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Rebooting The Spiderman Franchise - Hollywood Laziness In Extremes

by Joel Biswas
19 June 2012 4 Comments

Hollywood don't put the fans first very often, and with a new Teen angst version of Spiderman arriving next month, it's hard not to feel the Superhero cash cow is starting to be over milked.

I was dismayed to recently find out that the Spiderman film franchise is being ‘rebooted’. The first new installment is due in cinemas next month. You can see the trailer below however – spoiler alert – it looks terrible.

Lazy remakes are nothing new. Take for example the almost instantaneous remake of Ang Lee’s Hulk with the even worse version starring Edward Norton, or the endless recycling of classic 70’s horror films (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Thing, Dawn of the Dead etc) for a new generation of adolescents. But when it comes to a hugely expensive film franchise that was a big commercial success only five years ago, why revisit it so soon?

There is the obvious answer: that the Hollywood blockbuster revenue model is becoming ever more unsustainable in the face of a media landscape transformed by digital distribution, piracy and staggering advances in video game technology and design. Couple that with an ongoing creative renaissance in premium television and the motive for quickly revisiting and milking past successes becomes apparent. But that doesn’t explain why it is commercially sound to revisit something so recent and expect that cinema-goers will pay to see it all over again. At a glance, it smacks of desperation, especially as the new film purports to cover the same events (how Peter Parker became Spiderman to begin with).

The fact is that the rise of digital media isn’t just changing revenue models. It’s now fundamentally changing how we consume media and therefore how we understand popular culture. The sheer volume of entertainment media available at the touch of a button means that different eras, styles and tastes in music, fashion and film can now mix and cohabit more freely than ever in an endlessly curated feedback loop. Rediscovery of pop culture is no longer a generational thing and indeed, the very notion of rediscovery seems moot when so much is instantly available. Unsurprisingly, cultural trends are appearing and subsiding faster than ever but don’t seem to ‘die’ or go out of style as dramatically as before. All this is good news if you’re the producers of Spiderman. Now is a particularly good time for Hollywood to lazily pimp pop culture’s recent past for a quick buck and get away with it.

The comic book medium has always been stunningly cinematic and post-modern. The camera angles, the expressionistic use of shadow, the violence and titillation that comics convey so effectively are the essence of cinema.

Even so, one could argue that there is a legitimate creative reason for a movie studio to revisit the world of comic book heroes whenever they damn well please and that is the uniqueness of source material. The comic book medium has always been stunningly cinematic and post-modern. The camera angles, the expressionistic use of shadow, the violence and titillation that comics convey so effectively are the essence of cinema. It’s not surprising that the Watchmen film adaptation for example, mirrored the graphic novel almost frame by frame or that Hitchcock planned his films in storyboards that were in effect, comic books.

Then there are the stories and characters themselves. Since they are allegories with universal appeal, the basic narratives (in this case, nerdy teen gains superpowers thanks to radioactive spider bite and battles evil) can be endlessly repurposed, reimagined, restructured and redacted without losing a familiar and appealing essence. There is no expectation that the resulting body of work should have narrative coherence and more importantly for Hollywood, no expectation that any particular version of a story is final and definitive.

So comic books are in effect, folk tales told in a cinematic medium. I wouldn’t go so far as to call their protagonists like Spiderman and Batman ‘folk heroes’ but perhaps in a society where folk traditions are practically extinct, they behave as such. Unfortunately then, this Spiderman ‘reboot’ isn’t quite as moronic and shallow as it first seems. It is still a shame however, that given the rich possibilities of the source material this new version doesn’t appear to aspire to more than dialing up the teen angst a la the Twilight films. But what’s originality when you’re filling a gaping existential void? And even as I rage at this lack of originality, I’m left to bemoan a quieter loss – that of watching yet another cherished childhood character get ‘rebooted’ for an audience that is most certainly not me.

