What Will Become of Spider-Man?

Earlier this week, Sami Raimi and Tobey Maguire dropped out of production of Spider-Man 4. Naturally, the loss of the franchise’s director and its actual Spider-Man seems not to have fazed the studio at all; they’ve already announced plans to reboot the franchise with a high-school Spider-Man. Studio co-chairman Amy Pascal is quoted as saying, “We’re very excited about the creative possibilities that come from returning to Peter’s roots.”

Now, granted, I’m a cinema-culture grandmother who wants fewer subpar sequels and fewer explosions and whippersnappers off her lawn. However, I was under the impression that not only was this era being pretty well-covered in The Spectacular Spider-Man, but it was also the setting of the original Spider-Man movie.

I am not someone who necessarily minds grinding a franchise into the ground. It’s the cinematic equivalent of nuking the site from orbit—sometimes it’s the only way to be sure.

We didn’t know how bad the Schumacher Batmans could be after Batman Forever, which was run-of-the-mill overblown; we needed Batman and Robin to prove that tongue-in-cheek Bruce Wayne had run his course. (And like, ten other people’s courses.) And from the ashes of that Batman rose Christopher Nolan’s incarnation of Bruce Wayne, who has propelled himself through two movies with a gripping narrative underneath their car chases. Nolan is currently working on a sequel that I will be standing in line to see, because The Dark Knight left Batman in a different narrative place than it found him, and there’s a space—a need—to to tell the story and see how it all falls out.

On the other end of the sequel spectrum are the stand-alone films that do not even attempt to pretend they have interrelated plots, for fear of scaring off those who think they might have missed something. This does, however, take away slightly from the narrative arc. For instance, I’m not sure what anyone is hoping to see in Transformers 3 that they didn’t get from the first two movies. (Spoiler: robots fought each other, and also Megan Fox.) On the other hand, if you want robot fights, they have that market cornered but good, so perhaps this is what the studio is hoping: If you want an awkward teen-superhero-as-labored-metaphor-for-puberty story next summer, you know just where to get it!

Spider-Man 4 as high-school reboot seems on the surface to be an even shakier concept than More Robot Fights. Sidebar: Spider-Man seems to get a lot of this knocking-around, doesn’t he? Marvel killed Mary-Jane so they could reboot his comics canon, and then attempts to bring Spider-Man to Broadway as a musical got stuck in development hell (bad news), and then made it to completion for a February 2010 run and looks like it will actually happen (terrible news).

So, the question is: is the studio moving ahead with whatever they can cobble together just to keep from defaulting on the property rights they’re holding for Spider-Man 5 and 6? Are they hoping for brand loyalty from an audience that might already be oversaturated on this particular origin story? Or did Spider-Man 3 grind the franchise into the ground, and Raimi’s and Maguire’s departures have left the studio free to nurture a newer, better Spider-Man?

Genevieve sat through Batman and Robin twice, because she could not even believe it the first time. She writes more about movies on her blog.


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