In 1997, Joel Schumacher publicly executed the Batman franchise with the camp, cartoon-esque critical and box-office failure that was Batman and Robin. Five years later, Die Another Day, more commonly known as ‘the one with the invisible car’ murdered the James Bond franchise in cold blood.
These two ailing franchises, in a last-ditch attempt at life, went darker, more realistic, and went back to the beginning. Batman Begins (2005) and Casino Royale (2006) were box-office hits, and quite abnormally for ‘blockbusters’, were critically acclaimed.
With that, the ‘gritty reboot’ was born.
And now, here we are in summer 2012,and the latest to sample the magic reboot formula is the lucrative Spider-Man franchise. However, it was only a mere 27 months after Spider-Man 3 that a reboot was announced. This reboot is shockingly premature, and the whole thing stinks of commercial trend-following. Here’s why.
Of the following criteria, match up which ones are used in Batman Begins and which are used in The Amazing Spider-Man:
1) An Indie director with no history in blockbuster filmmaking.
2) Darker visuals.
3) Exploring the origins of the character.
4) A British lead actor playing an American.
5) A Hollywood legend as father figure.
It’s all of them. They all match up. Of course that was a loaded test, but it’s hard to ignore ASM’s lack of originality in ‘reinventing’ the character.
This is, in my opinion, because Spider-Man hasn’t been turned over to the creative department, as with many reboots. The franchise is still in the vice-like grip of the producers, who can be slaves to formula. But the reboot formula either doesn’t work for ASM, or isn’t properly used.
1) Batman and James Bond had never had their origins played out on screen before. Tim Burton’s Batman and Dr. No both begin with their characters already fully exposed. However, Spider-Man had already shown us the origins. Worse still, Amazing Spider-Man shows us the exact same origin story, with minor detail changes. It’s difficult to yank emotions out of the audience by showing them what they’ve already seen.
2) Batman Begins spent almost the entire film dealing with character development; Bruce Wayne is still getting to grips with being Batman by the film’s final act, same goes for James Bond. ASM, on the other hand, concludes the origin in the first act and spends the rest of the film dealing with different issues and a major villain. This is an identical plot formula to the first Spider-Man film and raises the question of why this film exists at all.
3) Director Marc Webb said - “I wanted it to be more grounded and more realistic and that went for the emotion of the scenes.”
The film features a big talking lizard.
One of the brilliances of recent reboots is they allow these ridiculous stories to be rationally explained. Did anyone seriously not buy Heath Ledger’s interpretation of The Joker as an anonymous terrorist with a sadistic sense of humour? The Nolan Batman films strip the original ideas down to their basics and make them work in the real world. Belief is the key tool in getting the audience to emote with your film, but when you see a big stupid CGI lizard talking in a Welsh accent, your belief evaporates.
The final thing that bothers me is that this Spider-Man franchise is just as much a commercial whore-house as the first one. It’s already been confirmed that a trilogy has been planned. One of the reasons I have so much faith In Christopher Nolan’s Batman series is that he puts story first. When asked whether he’d be making a sequel to the 2008 mega-hit The Dark Knight, he responded:
What’s the story? Is there a story that’s going to keep me emotionally invested for the couple of years that it will take to make another one? On a more superficial level, I have to ask the question: How many good third movies in a franchise can people name?
The ‘Quality First, Quantity Second’ approach is what keeps franchises fresh and exciting, a detail which has been crucially missed by our friends, the producers of The Amazing Spider-Man.