do with Mario. I went and bought the Wii U for Christmas, and once that was paid off, I went ahead and got the Playstation 4. (I already own the PS3, and I got the PS4 because I wanted the upcoming Rock Band 4 and Batman: Arkham Knight, neither of which would be available for PS3 or the Wii U.)

Roger Ebert
I bought the bundle that comes with The Last of Us: Remastered. I didn't know too much about the game, but I heard that it won a lot of awards. It was this experience that got me to thinking about the question as to whether video games were art or not, and I'll be damned if I deny that this game was a work of art.

I should probably say right now that if you haven't played the game, and you intend to do so, there will be some pretty major SPOILERS ahead. Read ahead at your own risk.

The Last of Us is a story-driven game which heads toward a pre-determined resolution. As the player, you take over during the action scenes as you try to get the protagonist, Joel, through his various trials and obstacles. The setup is your standard zombie apocalypse, plus a few twists on the monsters themselves, and the goal is to get a girl named Ellie across the country to a group called The Fireflies. Why do you need to get her across? Because she's been bit by one of the infected, and she hasn't turned. In other words, she holds the potential cure for the plague.


Joel's character arc begins with him losing his teenage daughter when the plague begins. When he meets Ellie, he wants nothing to do with her. This makes sense, but the two eventually form a bond. When it comes time to letting the Fireflies extract a cure from her, it turns out that they also need to cure her. Joel isn't willing to lose her by this point, so he goes on a shooting rampage in order to rescue her, thus dooming the human race. It sounds like a monumentally horrible decision when you summarize it that quickly, but by the time you've gotten to the climax of the story, it's completely believable that he'd be unwilling to let go of her, even at the expense of humanity.

I've written before about some favorite movies of mine, two of which are The Bridge on the River Kwai and Taxi Driver. What both of these movies get you to do is to root for a guy that you probably shouldn't be rooting for. In "Bridge", Colonel Nicholson wins you over when he gets the best of the Japanese while being their prisoner. Eventually you realize that Nicholson's motivation is solely his obsession with rules, and he'd help out the enemy if it meant following them. With Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, you feel for the guy because he's a bit of an outsider but seems to mean well. Then he takes his date to a porno, and you wonder why you're such a crappy judge of character. In both cases though, you stick with it because you found yourself liking them just enough to care about what happens.

The Last of Us does the same thing, only you don't only find yourself empathizing with a guy who's probably doing the wrong thing, it makes you a participant in his bad decisions. I remember sitting there at the end, wondering if I should keep shooting up all of these people, yet I continued anyway.

Would you doom humanity for the sake of this girl?
Every genre, whether it's movies, music, video games, novels, comic books, etc. has certain advantages and disadvantages. Comic books, for instance, invite the reader to be an active participant in setting the pace while reading the story. With video games, you have something that no other art form can do when it makes you an active participant in the decision of the characters. It's one thing to watch Travis Bickle shoot up a room full of people. It would have been something else if you were pulling the trigger, forcing his hand. With The Last of Us, I've had probably the most profound sense of moral ambiguity than I've ever had with any other art form.

It's this idea alone that makes it hard for me to even entertain the notion that video games are not art. I'm still kind of new to all of this, so I don't know if any other game comes close. However, the potential is there, and it's exciting.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Read These Comics! - Boxers & Saints and a bit more

Last Wednesday, my local comic book store had a signing with Gene Luen Yang. He's the current writer on Superman and has done numerous creator-owned projects like American Born Chinese and today's specific recommendation, Boxers & Saints. It was a great opportunity to meet him, and he was really gracious to everybody who showed up for the signing. I got a chance to talk with him a little bit about the historical and mythological subject matter that his work deals with, and that sort of a thing is always a plus when it comes to signings.

I was intrigued by Boxers & Saints when I first heard about it, but it took a while for me to finally pick it up. What finally prompted me was when he was announced as the new Superman writer, as I have been picking up that title anyway. The thing that got my attention about this particular work though was that it covered a little piece of history that most folks don't know about - The Boxer Rebellion.

