(AP) Rebooting ‘Spider-Man,’ in a flash
By JAKE COYLE
AP Entertainment Writer
On a weekend in January of 2010, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios pivoted faster than even Spider-Man would dare.
A fourth installment of the hugely popular Spider-man franchise was planned, with director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire returning to their trilogy of films that had earned more than $2.5 billion at the global box office and generally been hailed as a standard-bearer in big-screen comic book adaptations.
But by that Monday, Raimi’s dissatisfaction with the script and the producers’ eagerness for a new movie had come to a head. In a flash, the sequel was kaput, and a reboot was ordered up. Next Tuesday, “The Amazing Spider-Man” will be released, charting a new start for the web-slinger just five years after “Spider-Man 3.”
Reboots of film franchises have been typically launched many more years later than that. But today, “five years is a lifetime in the movie business,” says Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal. “I wasn’t troubled by it.”
Reasons for reboots vary from restoring dormant franchises (“Star Trek”), to refreshing long-running ones (James Bond) or improving on previous failures (The Hulk).
The Hulk was famously tried twice, in 2003 and 2008 by Marvel and Universal Pictures. Similarly, a new Superman (“Man of Steel”) is due out next year from Warner Bros., a new start for the DC Comics’ character after 2006’s “Superman Returns” disappointed.
That makes the $200 million “Amazing Spider-Man” a somewhat daring maneuver, bound to face comparisons to the recent Spider-Man films and skepticism from some moviegoers.
To combat any Spidey fatigue, Sony has imbued the new, 3-D “Spider-Man” with youth: Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker, Emma Stone plays his girlfriend Gwen Stacy and Marc Webb, whose only previous feature was 2009’s “(500) Days of Summer,” directs.
Webb’s vision of the film (written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves) is predicated on Parker’s origin _ tracing his history as an orphan and beginning with his parents. That also means, come high school, covering some of the same ground from Raimi’s first “Spider-Man”: the spider bite, the uncle’s death, the school hallway showdowns.
That inflection is closer to the Spider-Man of the comics. Garfield’s version of the hero is more sarcastic, lithe and twitchy _ more of a rebellious teen.
The 28-year-old British actor from “The Social Network,” who’s fresh off an acclaimed performance in “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway, wanted to honor the previous incarnations of Spider-Man. A fan of the comics since childhood, he says taking on the role was less a decision to consider than a matter of listening to “my inner 3-year-old screaming at me.”
After moving through some of the iconic elements of the Spider-Man story, the film brings in a new villain from the comics: the Lizard, as transformed from the scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). The film reminds one that Spider-Man remains a young man’s superhero: It works best as a coming of age story. Had “Spider-Man 4” gone ahead (Maguire is now 36), producers said it would have been the last of the series.
Certainly, unending serial storytelling is part of the spirit of comics, which typically flow in constant weekly or monthly installments.
It’s also an enormously lucrative franchise, with robust merchandizing and popular accompanying video games. “The Amazing Spider-Man” keeps that machine churning. Early reviews have generally been positive and global box office expectations are running high.
A sequel is already in the works, with production expected to begin early next year. The huge success of “The Avengers” has stoked speculation that Spider-Man could be roped into the next episode, of which Arad says, “Anything is possible.”
Either way, the future possibilities for more Spider-Man are again limitless. Says Arad: “This can be so many movies.”
Contact Jake Coyle at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle