Spidey Death Watch: Why Lerman (and Zac Efron) Would Ruin Peter Parker

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Update: Looks like Sony now is distancing itself from ALL these rumors – no Lerman, no Lautner (for now)

Not much to say here, except that what Sony has been doing to the Spider-Man franchise could well infest the other movie series we love so much. (See our full Spider-Man deathwatch timeline)

New rumors have been circulating all weekend that Logan Lerman could be replacing Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker – you know Lerman, right, the star of this Friday’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief?

Now as a kid who comes to discover that Poseidon is his baby-daddy, Lerman gets the job done. I’m not saying this kid can’t act. He can play overwhelmed, but then also play the serious bad-ass-son-of-the-Gods-hero. I dig it, and plenty of other kids are going to dig it too, come this weekend.

But he is not Peter Parker. In fact, he’s so the opposite of Peter Parker that it fills me with doubt, to think that anyone involved with the movie franchise is meeting with this kid. I ask in all honesty: Do they know what they’re doing? Do these movie execs even read the comics upon which they’re spending millions to adapt?

Parker’s a bit of a nerd, the guy who doesn’t fit in, whose super powers offer not just a sense of purpose but also a sense of self-worth. He is marginalized at school, he gets rejected often by his peers and this all fuels a raging sense of loneliness and inadequacy. But then he can leap around the city and save the world, and the dude feels a little better about himself. (More at Techland: Spider-Man the Porn Star?)

Now does this sound like Lerman? No way man. Lerman (see above) has the looks of the boy in high school who everyone has a crush on. Think Zac Efron. He has the confidence in Percy Jackson of a boy who can rise to the ranks of the gods. In other words: He is the antithesis of Peter Parker. In the first Spider-Man, Parker plummets while trying to jump between the buildings. Can you see Lerman falling flat on his face?

But these conversations are taking place, and the rumor mill is probably correct. And this all marks yet another misstep in the demise of the great Spidey franchise. I personally thought that Spider-Man 2 was one of the best superhero films ever made. We had the heartache of the isolated lonely teen, and then the complicated mixture of ego/vengeance/altruism that fueled his heroic acts.

In 2010, Sony has ditched all of the talent that got the big-screen Spider-Man to where it is. Behind the scenes bickering decimated the third film, making it more cute than cool. Now they’ve axed the director in a bid to hop on the 3D bandwagon (never mind that its most devout fans prefer 2-D, and in print). They’ve axed the acting talent that made sense – Tobey Maguire fit that role perfectly –  and now seem poised to bring in a pretty-boy.

My one thought is this: They apparently want Spider-Man to be a Bourne Identity for kids, or a teenage variation of some other standard Hollywood action franchise. But one of these days, a studio’s going to realize that what makes a comic book film a comic book film is that it doesn’t square nicely with mass appeal.

It comes at us at an angle, like all great comic stories do, and that usually means allowing a director full control, to balance all of the extreme quirks of something like The Dark Knight into a meaningful, emotional whole. A little change here and a little change there, perpetuated or mandated by the studio, can devastate that balancing act. The result is Spider-Man 3.

…Which leaves us with a Zac Efron Peter Parker. Not cool.