Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: How soon is too soon for a reboot?

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A scene from the new Spider-Man reboot. Photo / Supplied
A scene from the new Spider-Man reboot. Photo / Supplied

Remember 10 years ago when the word "reboot" didn't exist in the cinematic vernacular? All we had were sequels, prequels, remakes and re-interpretations. It was truly a golden age.

These days it seems like half the movies released are reboots: Films which take an existing series and attempt to start again with a new approach of varying difference to the original.

It's difficult to deny mainstream cinema's ruthless commercial imperative at the best of times, but it can be especially off-putting when discerning a film's creative reason-for-being is almost impossible. This balancing of the creative and the commercial is the essential dichotomy of Hollywood, and it's a fine line.

As a dedicated lover of popcorn movies, I am very much at peace with the business aspect of blockbusters, but these days there are more and more movies that scream their shameless money-grabbing from the mountaintop, and it can adversely affect one's perception going in.

This feels like the case with The Amazing Spider-Man, released everywhere - including New Zealand - next Wednesday, July 4.

The massive success of the 2002 Spider-Man film kicked the superhero trend spurred by the success of 2000's X-Men into overdrive, directly leading to the superhero-dominated movie landscape we currently enjoy.

The 2004 sequel was gangbusters, but while 2007's Spider-Man 3 made a mint at the box-office, all parties were in agreement that the series had gotten off track.

"No worries, we'll just start again" was the studio's mentality, I presume.

A fourth Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire Spider-Man film was a strong possibility for a while, but the studio hedged their bets by concurrently developing a script for a new Spidey film that went back to the beginning, telling the story all over again.

With all signs pointing to a lack of creative control causing Raimi to bail, Sony got the ball rolling on their new Spidey film, The Amazing Spider-Man, which arrives a mere five years after the final film in the last series, and only a decade since Spider-Man.

I'm not against reboots in general - they've lead to some of the coolest movies ever, like 1987's The Living Daylights (Dalton for life!), 2005's Batman Begins or this year's Prometheus (which I reckon counts as a reboot).

The difference between these films and The Amazing Spider-Man is that the series being rebooted felt like they had come to some sort of an organic end point. They were dormant, and ripe for rebooting.

The last Batman film before Batman Begins was 1997's notorious stinker Batman & Robin, which everybody agreed had laid the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher series to rest.

There hadn't been a proper Alien film since 1997's Alien: Resurrection, and nobody was heralding the Alien vs Predator efforts as any kind of legitimate continuation of the story. So those reboots felt welcome.

But The Amazing Spider-Man feels like a commercial avenue demanding to be explored. There is no discernible imperative beyond Sony simply not wanting to let their prize property lie still when there is money to be made. Audiences may see this film, but they did not demand it.

Outside its reason for existing, The Amazing Spider-Man looks pretty cool and could well be awesome. I'm seeing it tonight.

I'm very intrigued to see what it does to differentiate itself from the Raimi films, because going by the trailer, it looks pretty darn similar: Agile, vertiginous action, light-hearted jibes, a nerd-made-good plot and a marginally different costume.

Dim your eyes when Andrew Garfield (who plays Peter Parker) is on screen, and you could easily be watching a trailer for one of the Raimi films.

But this is just the trailer of course, and the film (directed by 500 Days of Summer's appropriately-named Marc Webb) may end up doing a good job of eliminating the aftertaste of Spider-Man 3.

I feel the need to acknowledge that it's kinda arbitrary that the reason I view The Amazing Spider-Man with cynical eyes is down to its temporal proximity to the previous Spider-Man films.

Would I really be more comfortable with the film if it came out in say, 2015, when the other Spider-Man films had a chance to seep out of the collective memory? Should I really take a negative angle just because Sony didn't rest on their laurels? Maybe they should be applauded for just getting on with it?

But no, the timing just seems ... hasty. And it's probably indicative of the accelerated schedule of all future comic book movies. Warner Bros are undoubtedly already planning their post-Nolan Batman film.

As a comics-devouring child, Spider-Man meant a lot to me growing up, so maybe I'm just slightly more protective towards the character than others. I love how he's pretty much pop culture's most prominent (non-tortured) superhero now, having shifted longtime champ Superman into second place.

Speaking of which, I am mega-amped for next year's Superman reboot Man of Steel. By the time that film is released, it will have been seven years since Superman Returns. That's only two years more than the time between Spider-Man 3 and The Amazing Spider-Man, yet Man of Steel feels somehow more justified.

Boy, I guess I really am fickle.

* Do hasty reboots put you off a movie? Are you amped for The Amazing Spider-Man? Should Sony have waited a few more years before making it? Comment below!

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