On paper, summer superhero blockbusters are going to be huge in 2012. Just with big names like Batman and Spider-Man alone that’s big business with characters that have endured a great box office career but add all of The Avengers assembled into their outing and we’re talking potentially really, really HUGE box office numbers this year. However in amongst the excitement for Bats vs. Bane and the Avengers vs. Loki & Co and explosions and Hulk – this new Spider-man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, doesn’t seem to be generating the hype or excitement expected for such a big franchise.
At this point it’s not coming off as all that ‘amazing’.
The original Sam Raimi stab at the web-slinging franchise, which kicked open the doors for the superhero movie invasion to grow to where it is today and set a standard in comic book movies that has pretty much been duplicated through the entire Marvel movie franchise, was huge. Even with a terrible third entry in the series, Spider-Man is still a cultural icon that kids and adults alike adore, so why isn’t the movie world abuzz with The Amazing Spider-Man hype like it is with many of the other summer arrivals?
There are a number of reasons for this. For starters the initial reaction is that it feels too soon to reboot Spider-Man. It’s also felt that it’s not even all that necessary really, given the Raimi’s approach to our friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man was damn close to the comic’s sensibilities and created the almost perfect world for Spider-Man to live in. There’s also the lukewarm response to The Lizard as the villain and his generic green monster looks without the character’s signature white lab coat, making this a hard sell to the fans. On more of a personal note, the trailer seems to imply the film will be ‘mask off’ heavy, which is a bug bear that I feel lets down most superhero flicks and the tone of the film feels too dark for the character, a trait that held back Superman Returns from feeling right as well.
With all this in mind I recently revisited the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, looking for the angles that might make The Amazing Spider-Man rise up above what has come before it and I was surprised to find just how much of room there is for improvement.
Let’s begin with the casting. Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker fits like a damn spider-glove. This young actor convinced me 100% of his Parker-ness in The Social Network and pretty much every role he’s played carries all the right elements to make a good Parker. From the limited amount we’ve seen of him in the trailer, he seems to be getting quiet school kid Peter Parker perfectly (say that three times fast) even if the grungier emo Parker approach seems to be calling out to the Twilight crowd more than I’d like. Also a plus note, this Peter Parker seems like he’s going to remain a school kid for the duration of the movie. Raimi’s limited time with a school going Parker felt liked a missed opportunity to a degree so spending more time her seems great.
As for Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey, she seems a great choice too. The decision to include Gwen is the one big one that lets me accept the total reboot a little easier. After Spider-Man 3 there’s no way Gwen Stacey could have fit into another sequel. All the Mary Jane stuff was all worked out (for the second time), the Green Goblin stuff had gone too far (and got far to fibreglass-y) and the impact of Gwen’s fate would not have been felt if this latest Spidey movie was Spider-Man 4. Gwen and Peter’s relationship deserves the reboot and while I doubt anything Goblin-y will happen in the first movie, building these two up for a fall (pun intended) in the sequels seems like a great move for Spider-man fans.
So with the leads all sorted and seemingly perfect choices. Let’s delve a bit deeper. I’m going to reserve judgment to a degree at this point because we don’t know what Aunt May (Sally Field), Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) will really bring to the table with the small amounts we’ve seen of them but really it’s these characters that bring the excitement in to a bit of a slump.
Really no one needs Uncle Ben here. Raimi’s Spider-origin was damn near perfect so the idea we have to potentially go through all this again and to have it changed for change’s sake is not something I’m looking forward to. Also the addition of Parker’s parents and this whole ‘The story never told’ stuff feels shoe horned in at this point and will really need to offer up something strong as well as easy to swallow if it doesn’t want to feel like a Batman Begins spin. Unfortunately for this reboot they also have a dull villain who’s only really unique feature (the lab coat) isn’t even present. The Lizard could offer up something given the right story but again I don’t want to comment until I’ve seen the film really as there’s very little to go on so far (beyond a dull design for the character).
