Spider-Man is one of the good guys, but to some ”Star Wars” worshippers, the webslinger is starting to look more villainous than Darth Sidious. ”’Spider-Man’ is useless,” writes an online message board poster with the username Shaggins. ”I doubt that anyone is going to watch the movie. I certainly am not. I’ve always thought that ‘Spider-Man’ was the dumbest of all comic book heroes.” And some ”Spider-Man” partisans are equally dismissive of ”Episode 2 — Attack of the Clones.” ”’Star Wars’ sucks,” one internet debater argues succinctly.
Why the animosity in geek-land? With ”Clones” hitting theaters only 13 days after ”Spider-Man”’s May 3 release, fans of each movie are feeling protective of their franchise — even though they haven’t seen the films yet. ”I think it partly comes from the comic book fan culture vs. the ‘Star Wars’ fan culture,” says Harry Knowles, founder of Ain’t It Cool News (aint-it-cool-news.com)), whose message boards are the prime battleground for the disputes. ”But it’s also something in fandom that’s very odd — there always needs to be the one movie that’s on top.”
The fan wars treat ”Spider-Man” and ”Clones” as if the films were in a real contest for box office supremacy this summer, but industry analysts say that’s unlikely. ”’Star Wars: Episode II’ is a much bigger type of blockbuster,” says Gitesh Pandya, who edits boxofficeguru.com. ”Most other films can’t compete with the ‘Star Wars’ franchise — even something like ‘Spider-Man.”’
The box-office analysis firm ReelSource predicts that ”Spider-Man” will gross between $225 and $250 million, while ”Attack of the Clones” will gross at least $350 million. ReelSource analyst Robert Bucksbaum even suggests that ”Men In Black 2,” due in July, could beat out ”Spider-Man” for this summer’s number two slot.
But Knowles says that despite his high praise of the new ”Star Wars,” ”Spider-Man” could do bigger numbers than analysts expect. He points out that although Spider-Man has never appeared in a movie before, the character has been building name recognition since its creation back in 1962 (before George Lucas was even in film school).
Another factor in favor of the webslinger, says Knowles: ”The reports from ‘Spider-Man’ screenings are that audiences are screaming when the movie’s over. But having seen ‘Episode II,’ it’s a somber ending, which, like ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ doesn’t make for the greatest repeat business. Ultimately, it’s sort of a downer.”
Still, Lucasfilm seems unconcerned about ”Spider-Man.” Says Jim Ward, vice president of marketing at the company: “I hope both films do well, because it would mean a good summer for the movie industry.” (A spokesperson for Sony, the company behind ”Spider-Man,” didn’t return a call for comment). But if the conflict really needs to be resolved, maybe Tobey Maguire and Hayden Christensen can step into Fox’s ”Celebrity Boxing” ring. In that battle, at least, our money’s on the newly buff Tobey.