Seeing a movie for the first time can be a magical experience. We've all had a moment as a kid that seems like it can never be duplicated. To a large degree it can't be. Anticipation, information, and the sheer newness of an experience can render it unmatched by similar moments in the future. This isn't particularly debatable and if we aren't aware of this, we should be. The quote "cocaine is a hell of a drug" can be easily replaced with "nostalgia is a hell of a drug." We cling to nostalgia for a number of reasons, but the safety is the utmost one. Jumping out there with no life vest is scary. Why do I need to like new things, I have these old things that work just fine! Well sometimes the old stuff is better, and sometimes New Coke is better (in reality New Coke sucks). However, the larger point remains nostalgia can sometimes be a hindrance in how we view new properties, and more importantly, how we see our classics.
In the past few weeks I've seen many comments about the latest Spider-Man movie series, which I happen to enjoy and the budding Man of Steel series that Warner Bros is nursing into something great (so they hope). Statements like "the originals were way better" and "they can NEVER top what the previous ones did" are common battle cries in the war of superiority. Well some would say that's just people talking but I think it really pushes to the heart of the matter. If you make declarations like this early on than aren't you setting yourself up to already like the new property less? If a movie can never be topped in your opinion, can you really even bother giving another a fair chance? We touched on the pre-mature hate concept in a previous Nerd Culture Critique, here. However, this article focuses on one of the root causes, nostalgia.
Merriam-Webster defines nostalgia as 'pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again.' Sounds like every moronic debate I've seen about new movies series versus the old ones. Let's take the new Spider-Man movie series as the pitch perfect example. Some love it and some hate it. For obvious reasons many do comparisons between the Marc Webb and Sam Raimi versions. Many love the Raimi films that began in 2002 and bemoan the new Marc Webb versions as 'soulless','too gritty', and/or 'emo' comparative to the originals. My issue here is not about liking one version over the other. Its rather the rose colored glasses by which you see the originals. If you can't see them for what they truly are is there no wonder you see the new movies negatively?
Take Sam Raimi's movies for a spin without those slick rose colored specs on. The 2002 Spider-Man series is a testament to the bizarre view of comic book movies at the time. The sub-genre was just really getting into gear and the people making them happen still thought only kids read comics. Even the film creators lived in the bubble of nostalgia while cranking these movies out. For a movie in 2002, Spider-Man feels very much like 1960s comic book Spider-Man. Practically brimming with Leave it to Beaver style characters who a would rather say darn and goosh! For the average movie goer who was a current comic reader at the time this wasn't the Spider-Man they knew. This was masked by the incredible special effects, and the modernization of some key character designs (The Green Goblin specifically). So it seemed so up to date, but yet it was vastly outdated. I, like many reading this article, was blown away by what I saw. My 22 year old brain was screaming in delight, and I thought it couldn't get any better than that. Of course I was wrong. Spider-Man 2 came out and it was better! Once again, my stupid lizard brain thought 'can't get any better than that' and then Spider-Man 3 came out...and my brain was right. I still look back at that series with a great deal of fondness. It has its ups and downs, but in the end it was a good ride. Like all good rides, things have to end and you have to try something else.
So the Raimi trilogy ends prematurely, and Sony gets back on the horse by rebooting the franchise. Many fans were angry, upset, and bewildered by the possibility that their Spider-Man was no more. Flash forward to the release of The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew "he's too emo" Garfield. I put that moniker there not because I believe it but because it was such a idiotic commonality in the arguments from upset fanboys. Garfield's portrayal of Peter Parker was too emotional and just seemed out of place? I'll just leave this here:
While I didn't think Tobey McGuire's performance was awful, he was hardly the funny/smartass Peter Parker we were use to, but those glasses are magical. Lets take a look at the trailer for Spider-Man 2. This just wreaks of cheesiness. I loved it, but come on. The character interactions and the set pieces are quite pathetic comparative to what we see today. The acting is incredibly wooden and stunted at best.
This isn't to say that the new Spider-Man movies are pure gold, as they have their issues. However, can you really look back on these movies and say it can never be any better than this? Really? These stories don't deserves another interpretation?
Age plays a pretty big part of the drug called nostalgia. When I asked someone recently what age they were when they saw the 2002 Spider-Man he replied that he was 7! I of course responded that the movie must have blown his mind, and he agreed. How could it not. A nerdy kid who loves comics sees Spider-Man come alive in front of his very eyes...seems obvious as to what happens next. So flash forward 10 years and the same person is less impressed with what they see now. The new one must be crap, right? Maybe, or maybe you aren't as enamored as you were upon the first viewing. I hear a lot of people say that The Amazing Spider-Man movie didn't WOW them or show them anything new and exciting compared to the 2002 Spider-Man movie. Well there's that drug again...nostalgia. Can you possibly recapture that shock and awe that you had 10 years ago. Likely your taste were simpler and less critical than they are now. Typical fanboys seeing these movies nowadays are about 25 years old. So when I hear them say the 2002 version is better I laugh. You were 15 then...everything was better. You didn't have bills, real responsibility, or the an actual life. This doesn't mean that you might not genuinely like the 2002 version more. It just means your perspective has changed considerably.
So when you look at these movies be aware of the nostalgia that might be affecting you view of these classics. Lastly, please don't pretend that Marc Webb should be chastised for changing Spider-Man's origin a bit and high five Sam Raimi for making Sandman kill Uncle Ben. That's argument is just completely moronic; be consistent. Both series have their issues, and more will pop up in Webb's as time goes on. Raimi's series and other series in the bubble of nostalgia should be looked at with a critical eye. The next time someone says: There will NEVER be able to top this. Chances are they are completely wrong. Take the glasses off.