(This is an extended preview of the PopRox column in Sunday’s Pocono Record, kinda like tonight’s preview of the season premiere of Wilfred on FX).
When The Amazing Spider-Man premieres in theaters July 3, it represents one of the biggest risks in Hollywood history.
Sony, the studio behind the first three Spider-Man movies, decided to trash the actors and crew members that made them more than $1.1 billion the first time around and hire a mostly unknown (*cough* cheaper *cough* *cough*) cast and crew to start the whole thing over again.
Now the studio is banking on one thing — that you care more, way more, about Spider-Man than you do about Tobey Maguire. And that you care more about the psychological answers to why Peter Parker is who he is instead of how he got here.
Time to pro-con the quickest and potentially riskiest franchise reboot we’ve ever seen:
PRO FOR THE NEW MOVIE REBOOT: It worked for Batman.
If it weren’t for the wild, unbridled critical and commercial success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, none of these recent comic book franchise reboots (Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman) would be happening. Or at least not happening this fast. Nolan gave Hollywood the formula for creating a new series from an old one, and now it’s up to other movie-makers to follow it.
CON: It didn’t work for Superman. Or The Punisher. Or The Incredible Hulk.
Apparently Nolan holds the patent on remaking a comic book character. Good thing he’s a producer on the 2013 Superman re-reboot, Man of Steel.
PRO: Marc Webb takes over as director.
His only feature credit so far is (500) Days of Summer, which could be the best, most inventive, romantic comedy of the last decade. He’s certainly got the name for the job, which you have to hope isn’t the sole reason he got the job when some marketing whiz kid got hold of the studio head and said, I can sell that! He says he’s more of a Peter Parker fan than he is a Spider-Man fan, which is what any keeper of this sacred franchise should be.
CON: Marc Webb takes over as director.
It’s a very tough prospect to go from an independent rom-com to one of the biggest franchises in movie history. And I don’t recall Zooey Deschanel jumping from buildings in his first movie. How about this as a frame of reference: In the last six months, we’ve seen two odd choices for the director of a franchise or potential franchise — Brad Bird taking over Mission: Impossible and Andrew Stanton helming John Carter. Both had only done animation projects previously. Bird killed, Stanton tanked. So you have to think Webb probably stands that 50/50 shot.
PRO: A sequel already is in the works with a tight production schedule.
In 2011, Sony announced the second installment of the latest franchise will be released May 2, 2014. Obviously, the studio bosses liked what they saw of the first one (or maybe they didn’t). While it usually takes three years to get an action movie sequel into theaters (Dark Knight Rises took four), the next Amazing Spider-Man will be back less than two. That shows a ton of confidence not just the current movie, but also the team behind making it.
CON: The sequel’s script already is reportedly being rewritten by the writing duo behind Transformers. Shoot me, please. To be fair, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are also the pair behind Fringe, one of TV’s best shows.
PRO: New Peter Parker Andrew Garfield really hasn’t been bad in anything yet.
For as unknown as he might be — and as the star of a major franchise, he’s pretty unknown — he doesn’t have a stinker on his resume yet. The Social Network is turning out to be one of the most rewatchable movies of the last few years and he was the star of the Red Riding trilogy, a little-known British gem. He hasn’t done action before, but neither did Shia Labeuf until Transformers or Ewan McGregor before he took over as Obi Wan. Those turned out just fine.
CON: He’s, like, 30.
OK, he’ll only be 29 in August. But that’s pretty close to 30, and he’s playing a high schooler! What, Jason Priestly and Luke Perry weren’t available? Tobey Maguire wasn’t much better, he was 26 when the first Spider-Man came out, so it probably shouldn’t be too big a deal. It just seems like it is a big deal.
PRO: Maybe it needed a reboot anyway.
I walked out of the theater thinking Spider-Man 3 was good. But after multiple viewings, I’m not going to say I was wrong, but I’m certainly not as confident as I was when I walked out of the theater in 2007. There is a good 45 minutes of the third that is pretty useless and self-indulgent. The whole “Emo Peter” thing is just gross. I throw up in my mouth a little bit every time Peter comes out of that Fifth Avenue store wearing all black and starts disco dancing. “Hey everyone, he’s bad! Know how I know? He’s wearing all black!” It’s such a hokey device you get the feeling the reports were true, that there were just too many cooks in that pot. “Hmm, Sam, just spit-balling here, but we don’t think Venom Peter looks quite different enough from Regular Peter. Can he wear a goatee so it looks like he has an evil twin? No? You’ll walk off the set right now and firebomb the editing room if we force you to do that? OK, OK. How ’bout we just part Tobey’s hair on the opposite side and put black shoe polish in it? It will only look about 40 percent stupid, we can live with that.”
CON: Maybe they would have learned from their mistakes.
I have a feeling original director Sam Raimi, given the chance, would have kicked the living crap out of a fourth one and blown us all away because he knows how screwed up the third one was. He knows it got away from him, which is why he was looking for so much control on the fourth. The fact that he was perfectly willing to walk away from the huge payday because it was obvious he would be getting the same studio interference that effed up the third one tells me he had more stories to tell, he just wanted to tell them his way. You know, like he did in the first two. And he had no desire to further ruin the Spider-Man image he carefully crafted for five years before the studio started chiming in. Alas, we’ll never know. All we can do is get on board with the new version.