Spider-Man: The reboot

Ah, you gotta love Hollywood. When something is profitable for the studios, they go into mindless overkill mode, applying the same concept behind that successful something to as many projects as possible. Actually, forget Hollywood. The entire American hyper-consumerist economy seems, or seemed pre-Recession, to be powered by the same faulty mindset.

Anyway, "80's pop culture" and "reboots/reimaginings/remakes" remain the buzz words in the mainstream film industry these days. There have been dozens of announcements regarding the latter - with everything from RoboCop to Footloose, to Red Dawn to Rosemary's Baby set for new treatments on the big screen. However, the biggest, and probably most surprising reboot news as of late is that the Spider-Man movie franchise is receiving a new interpretation.

You see, although studio Columbia Pictures (under Sony) was always going to continue the film franchise based on Marvel Comics' most popular superhero, progress on a follow-up to the lackluster Spider-Man 3 was halted in January. This was despite John Malkovich being very keen to play the Vulture, Spider-Man himself Tobey Maguire speaking positively about progress on Spidey 4, and the film already having a 5 May 2011 release date.

Then it all fell apart, and the geeky interwebs were rocked by this announcement. With series director Sam Raimi departing to presumably work more solidly on his World of WarCraft movie (more about that in another post), the Spidey franchise was starting anew... with a new filmmaking team, cast and storyline.

Taking its cue from the wildly popular Ultimate Spider-Man comic series, the Spider-Man film reboot will portray Peter Parker not as a college student and part-time newspaper photographer living in a rundown New York City apartment, but rather as a shy teenager staying with his elderly aunt and uncle in Queens. Like Ultimate Spider-Man, the new Spidey film will focus on the weeks and months after Peter develops his amazing arachnid powers - gained when he is bitten by a genetically modified spider - and has to juggle his secret identity with the angst-saturated complexities of high school, and his hormone-fueled lust for dream girl Mary Jane Watson.

Although casting has only just tentatively begun, (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb has been selected to helm the new film.

Frankly, I'm all for a Spider-Man reboot on the big screen. Once you overcome the admittedly distasteful thought of remaking something that is only 8 years old (or 3, if you consider Spider-Man 3 was released only in 2007), it does make sense to take the franchise in a new direction. Spidey 3 ended having resolved most of the issues raised over the course of the first 3 films, and it was unclear how the series could progress in future installments. More will-they-won't-they pensive looks between Peter and Mary Jane? *Yawn*

The thought of a teenage Spider-Man is really exciting - personally I think you can do a lot with the concept, just as you could with a Captain Marvel film (which I'm still waiting for, Hollywood!).

I think the shocked reaction to the reboot announcement mostly stemmed from the fact that, as I've mentioned above, it seems like we just watched a Spider-Man film the other week. However, if you pause for a moment and contemplate the issue then you remember that Marvel has already rebooted 2 of its movie franchises... and over similarly short periods of time. There was a 5 year gap between Hulk and The Incredible Hulk, as well as 4 years between Punisher and Punisher: War Zone. Then there's the persistent rumours that relaunches are being developed for 3 of Marvel's most critically reviled film adaptations, the Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider and Daredevil.

Plus, it's always worth remembering how well a reboot (after an 8 year break) worked for the Batman movie franchise, whereas 2006's Superman Returns tried to maintain the storyline continuity established in 1978's Superman and 1980's Superman II, and failed to impress anyone in the process.

The most important point worth considering though is that superhero film reboots are themselves based on a Pop Culture medium that thrives on reimaginings. Many a comic hero would have vanished forever had writers and artists felt paralysed by canon and never bothered to try anything new to make the character more relevant for a new generation of readers. For better or worse, filmmakers working on their own reboot, have a wealth of existing, alternate interpretations to work with.

Returning to the topic of the new Spider-Man, in brand new reboot news, it's no surprise given the current lust for all things 3D that the new film will be released in the multidimensional format. This does of course make sense for another reason. Spider-Man, with all its climbing, leaping and swinging across the urban skyline, is a natural action-packed candidate for a 3D treatment. We've already seen this potential in the other 3 non-3D Spidey movies.