I first learned about it when I worked for, and I was writing brief text summaries of the various military engagements that involved the United States. It's still there, and I'm fairly certain that's the text that I wrote for it. In a nutshell, it was a war where a secret Chinese society, with the awesome name of The Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, declared war on Western and Japanese influences in their country and attacked not just the foreigners but Chinese converts to Christianity. Eventually it would come to an end when an international coalition, including the United States, eliminated the "Boxers" as the society came to be known. (One disadvantage of the Boxers? They believed that bullets couldn't harm them. Turns out they were wrong.)

Lang's comic is actually two graphic novels, the first one titled Boxers and the second one Saints. The two just go together and you can usually find them sold in one slipcase. The first one tells the side from one of the Boxers and the other from a Chinese convert to Christianity. When I told Gene Yang about how I really liked that technique, he told me that it was due to his ambivalence about who the "good guy" was. Personally, I think that any honest telling of a war story will find it hard to create such clear-cut distinctions.

But just like any good war story in particular or good story in general, the appeal is in creating sympathy for both characters, even when you feel that they're making bad choices. The thing is, I can completely get why those Boxers wanted to do what they wanted to do. Who the hell were all those foreigners coming in and imposing their will on the Chinese? And what was up with this foreign religion and its complete disrespect of all their gods and customs? They basically reacted the way anybody else would, although they took on a violent solution, fueled by religious fervor.

At the same time, I can sympathize why some of the Chinese would convert over to the new religion of Christianity. I'm no Christian myself, but the religion definitely has an appeal compared to a lot of others, whether you think it's for good reasons or not. And more importantly, nobody wants to be persecuted for their beliefs, whether they're the traditional ones or newer, foreign ones.

One thing I also got to tell Mr. Yang was that I really loved how he incorporated Chinese mythology into the stories without making it feel like a textbook lesson. References to the gods are seamlessly blended into the overall story that both serves the theme and informs the reader. The same thing happens in Saints although with a lesson about Joan of Arc.

After finishing both volumes, you're left with that same feeling of ambivalence that the author described to me, and all that death and war seems like such a waste. That might be a common theme for war stories, but it's really the only honest one.

I don't know if I'll get a chance to write about it, but if you like this particular work, then I also highly recommend American Born Chinese. It's mostly autobiographical, and anybody who has ever felt like an outsider can relate to it. (But probably more if you're of Chinese descent, no doubt.) Just like Boxers & Saints, it also incorporates a good deal of Chinese mythology while not feeling didactic.

As for his first issue of Superman? It looks like it's off to a good start. I don't know if it was his plan or not, but the story picks up on recent events where Kal El not only has a new power where he essentially flares like a star (only to lose his powers for about a day until they recharge) but he also has had his secret identity revealed to the world. In other words, no more Clark Kent. Not sure how they'll put this genie back in the bottle, but I think that there are definitely some interesting possibilities if he's gotta be Superman 24 hours a day. Gene Luen Yang has showed that he can tell a good story with his own characters, so I trust him to do the same with the Man of Steel.

You can probably guess which guy has the last name of "Johnson" and which one has the last name of "Yang".

Thursday, June 25, 2015

My first (Thinking) Atheist event

Last night I attended a presentation by Seth Andrews, host of The Thinking Atheist podcast. It was hosted by The Atheist Community of San Jose.  He was promoting his book, Sacred Cows: A Lighthearted Look at Belief and Tradition around the World. During the presentation, he went over various bizarre beliefs like snake handling, "Sabbath mode" appliances, and some odd Bulgarian thing involving spinning some poor dog around. It was a pretty funny and informative speech, and at the end he got a bit more personal and talked about his personal difficulties involving his family's unwillingness to accept that he no longer shares their beliefs.

For those who aren't familiar with his podcast or videos, I recommend them. Seth's story is an interesting one, as he used to be a DJ for a Christian radio station in Oklahoma. Eventually he found himself seriously questioning his faith, and then he started creating videos on Youtube under his "The Thinking Atheist" banner. (Seth always insists that he's not The Thinking Atheist, and that the logo and name are supposed to symbolize how we should always be thinking, exploring, and questioning what we believe.) For some time, he remained anonymous, but he eventually came out and revealed his true identity at a Freethought convention.