(For those that are interested, the Amazing Spiderman is released on July 4th.)

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Dave Lee 10:38 am, 19-Jun-2012

While I agree with much of this piece I have to say that in the case of Batman and Spider-man I think the quick remakes are a good thing (I know the Batman films were quite a way after the Burton versions but they came relatively quickly). The Nolan Batman films have created a template for Hollywood to make superhero films which are more dynamic and as 'realistic' as possible (within the parameters of making a moving comic book, obviously). It would appear that the same aesthetics have been applied to the new Spider-man and I think it looks like it could be truer to the original comics and much better than the fairly awful Raimi films. For once, Hollywood exploitation may be a good thing.

Alta Rica 10:38 am, 19-Jun-2012

...Only, Spiderman was bought by Disney so understandably they wanted to 'play with their new toys'. Why buy a franchise and not make money from it? Besides, as you touch on it in the article, re-telling the same old stories is something that has been done for thousands of years, expect more of it as technology allows us to achieve things we couldnt before. 'Hollywood laziness' is partly in response to our own viewing habits anyway, and its not even a new thing (see also: any buddy movie, cinderella story, romeo and juliet stories etc etc. ad nauseum). Rejecting modern hollywood for this is pointless elitism anyway - not all films can be high art, because if they were then we'd never appreciate the great blockbusters. Sure there should be more investment into realising truly different, good, stories, but then we wouldnt have popcorn entertainment. Amazing Spiderman will be fun and most likely better than the Sam Raimi ones. Total Recall, RoboCop, Dredd, Akira, Mad Max, Starship Troopers and countless others rumoured , i look forward to seeing how they are re-imagined. The old ones still have their place though eg the Commando remake they always talk about - you could never compare whatever they create to the 80s Arnie flick! but it might still be fun. P.S. until they release a Flash movie MARVEL FTW!!!

anon 7:06 pm, 19-Jun-2012

"a new Teen angst version of Spiderman" spiderman was also a teen angst version, in the comics anyways. This isn't treading on the same territory as the previous spiderman for the simple fact that it is following closer to some of the comic-lore, not to mention the fact the web is from shooters (as it bloody well should be!) rather than from his own body. What i'm saying is; they seem to have the superhero formula down now (compare recent comic book blockbusters like the Avengers, Batman and captain america to less recent turds like catwoman and daredevil). I'm fairly confident this will be a vast improvement from Raimi's.

Steve D 8:57 pm, 19-Jun-2012

Many of the points in the article seem to be the invalid woes of an overly-cynical movie buff, whose concerns truly show that they know little to nothing about the subject matter they are trashing. The Amazing Spider-Man is not a remake. It does not seek to recapture or imitate anything from Sam Raimi's original trilogy, quite the contrary in fact. What I see in these words above is someone who has made their decision on this film long before seeing the trailers, and someone who isn't paying attention to what they are seeing. This film is different in almost every way that it can be, and even with that, still being more true to the comic book character than Raimi's trilogy ever was. It's true that we are seeing the origin story again, but while it hits the core necessary elements to make the origin true to itself, nearly every detail about it is completely different. There is nothing lazy about this REBOOT (as stated above, it's not a remake by any means).if you want laziness in story and dialogue, look no further than the original Spider-Man trilogy which had characters with little to no depth, with a Peter Parker that never truly grows and changes from the start, hordes of unbelievable dialogue, and Twilight angst (as many like to put it - ie pointless/weightless/incessant drama that never changes). This new film puts extreme emphasis of character depth, while setting a much more realistic contemporary feel, with dialogue that feels real and has weight, all the while capturing the personality of the title character more true than we've ever seen on the silver screen. Please don't be so blinded by your pre-conceived notions that you fail to see the many great things this film is doing. Although if you truly think the Edward Norton Hulk is a lazy and horrible remake of Ang Lee's personally quite unbearable Hulk, then perhaps these movies aren't for you in the first place.

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