Although it has yet to be cast, and the script is still in development, the new Spider-Man film has already been assigned a tentative release date: 3 July 2012. Just 2 and a bit years to wait then...


Anonymous said…
Bendis showed how great the dynamics and setting of a high school Spidey can be in Ultimate Spider-man, and the way Sean McKeever wrote high-school MJ in Spider-man loves Mary Jane is a far better template for webslinging romance than the way they played it with whatsername in the movies... I hope they go young and carefree for this. - matt
Dante said…
I am all for reboots for a new generation but this is ridiculous. I didn't understand why Hulk and Punisher needed a reboot and I don't understand why spidey needs a reboot. Also, this causes a lot of confusion at cinema's and if I hear someone say this is a prequel to the other spideys i might just smack-a-bitch! I heard that in the Hulk cinema and in the punisher cinema. Hell, I once heard someone ask after watching Cloverland, "did this actually happen?". Anyway, I digress.

This is stupid!
MJenks said…
Hulk needed a reboot because the first movie was so dreadfully terrible.

I'm worried that this will suddenly go from angst to self-loathing, and then we'll be back to what made the last two Spider-Man films crappy (in my opinion). I realize Watchmen is the gold standard for the mindset of superheroes, but sometimes you just have to have the Superman person of "I am doing this because I can."

Speaking of Supes...that movie would have been a whole lot better if Tom Welling had been Superman. Oh, and if they hadn't given him a kid. What the hell? You've jumped the shark already! The movie can only be terrible from there on.
Pfangirl said…
Thanks for the comments from an informed reader, Matt:) I would be so happy of they went young, carefree and fun with the reboot. The 2nd and 3rd films were such downers especially, with a disappointing amount of time spent out of costume as well.

Dante, I know completely what you mean when you talk about stupid moviegoers who are so easily confused (I had it recently with someone proclaiming loudly during Paranormal Activity "Did this really happen?") Reboots only make things worse because these same morons can't process the idea that different interpretations of the same character can exist side by side.

Mjenks, I definitely preferred the 2nd Hulk movie. At the same time, I think rebooting the Fantastic Four is unnecessary because I thought the films nailed the characters.

As for Superman Returns, while I was generally quite accepting of the film I totally agree that the kid was a horrible, horrible, horrible idea. Plus it made Lois so boring and responsible. Curiously though, the plot of Returns - as well as the pregnancy - fit well with the Richard Donner cut of Superman II (which unfortunately so few people, myself included) have been exposed to:

Dante said…
Pfangirl - Hahaha, say what you will about comic book readers but we understand multiple universes and continuity! :P

Also something that I remembered, Hulk and Punisher might have been reboots but they weren't really origin stories like their earlier counter parts. All you had about the origin of the character was flashbacks. I dig that about the "remakes". But I also felt that punisher didn't need a remake. I loved the first (technically Second) one.
James Francis said…
Reboot or not, I suspect Sony did this as a last measure. Raimi walking out was a culmination of studio interference with the third film continuing into the fourth (at least as far as the guys on /Film's podcast are concerned).

The really good news for me here is that Raimi is finally onto something new. Drag Me To Hell was a great return to form and hopefully he'll get going with his plans to reboot The Evil Dead.
Pfangirl said…
Dante, I haven't seen the Ray Stevenson Punisher, or the Dolph Lundgren one for that matter, so I can't comment, but like you I'm glad that the "reboots" don't dwell on the origin stories. I think it would be so boring if every time there was a character reboot we were subjected to the same beginning story. That's the one thing about the character that doesn't normally change... or change much.

James, if Sony was going to do with Spidey what they did with 3 - forcing the use of so many villains - then it's a good thing Raimi walked. I must confess though I'm hoping he prioritises his WOW movie before more Evil Deads though:)

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