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Bring back Old Tobey

What happens when a hero hits middle age? What does “work/life balance” look like when “work” involves battling homicidal super-villains?

Sony should green-light a fourth Spider-Man film from Sam Raimi.

Raimi directed the original Spider-Man trilogy: the cleanly-executed origin story; the hilariously fun sequel; and the ill-fated, little-loved third installment. That last outing—plagued by misguided studio meddling—proved to be Raimi’s last. When the director couldn’t nail down a script for a fourth and final film starring Tobey Maguire, Sony rebooted the franchise with a younger, hipper Peter Parker instead.

Now that the reboot itself has fizzled, Sony has recast Spidey again—going even younger. The new Spider-Man, Tom Holland, will appear opposite the Avengers in the third Captain America film. He’ll also star in a standalone picture slated for 2017.

Most superhero movies adopt this “younger, louder, dumber” strategy. Most of these films have little to say, beyond “Look at our huge special effects budget!” Action scenes (which I find skull-achingly boring) consume the bulk of screen time. That’s particularly true in the Marvel Cinematic Universe™, a machine that produces bland, whiz-bang movies every six months or so.

A better, bolder approach would have slowed down and continued the story of Peter Parker as played by Tobey Maguire. Spider-Man 4 might have explored questions very rarely tackled by superhero movies. What happens when a hero hits middle age (Maguire recently turned forty)? If Spider-Man had kids, would he still take such acrobatic risks? What does “work/life balance” look like when “work” involves battling homicidal super-villains?

This pitch plays well to the strengths of the franchise under Raimi. The Spider-Man movies struck a clever balance between tongue-in-cheek playfulness and earnest storytelling. This scene from Spider-Man 2, in which Maguire plays pitiable victim perfectly, hints at how the “aging Spidey” concept might work. Or see this incredible montage, in which Parker gladly abandons his superheroic duties.

Raimi might have framed this fourth film as a “re-origin” story. We pick up with Peter and Mary Jane Watson-Parker, years after Spider-Man disappeared from New York. Inevitably, some villainous maniac arises to wreak havoc, and pressure mounts on Peter to don his mothballed Spidey-suit.

Chances are that a film along these lines won’t ever happen. But in a world of reboots and long-delayed sequels, it’s at least possible that nostalgia will someday open the door. If Sony’s latest Spider-Man reboot (or the next one, or the one after that) flops, they should give Sam Raimi a call.