Jan 18 2010

Spiderman, Spiderman, What Will Become of Spiderman?

Last week, Sam Raimi walked away from his contract with Sony to make the next three Spiderman films, and took the film series’ principle cast with him.  As a result, Sony is planning to reboot the series entirely.

Citing disagreements over deadlines and creative differences, Raimi decided to leave the project in Sony’s hands.  Currently, Sony has given screenwriter James Vanderbilt (The Rundown, Zodiac) the task of re-writing Spiderman.  Vanderbilt’s script reportedly focuses more on character than Raimi’s version, and will follow Peter Parker as he deals with the responsibilities of his newfound powers along with the everyday problems of being a high school student.  That’s right, Peter Parker is going back to high school.

I think it’s fair to say that everyone has mixed feelings about this sudden overhaul of the Spiderman legacy.  Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy has done extremely well in the box office and with critics (save for part three), and, along with the X-Men films, jumpstarted Marvel’s big move to the big screen with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, along with the upcoming films based on Thor, Hank Pym and the rest of the Avengers.  However, the idea of rebooting a film series that only just began less than a decade ago suggests that Hollywood has indeed gone reboot crazy, which does pose a threat to some of our more beloved cinematic heroes.

Hollywood’s creative brilliance aside, is this particular plan to reboot Spiderman wise, or should we just let sleeping arachnids lie?

Reboots are always intriguing in theory, but its practice is rather unpredictable.  On the one hand, its always fun seeing the same story through the eyes of another filmmaker, and the same characters portrayed by different actors.  Take Batman, for example.  Same character, same general story, but the differences between the Nolan and Burton versions are like night and day, yet fascinating to compare.  Both filmmakers took their own interpretations of the Batman saga to the screen with considerable success, and in turn, the audience got to witness two different interpretations of Gotham City and its favorite dark knight.

Then again, a reboot can always be handed to a filmmaker who bastardizes the vision, leaving legions of fanboys and casual admirers with a bitter taste in their mouths.  Just look at the Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and Batman and Robin; a third and fourth take on the Batman legacy that sucked out loud.  With its glossy, gothic camp and rubber nipples, Schumacher’s take on Batman is still seen as one of the most notorious jokes in Hollywood history; Warner Brothers was better off leaving the series alone post-Burton.

According to "Spiderman 3", looking like Pete Wentz means you're evil. Actually, that might be true in the real world too.

However, without Schumacher’s sado-masochist carnival of bat-horrors, we wouldn’t have Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, which showed the world that superhero films could be taken seriously.  Though Spiderman and Spiderman 2 were very well received and remembered,  Spiderman 3, with it’s shallow characterization, emo haircuts signifying evil and impromptu dance numbers (?), ruined the Spiderman legacy and seriously shook the public’s confidence in Raimi to continue the series.  This being the case, the real question we have to ask is whether or not this reboot of the Spiderman series will be rebirth, or will act as that last drop of rain that washed the spider out.

With Vanderbilt’s character-focused script in mind, it might be nice to see a new beginning for Peter Parker.  Tobey Maguire did a good job in the role, but he never made much of an impression while out of costume; as Peter Parker, things just happened to him, like Uncle Ben’s death or his chronic unemployment, but we never really got to see how these things affected him on a personal level, aside from his superhero career acting as a welcomed escape from the real world.  Plus, Maguire’s sarcasm always felt a bit forced, and it would be really nice to see a wisecracking Spiderman again.

Rumor has it is Marc Webb has been picked to direct the new Spiderman film, which adds more promise to this hasty reboot strategy.  Judging from his recent success with (500) Days of Summer, Webb knows exactly how to bring the audience into his characters’ own little world.  Although we’ve yet to see how Webb can direct an action sequence, his pop culture sensibilities will do him good in asserting the wonder and youthful excitement that has always made Spiderman one of the more fun superheroes in the crime fighting community.

Of course, my biggest concern lies in the new setting: high school.  When I think of superheroes stuck in high school, I think of Smallville, one of the worst shows in the history of television.  The last thing I want to see is Peter Parker thrown into a world of trite melodrama, flat characters, and the idea that no matter how difficult it is to save the world week-to-week, high school will always be infinitely more relevant and important in one’s life.  Maybe its just me (it shouldn’t be), but I don’t want to see a scene in which Peter can’t decide whether he should go out patrolling or study for his Algebra test tomorrow.  I don’t want to see a scene were Peter gets shoved in a locker by Flash Thompson, or can’t muster up the courage to ask Mary Jane out, or suddenly remembering that he didn’t do is science report because he was too busy apprehending Mysterio.

Only time will tell, really, what will become of the world’s favorite webslinger.  All we know is Vanderbilt has written a script, and Webb is in talks to direct; both of which look like promising choices.  So long as Taylor Lautner and a redheaded Vanessa Hudgens are not cast in the lead roles, this new reboot may not be horrible.  After all, it can’t be any worse that Spiderman 3.

My vote for the role of Spiderman goes to this guy.

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