Blockbuster franchises are hard to come by. When one comes along, studios will do all they can to hold onto their respective cash cows. The Spider-Man franchise proved to be as much in 2002 with the release of the mega-blockbuster Sam Raimi film Spider-Man. This success followed into 2004’s superior effort Spider-Man 2 (a film I consider to be one of the best comic book movies ever). But, things got incredibly shaky in 2007 with the disastrous response to Spider-Man 3, so much so that a proposed fourth feature with Sam Raimi once again behind the camera and Tobey Maguire web-swinging around failed to materialize.
With the need to hold onto their rights of the character, Sony decided to reboot the entire series a mere five years after the last installment. This move received a lot of bad publicity at the outset and the dogged The Amazing Spider-Man somewhat throughout its production. Sure, the series was coming hot off the heels of an immensely popular trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, but ten years isn’t too short a time considering the Batman franchise rebooted itself 16 years after the 1989 Tim Burton film. The similarities don’t end there, either, as both reboots of the Batman and Spider-Man character came after poorly received installments.
Despite the new storyline, the actual film didn’t deviate too heavily from the original Sam Raimi film, hitting the same story beats. That being said, the overall tone of the film was much different, opting for a slightly more realistic tone than the hyper-realistic way the Raimi films played out. Director Marc Webb did a surprisingly good job behind the camera given the fact that his only previous feature film experience was the romantic comedy 500 Days of Summer. Going from a small-budget comedy to a big franchise film must have been quite a challenge and he rises to it. I remember being slightly disappointed by the film when I saw it in the theater but found new appreciation for how Peter Parker was portrayed (despite his final line in the movie), his relationship with Gwen Stacy and how the Lizard was done. Overall, I would say The Amazing Spider-Man falls short of the first two Raimi movies but marks a major improvement over 3 and adequately sets up a new Spider-Man series.
This brings us to the sequel to last year’s reboot, simply titled The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The film will continue Peter Parker’s adventures as Spider-Man while further exploring his relationship with Gwen Stacy (they’ve all but outright said that a certain element of the comics will come into play here) and introducing the film’s primary villain as Electro played by Jamie Foxx.
A lot has been said about the filmmaker’s desire to set up their own Spider-Man universe that will spread to other film’s, presumably to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe they have going on at Disney right now. To accomplish this, a lot of characters are being introduced in this movie. We’re getting Electro, The Rhino, the Osborn family is being re-introduced, and, for a time, it seemed we would be getting a new Mary Jane Watson as well. Shailene Woodley was cast, filmed her scenes and was subsequently cut from the movie entirely. Whether this has to do with her performance (which everyone expresses is not the truth, and I am inclined to believe them based on past movies I have seen her in) or that the movie was just getting too crowded remains to be seen.
With all of these new characters being cast, introduced and then cut in one case, it stands to reason that the resulting movie could end up an unholy mess, like Spider-Man 3. Ensemble movies can work on principle, but just how can a Spider-Man movie work if we are introducing Electro, Rhino, The Green Goblin and the Hobgoblin in the same movie? Sure, some of these plotlines can work in small form, seeds to be planted for further movies. But, in that respect, hasn’t enough been mined from the Osborn’s story arc in the past movies? It just seems to me that more villains could be used to great effect in this new universe they are setting up, like Mysterio and Kraven for instance.
I don’t know much about the overall plot that the movie will take so I can’t comment further. Needless to say, the movie could be a great success or end up setting this new universe back somewhat. I hope that is not the case, because if they are going to keep making Spider-Man movies, at least make them worth our while.
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