The news that Sony is rebooting the successful and recent Spider-Man franchise has actually made me angry. I’m angry not just as a fan of the Spider-Man character and the movies Sam Raimi has made with him, I’m angry as a person who has had my expectations constantly lowered by Hollywood but who never thought he’d see an insta-reboot like this. It’s the depths of creativity and the apex of shittiness, as far as I’m concerned.
First of all, Sony’s about to screw up the Spider-Man franchise. Their press release crows about bringing Peter Parker back to high school age in this reboot, and near as I can tell this means one thing and one thing only: Hello, Twilight fanbase. Raimi’s Spider-Man aged in real time, and Spider-Man 4 would have seen an adult Peter Parker getting ready to possibly get married. This isn’t sexy to the 14 year old girls who scream at Robert Pattinson, and frankly neither is Tobey Maguire. Starting over means the chance to get into that tween zeitgeist, and to cast a Peter Parker who will elicit long lines at Comic Con not just from the usual fanboys but also from hordes of screaming girls.
As a friend said to me on Twitter, Sony wouldn’t go chasing lower grosses, meaning the Twilight films have been outperformed by even the weakest Spider-Man film. But they would go chasing the heat of that franchise – the cultural cache and the endless free publicity. But it isn’t like Sony’s choice makes a lick of sense anyway, as the franchise remains in strong shape, with Spider-Man 3 making 330 million dollars domestic. If Sony wanted changes in the cast or tone these could be done in a Spider-Man 4. The only reason to go back to high school is to simply try for the CW audiences.
So we’ll get a dreamier Peter Parker, that’s almost for sure. And we’ll probably spend more time with his romantic life than we had previously, although Sony (probably) isn’t so dumb as to lose the action focus (anyway, girls go to action movies these days. You just can’t get the boys to go to Twilight). They are so dumb as to probably include Venom from the start. Venom, one of the worst things to happen to the Spider-Man comics (the character coarsened and cheapened everything it touched, and sent Spider-Man off into a direction that betrayed the spirit of the comic), is also incredibly popular. It seems exceptionally likely that Sony will shoehorn either Venom or Eddie Brock (saving Venom for the sequel and maybe Carnage for the third, thus making the day of every moron fan who wants comic book movies to be R-rated) into Spidey’s new origin. And yes, they’ll have a new origin because they need to get Venom in there, and to set this Spider-Man apart from Raimi’s. Maybe Mary Jane will be torn between Eddie and Peter. Are you Team Eddie?
Of course it’s possible that something good will come of this. Maybe Sony will tell good stories in this rebooted universe. Maybe the lessons of the superhero cinema revolution Spider-Man helped start will inform this new movie. But in reality this is the worst case scenario, believe it or not. The worst case scenario has Sony making a shitload of money on a reboot of a franchise that is still vital and strong.
As an audience – especially an audience for genre pictures – we’ve settled into a battered spouse position. We long since learned to not only accept sequels, but to love them (if you’re old enough to remember a time before Star Wars you’re old enough to remember a time when sequels all but guaranteed diminishing returns in every way). In the last couple of years we’ve become numb to the endless remakes that Hollywood churns out, barely even getting hot under the collar at a Hollywood version of a brand new foreign film. It’s Hollywood’s grand race to the bottom, and it’s possible that the Spider-Man reboot is what is waiting there.
It’s just the laziest way to go about anything – start over! It’s the equivalent of knocking all the pieces off the chessboard because you don’t know what your next move should be. And it’s the studio saying that they know you will eat the same shit again and again and again. They don’t need something new for you, because you’re happy to accept the reheated scraps of what you enjoyed just ten years ago. Hell, it makes remakes look bold.
And if Spider-Man: The Tween Years is a hit, Hollywood will see that it works. Here’s the secret: while there are many talented people in this town with great ideas and vision and with the drive to do something new and unique, they are all stuck working at studios manned by morons and people who don’t even like movies. They know what has worked in the last few years, and that’s it – which means insta-reboots are their dreams come true. If Spider-Man worked ten years ago and works again now, why bother doing anything new? Forget about going through even the minimal creative work of doing a sequel or coming up with something new – just take what you did before and do it again.
Or maybe this is good news. The current blockbuster era is showing its age; 3D is being touted as the replacement for actual story and filmmaking, and budgets are getting beyond insane. As people eat up the sheer garbage Hollywood is spewing out it emboldens the studios to make more garbage (especially when people steer clear of movies that are interesting or smart), but eventually audiences lose their taste for the garbage. It happened to the studios in the late 60s and it seems almost inevitable that it will someday happen again. Maybe the Spider-Man reboot is the opening sentence of the last chapter of current Hollywood history. Maybe we’re getting closer to our Cleopatra. Maybe a radical shift in what people want will put Hollywood off-kilter and will change the very concept of what is a mainstream movie.
Oh, who am I kidding? Enjoy seeing the same movies getting remade every ten years for the rest of your life.