Despite all of these elements being an unknown factor that could tilt the film’s appeal either way, all of these actors are solid choices. Field and Sheen in these roles can’t do anything but shine, right? And Ifans only needs to make something special and avoid going generic for Doc Connor’s and we could actually be in for a treat. In fact the best thing about Lizard is there is room to explore and possibly create something quite special…maybe.
Okay, so with all that said, it’s potentially the plot that is the main thing making this feel less than amazing but what about Spider-Man himself? Our star, our hero? We all know by now the suit has had a slight redesign. The yellow eyes, the colour variations, it’s all quite noticeably different but I can respect that Sony and Marc Webb want to stamp their unique spin (another pun, sorry) on this reboot and there’s an element that works wonders for me. This new Spider-Man seems a whole lot more man-in-suit as opposed to Raimi’s CGI-a-mungus approach. Now I’m not saying they ain’t gonna be computer generating Spider-Man, of course they are but Webb’s approach is very much man-in-suit as much as possible and judging by set photos and clips he seems to be sticking to it. Spider-Man works so well when he’s a real guy running, swinging and kicking around in his PJs. There were a few shots in Raimi’s Spider-man that proved that, one being a very quick view of Spider-Man in Spider-Man 3, where he’s standing in the turned over security truck about to face off with Sandman and him just being ‘there’ as opposed to being a computer generated Spider-man clicks something on in my spider-heart and I hope to see a lot more of it here.
Also there’s the web-slingers. Sure they seem to flash red for no real reason when new-spidey shoots them and yeah it feels a bit like a toy advert for a re-launch of the popular line of silly string sprayers but damn it I’ll take it just to say Spider-man has web slingers again. Sure there’s a good argument for the organic slingers (mainly from the post 2000 Spider-fans) but real Spider-Man wears web slingers. He attaches them to his wrists and they fire the fluid Science-Parker made himself. It’s comic book stuff guys, if you love the organic route, you’ll love Spider-Man 2099 (where they originated from) but hardcore Spider-fan know that Peter Parker makes web slingers and seeing them here is a reason to get joyful. While we’re on being joyful, Spider-man has also got his lip back. Peter Parker is a witty guy, even more so as in his red and blue tights and the trailers have shown he’s going be the cocky fun Spider-man he is in the comics. Maguire’s Spidey had hints of this but it was always an element that missing (or came with an emo fringe and a dance – shudder). So the triple strike of man-in-suit, web slingers and smart mouthing just made Spider-man more Spider-man than he’s ever been on the big screen before, even if it’s only a slight tweek and that’s a reason to get excited…right?
So overall, The Amazing Spider-Man. July 2012. Sure it’s darker than we’d like. Sure the Lizard isn’t all that exciting (yet) and yeah this reboot is either going to retread old ground or misstep into a ground some won’t want to go to but remember folks this is the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man. So Sony had to make a movie or they’d have to lose the rights to a big screen sure fire hit and yeah a reboot might be too soon but on a plus side we look to be gaining a more in depth approach to Spider-Man, taking our time with his school years, giving us time with Parker the scientist and the Parker and Gwen relationship.
We get to forget the screw ups with Venom, the terrible Green Goblin suit and the power rangers style fights that held back elements of Raimi’s otherwise great approach the franchise. With Marc Webb’s take on the character we get web slingers, reduced and or at least improved CGI, a smart mouthed Spidey and a really bloody good actor playing him. We get Gwen Stacey (not MJ being Gwen Stacey) and we get some really great actors in supporting roles but most of all we get to spend more time with Spider-Man, a character that is made for great cinematic fare (imagine the possibilities in 3D for Spider-Man – on of the few movies that intrigues me in the third dimension). The Amazing Spider-Man is a movie that deserves a little more hype I think. Sure we’re dubious and yeah good ol’ reliable Spider-Man doesn’t feel quite as exciting as Bane coming to Gotham or the Avengers saving the world at this point but don’t count Spider-Man out yet. Peter Parker is always on the sidelines wanting to feel like a real hero and you never know he just might surprise us all.