The Amazing Spider-Man (Marc Webb, US, 2012)
Why it was necessary to remake Spider-Man
Was it too early to do make a reboot of Spider-Man? This question has been asked over and over again over lately and my impression is that most people would say "yes".
It's not that they don't like the new version; most seem to think it's just as good as or even better than the old one. But they don't see any good reason for its existence, since it doesn't bring much new to the franchise compared to Raimi's version. Why replace something that already works?
The short and simple answer is "toys". There's a tight bond between the producers of comic magazines, games, plastic dolls and t-shirts and the film producers. I was vaguely aware of it before, but watching The Greatest Movie Ever Sold was the real eye-opener to me. They feed from each other. The film promotes the toys and the toys promote the film. Whenever the market is ready to consume another set of toys, it's the right time to launch a new movie. But do you need to make it a reset? Yes, of course you do!
If you only set for another sequel in an existing series, there's the risk that the t-shirt or plastic doll could be passed on from an older sibling to a younger one. Now there is a small but distinct difference, a new look of the logo, and parents can be talked into buying the same thing all over again.
However we're film fans, not toy manufacturers, so let's put the obvious commercial interest aside for a moment. Once again: is there any way you can defend this reboot of Spider-Man, especially if you like me have a negative default setting towards remakes and sequels, thinking they occupy too much of Hollywood's attention nowadays compared to new and fresh original ideas?
I thought this over for a bit and I got surprised when I realized that my answer would be "yes".
Reasons for my approval
One reason is of course that I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man quite a bit. I watched it with my 18 year old, and while neither of us has superhero movies as our favorite genre, we both babbled enthusiastically as we left the theatre.
We agreed that the movie had found the sweet balance between action, humor and psychological drama - a tasty blend of salt, sweet and bitter. Andrew Garfield is the most adorable teenager you ever saw and it's impossible to believe that the guy is turning 29 in a month. The effects are at the level you expect nowadays and I thoroughly enjoyed the swinging between the skyscrapers as I always do, either its Maguire or Garfield who is hanging in the lines.
But even if I hadn't liked The Amazing Spider-Man as much as I did, I would still have approved. The thing is that I have reconsidered the way I look at those superheroes. I've started to see them as those timeless fairytales that we'll keep introducing to new children, generation after generation, making them a part of our cultural heritage.
Think of tales such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood. I've never heard anyone complaining about the book publisher printing yet another version with a slightly new way to phrase the story and a different set of illustrations. No-one expects families to go book hunting in secondhand bookshops to look up old editions of the fairy-tales.
If there's a market for a book, someone will publish it again and no one will cry that it's "too soon" or "unnecessary".
Every time those stories come out, it will be like a happy reunion and we'll once again enjoy them, because even if they're familiar, we know that even the smallest of changes will add a new dimension to the experience.
Pop culture education
I think it's a bit of the same with Spider-Man. It's been ten years since the first part of last take on Spider-Man came out. Many of the kids in the audience for the newest Spider-Man movie were barely born then or were at least too young to see it as it came out. Shouldn't those kids also get the chance to enjoy the story about this superhero in the environment where it's best told: at a big screen, in a real cinema?
I guess that you could argue that they needn't have remade the movie. All they needed to do was to make a re-launch of the old series, showing the Raimi version in a theatre again. But hands on heart - how keen would the parents, who already have watched this movie as it came out - be to pay a full ticket price to see it once again? I think they want at least a little bit of variation. We've seen some attempts to do this, when they've slapped on some post-production 3D, as they did with The Lion King. But my impression is that it hasn't been any major success.
Kids who grow up today need to learn about Spider-Man, the same way as they need to know who Hansel and Gretel were or where the Cheshire cat comes from. They need a basic pop culture education and reboots like The Amazing Spider-Man can bring them that.
My rating: 4/5