Seth on the left, me on the right.
I've never been to any kind of organize atheist event before. I've never really seen the need to, and I'll admit that for some time after admitting my atheism to myself, I would kind of scoff at the idea. After all, I didn't like going to church when I was a believer. Why would I want to submit myself to something similar when I no longer had the fear that I was making some deity angry? Eventually, I came around and realized that this attitude was a bit of a privilege on my part, as I didn't lose a ton of friends when I came out as an atheist, and I wasn't disowned by my family members. Not everybody is as lucky as me, and for those folks, atheist gatherings offer a chance for them to be with people who embrace them for who they are. So, while I'm still not personally big on atheist gatherings, I'm glad that they exist.

Got a copy of the book, and got it signed.
I will also say that I'm glad that I attended this one. I've been a big fan of Seth's for some time now, ever since I saw his "The Story of Suzie" video.

Lately, I've been steering away from atheist books and podcasts for the most part, as I've had my fill for the most part. Still, I continue listening to his podcast. For one, it's really professional. He keeps each episode to about an hour and there's no blathering on about pointless things. Sure, sometimes he digresses and talks about his dog or things like that, but he keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. Also, he has a really positive vibe about his show. I realize that the video up above might make you think differently, but his show is never about calling people stupid or implying that believers are "mentally ill" or other such nonsensical things that some atheists are wont to say.

I'm on the left, toward the back.
Another thing that was really cool about last night's presentation is that I got an old friend to come along with me, and he brought his two kids. The two of them have had their fill of church experiences, as their mother (my friend is divorced from her) takes them on Sundays - and one of the ones she's gone to was pretty rabidly fundamentalist from my understanding. It was great to have them along so they could see a positive face for nonbelievers outside of just their father. Seth also took the time to talk to everybody before and after the show, and he had a great message for them: 1) take care of each other, and 2) keep looking for answers and the truth no matter what it might be. (Those weren't his exact words, but that was the gist.)

No, I didn't take my son. He's only four, and I doubt he would have appreciated it. (My wife would have, but she was unable to attend.) Considering he's not going to be exposed to a whole lot of religion, it's not a high priority for me to take him to things like this. I suppose that if he was older and expressed interest, I'd be happy to, but I have no interest in pushing him one way or the other. I'll be honest about my beliefs, and I'll encourage critical thinking, but I'm not looking to do some sort of equivalent to what the faithful do.

Part of me wishes that some of my faithful friends could have come along, as they probably would have enjoyed it far more than they would expect. Plus, it's always good to show a good side of atheism considering that so many people are given the message that we're horrible. I mean, yeah, we did sacrifice and eat a baby when everything was wrapped up, but lots of groups do that.

In all seriousness though, I'm glad that Seth took some questions at the end, and even better, he was asked, "What do you think the best reasons are for why there is no God?" He took the time to explain that he would never word it that way. Most atheists, like myself, don't take some sort of dogmatic position like theists do when they claim with certainty that a God exists. Most of us don't take the other extreme, as we have no way of knowing that. The best that we can say is that we find the argument for the existence of one to be totally unconvincing. If given evidence, we'll change our minds. But that evidence hasn't appeared, and when it does, it comes in the form of anecdotes, specious reasoning, and appeals to emotion - in other words, not actual evidence.

So, would I attend another event like this? Sure. I had a good time, and if I did, I'd want to bring along some people with me - especially my wife, but maybe even an open-minded theist friend as well. If you're an atheist, especially one who has lost out on friends and family members as a result, then you definitely gotta check out Seth's website and podcast. He always refers to his fans as a community and family, and I don't think that's too far off. Here's hoping Seth will find his way out to California again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spider-Man re-re-booting

Yesterday, Marvel announced the name of the next actor to play Spider-Man. Looks like it's gonna be Tom Holland, and while I don't know much about him, the rumors were true that they were going for a younger actor to play the character than they did the last two times. From my understanding, they're looking to keep in high school for a bit longer than the last two versions, so getting a younger guy is good for that. (I looked him up - he was born in 1996, so he's under 20.

