So this is what contracts have brought us to.
A few years back, the gang at Marvel realized there was more money (and more creative control – take that, Fox!) in producing their own films as opposed to signing over the rights of their characters to other studios. Of course, the gang at Marvel is pretty smart, so they had written into their contracts with these various studios that made the character screen rights revert back to Marvel in the event that a studio just sat on a property without making a film from it. This is, of course, how Marvel was able to get the screen rights for the Hulk back from Universal. And, thank God, too. Can you imagine Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie without the Hulk in it?
So, after the debacle that was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3* (and with negotiations with Raimi for SM4 getting contentious), Sony Pictures was placed in an awkward position. They had to make a movie or lose the rights to Spidey back to Marvel. Sony decided to punt.
What’s the term? Oh yeah, “reboot.” That’s what they decided to do. They decided to reboot the Spider-Man franchise just as Warner Bros. had been oh-so-successful by letting Chris Nolan re-conceive Batman. And, with the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man now released for the world to see, there’s only one little problem:
Apparently, nobody at Sony understood what “reboot” meant.
A reboot implies a reimagining or a reinvention. Fox (of all people Fox!) did that to great effect last summer by very successfully reinventing the X-Men films as a 1960s-set origin story.
The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a reboot. It’s a remake. It’s a remake of Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man film that came out a short ten years ago. It has the same production team. It has one of the same screenwriters. There’s literally no reason for this movie to exist outside of contractual obligations. There’s no inspiration.
Here’s what they’ve done to “reboot” Spider-Man:
They’ve recast all of the actors.
They’ve changed the director.
They’ve subbed Gwen Stacy in for Mary Jane Watson.
They’ve subbed one green villain for another.
They’ve added crappy intrigue about the disappearance of Peter’s parents.
They’ve added the words “The” and “Amazing” to the title.
And, that’s about it.
To be fair, some of the changes are good. Andrew Garfield is great as Peter Parker, way better than that hangdog Tobey Maguire who looked and acted like he was 35 years old and still in high school. Likewise, Emma Stone blows the unemotive zombie known as Kirsten Dunst out of the water. I liked Martin Sheen a lot, but there’s no way anybody (in this case Sally Field) is going to hold a candle to the fantastic Rosemary Harris as Aunt May. Denis Leary is a nice addition as Gwen’s dad.
But, as much as I like a lot of these actors, they just can’t overcome the huge sensation of déjà vu this film gives off. And, the phony baloney nonsense about Peter’s long-lost parents make his scenes with Uncle Ben about Richard Parker and not about Peter and Ben’s relationship. Uncle Ben’s death should be devastating and it barely registers here.
Also problematic for me is the inconsistency with which they seemed to approach The Lizard. At one point in the movie, he goes headlong into full-on villainy without much motivation or explanation. And, as a CG creation, the Lizard is a really awful design.
Kudos to the effects team who finally solved the problem of CG Spidey looking like he had no density or weight. The swinging through New York scenes are a vast improvement over the Raimi films. The 3D is really a bust, as well; it adds absolutely nothing to the experience. Save your money and see it in 2D.
The pieces are in place for the inevitable TASM2 to be good. I really like Andrew Garfield a lot. But, there’s got to be more inspiration to be had if this series is going to be amazing.
*I caught about 20 minutes of Raimi’s SM3 the other night on FX, and it is absolutely the train wreck I remember it being.