Since the reveal trailer for Spider-Man 2, last week, my mind has been racing—fevered with thoughts of web-based entertainment, and all of its tangled possibilities. Here I present a list of thoughts, hopes, dreams, rambles, takes, shakes, and who knows what else. There are seven of them.
Simply, “Spider-Man 2.” No colons. No subtitles, stretching and twanging off the end. Just a number. More than that, a number that invokes the best film and the best game in the franchise—before Insomniac came along, naturally. Spider-Man 2 will, in fact, be the third game in the series, but that matters little. As glorious as the simplicity is, I do feel the slight pang of a missed opportunity. The subtitle, when applied to the zany and elasticated realms of Spider-Man, does have the chance to win our hearts; I’m thinking of Spider-Man 2: Enter Electro, The Amazing Spider-Man 3: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers (for the Game Boy), and the wonderfully psychotherapeutic Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety, for the Sega Mega Drive, which made it sound as though Spider-Man and Venom were not battling for the dominance of New York but limping sadly through a messy divorce. Still, “Spider-Man 2” works.
Spider-Man’s New Legs
All four of them. At the risk of sounding like an idiot, I can’t be doing with this arachnabundance. When you consider the many ghastly ways in which a radioactive spider bite could affect the human body, the convenience with which Peter Parker is graced only by eye-pleasing upgrades becomes laughable. Extra muscles, quicker reflexes, psychic tingling—and all without having to worry about getting a prescription for eight-lens spectacles, or to locate a tailor willing to whip up trousers that accommodate a cephalothorax. And what does Peter do? He creates a costume that dwells on the genetic disaster he narrowly avoided. Four metal legs strapped to his back! For goodness’ sake, he may as well stitch himself a new suit composed entirely of fuzz, or one that equips him with fangs; either way, it looks extremely silly.
A Shared Universe?
The reveal, during Sony’s PlayStation Showcase, of another Insomniac game, Wolverine, was quite a moment. It came as a complete shock, for one thing, and I wonder how on earth the studio manages to churn out blockbusters with such brisk efficiency—like the Warner Bros. of old, minting silvery gangster movies like dimes. Following the announcement, there was news, courtesy of the game’s creative director, Brian Horton, that Wolverine would be “Full size, mature tone.” Considering we have a Marvel Cinematic Universe (in which various heroes, tired of their own films, hop restlessly into one another’s, so as to stave off the realisation that the stories have run out), should we expect a shared game universe, in which Wolverine lugs his “Full size, mature tone” into Peter’s immature world? If so, what should we call it? My money is on the M.L.U.: the Marvel Ludomatic Universe.
The biggest news is that Spider-Man 2 will be graced—or gunked—with the presence of Venom, whose face we glimpse in the darkness of an alley. He looks, well, classically Venomous: ranks of fangs, a tongue like a pink snake, and eyes like spilt milk. Who on earth could play such a role? The Candyman can! After the broadcast, we learned that none other than Tony Todd is playing the villain, pouring his deep croon—honeyed, yet with a sting of malevolence—into the character. Depending on how you interpret the post-credits scene in the first game, it could be that Insomniac’s version of Venom may not be the alter ego of Eddie Brock, but will instead be Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborne. In which case, I recommend getting Topher Grace in to play Harry—the M.L.U. pays homage to the M.C.U., or, technically, the pre-M.C.U. U. Who cares?
The Black Suit
Any story that revolves stickily around the symbiote may give us not just Venom but the more intriguing spectacle of a meaner Spider-Man. (At the end of the trailer, we see the familiar spider symbol flash up, white, against a black background.) I for one would like to see Ben Jordan, the actor whose face has been ungraciously grafted onto the role of Spider-Man, given a Maguire-style makeover. Imagine him now, his fringe combed choppily over his brow, dancing his way down the street, hips thrusting, thumbs jabbing in funky approval at passersby. You could almost do this in the first game; try punching a civilian, and you would end up offering a wave or a pair of rapid-fire finger guns. Spider-Man 2 should, during the sequences in which Peter flirts with the dark side, allow us to unleash his inner disco.
Kraven the Hunter
Though he doesn’t appear, the voice-over in the trailer seems to have been supplied by classic villain Kraven the Hunter. This will, of course, have reduced fans to jabbering wrecks. However, for those of us who appreciate fine couture, the challenge that Kraven presents to the designers at Insomniac is cause for amusement. I, for one, am against the prevailing approach of Spider-Man and its sequel, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, which is to scrap the kookiness that swathed the villains of old—the feathers, the leathery hides, and the shock-absorbent cushions—in favour of, for the most part, heavy metal. Traditionally, Kraven the Hunter sports a waistcoat fashioned from a lion’s head, skintight trousers adorned with paw prints, ballet shoes, and a zebra-patterned cummerbund with matching vambraces. How will Insomniac modernise that? My hope is that they don’t. They should style his reveal trailer like a dispatch from Paris Fashion Week.
The image of Peter and Miles turning a thug into a human skipping rope, before smacking him into the concrete, is to be celebrated. But I wonder, taking into account Insomniac’s current workload (the team that made Spider-Man: Miles Morales is working on Wolverine), whether Miles will get another game of his own. Maybe he and Pete will share the load, in Spider-Man 2, and we will alternate between them. This may be a shame, because both deserve games of their own. Mind you, it could be that the threat presented by both Venom and by Kraven’s cummerbund is so grave that it requires the earnest efforts of two hard-bitten youths. Or maybe Miles and Pete simply wish to spend more time together; Could it be that swinging solo makes them feel lonely? If so, here’s hoping for a hefty chunk of DLC, exploring the issue—Miles/Pete: Separation Anxiety.