Unfortunately I’ve realized where Sam Raimi & Co. have been getting all their ideas for the Spider-Man movies. They’ve been pretty much copying everything from the original Superman films.
Superman: The Movie / Spider-Man
This pair differs the most but they both end with the hero facing a “sadistic choice” between saving the lives of many or saving the life of his best girl. But still sufficient plausible deniability on the part of Raimi.
Superman II / Spider-Man 2
Here’s where things get obvious. Hero faces the dilemma of duty vs. personal fulfillment in the form of romance. For a while he thinks his own gratification is more important than his responsibility to the world but he soon comes to his senses and realizes that he can’t put his own interests above others. Along the way he loses his powers but gets them back when he realizes he was being selfish.
Both films also feature mini-Passions, when Clark Kent becomes human and gets the crap kicked out of him (“Blood?!”) and when Spider-Man temporarily expires in a cruciform pose while saving tons of people, followed by a reverential “deposition from the cross”.
Superman III / Spider-Man 3
With the Christ allegories out of the way, it’s time to look inward for an existential crisis. Here the hero becomes exposed to a substance from outer space which encourages him to indulge his inner bastard. The hero starts hitting on chicks and generally being a jerk, accompanied by new hair (5 o’clock shadow or emo-Hitler) and a darker colored suit. Ultimately he confronts and defeats his evil doppelganger.
Superman III gets maximum points for its Fight Club-style rumble in the junkyard, but Spider-Man 3 was a giant missed opportunity. While Evil Superman causes environment-devastating oil spills, Evil Spidey makes an ass of himself dancing down the street. Also, Superman III’s image of a drunk Superman flicking peanuts at beer bottles made me cry and frightened to see the movie again until I was a teenager.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace / Spider-Man 4
Now that we’ve broken the code we can accurately predict what would happen in Spidey 4. The short version is we cannot allow the Raimi/Maguire/Dunst triumvirate to make a fourth installment unless we want to see Spider-Man condescendingly lecture the United Nations about nuclear disarmament and witness the beginning of the Clone Saga on film.