Considering that Spider-Man is probably my favorite comic book character, I have some thoughts about this. I'll start off with the bad, since I have much more good to say about it.

Another reboot? - I know that most die-hard fans know exactly why things are going this way. And for that reason, many of us are probably ready to look past it and get over it. However, for the average movie goer or for the fans who don't pay as much attention, the refrain of "Another reboot?" is going to be the reaction whenever this new Spider-Man is talked about. That's going to be a mark against it, although it doesn't personally bother me.

For those who don't know, this is the reason why, put as simply as possible:

1. Before Marvel had their own movie studio, Sony had the rights to do Spider-Man movies. (It's even more complicated than this, but that's a good starting point.)  
2. After Sam Raimi and Toby Maguire passed on making a fourth Spider-Man movie, Sony needed to either make a new movie with a new creative team or the rights would revert back to Marvel, which by this time had a movie studio. 
3. Sony went with director Mark Webb and Andrew Garfield. For me, their biggest mistake was in rebooting it. They must have figured that rebooting Batman and James Bond worked so well, so why not reboot Spider-Man even though the character didn't have nearly as long of a film history? As far as I'm concerned, they could have just put a new actor in the webs and continued to tell stories and the audience would have been just fine with it. They've been fine with that in the past. 
4. Even though rebooting was probably a mistake, part of what vindicated The Amazing Spider-Man was that the first film was actually pretty good. In some ways, it improved on the previous origin story. Or maybe it just seemed good because the third Spider-Man film stunk on wheels. Either way, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 didn't live up to the promise of the previous installment, and Sony realized that they were in trouble. 
5. Marvel, with its successes (all of the various Avengers movies and Guardians of the Galaxy) has some serious pull, and while Sony didn't want to give up the cash cow that is Spider-Man, they agreed to a special deal allowing the character to be part of the greater Marvel cinematic universe. Perhaps they could have just kept going with Andrew Garfield, who did a fine job, but that franchise had created a mess, and getting a fresh start seems to be the way to go.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe might be getting a bit crowded. - One of the problems with the last Avengers movie is that there was a lot of characters in there. Hopefully adding another major character won't add to that problem.

Okay, that's really all the bad I have to say about it. Here's what's good:

Reboot? Yes. Origin? No. - Everything I've read indicates that they are NOT going to be doing another origin story. That's good. We don't need to see it again this soon. They can simply flash back to it like they did The Hulk's origin when they rebooted that franchise. (That was a smart decision to reboot, by the way.)

Gradual introduction - Looks like he's going to be making his first appearance not in his own film but in the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. I hear that it's not going to be a big role, and fans of the original comic book series will probably be disappointed if they're expecting the characters role to be the same in the movie. Still, it's good to see him be a part of it all, and this way the audience can get to know and like him before giving him his own film.

They got a young guy - It's not like Sean Connery in Diamonds are Forever (or worse: Never Say Never Again) but Maguire and Garfield started off a bit older than they should have been to play this part. Part of the character's original appeal is his youth.

Marvel has more say - Sony has been able to produce a few good films with the character, but Marvel's track record is better. I'm expecting them to look to the comic books for inspiration when it comes to new storylines, and hopefully his solo films will borrow from some popular stories (like Kraven's Last Hunt) instead of just doing another formulaic villain du jour.

Looks like some bad ideas are being abandoned. - Sony was trying to turn the Web Head into a franchise after seeing Marvel Studios's success. The problem is that there really isn't enough there to do that. Still, they were going to try with films based on The Black Cat, Venom, and The Sinister Six. I can maybe see something good being done with the first idea, but a Sinister Six movie? Really? Yeah, 'cause that's what people want to see - a movie with all of a hero's villains but without the hero. (And yes, I know that Suicide Squad is based on a similar idea. However, that one has some history with the comics and the concept doesn't depend on anybody knowing anything more than it's a bunch of bad guys who have to do something good.)

So, this Spider-Man fan feels like things are looking up for his favorite Wall Crawler. Hopefully Marvel will continue its track record, and maybe we'll see them do something fresh and interesting while still being true to his comic book origins.