Did they really have to make the Amazing Spider-Man?

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The Amazing Spider-Man: Do we need it?

The short answer would be? No.

Tobey Maguire was getting a bit old to be jumping around in Spandex and he did quit Spider-Man 4 because he’s a bit old to be going back to high school. (Publicity photos from  Sony Pictures )

But I don’t care for short answers, as my brave girlfriend who asks questions like, “what’s The Matrix about?” knows all too well. So let’s instead examine the reasons why a film like The Amazing Spider-Man was made. And why it has been released a mere five years after Spider-Man 3.

Confession time:  I haven’t seen the new Spidey yet. So I’m sure I’ll end up being incorrect about some of my assumptions as pertaining to this film. But that’s why I wanted to write it: to see if I’d be any more optimistic about the release after actually sitting through it. And the reasons behind the release of the movie are interesting enough on their own.

For those unfamiliar, Spider-Man 3 wasn’t a big hit with a lot of people. Well, it was a big box office hit. It set a new record for money made on an opening weekend and went on to make a ton more money all over the world and sell legions of DVD and Blu-Ray copies too.

So why the sad faces, Spidey fans? Many felt that the character of Venom wasn’t given enough screen time. He was the favorite villain of many fans when the 90s cartoon aired and, of course, in the original comic books.

Publicity still of Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man. (Publicity photo)

Others felt that the film was too cheesy with its “Peter Parker as an emo teenager” sequence of events. Or that there were too many villains overall (3!) or that it was too long. The real problem was that Spider-Man 2 was the peak, that was as good as Raimi’s Spider-Man series was going to get. People were expecting more but they weren’t going to get it (we might see a similar backlash to The Dark Knight Rises).

Whatever the reason (and for the record, I’m a fan of the third film even though it’s the weakest) people were disappointed. But they still wanted more Spidey. Tobey Maguire was getting a bit old to be jumping around in Spandex, director Sam Raimi was burned out, and they needed to curb the fan response from Spidey 3.

Ordinarily, a studio would have waited a long while before attempting a reboot. But what if the superhero boom was over by then? So they decided to do something that hadn’t really been done before and reboot after only five years. This was also done with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk as a reboot of Ang Lee’s poorly received 2003 film Hulk, but that’s not a huge series and no one was attached to Eric Bana as the Hulk anyway so it didn’t really count.

Even though The Amazing Spider-Man might initially appear as just an excuse to capitalize on the name recognition of the titular hero (and that is largely what it is, to be fair) the studio didn’t just throw something together and slap Spidey’s name on it.

(left) Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man in the trilogy directed by Sam Raimi; (right) Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man in the reboot directed by Marc Webb. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

For starters, they’ve made it very clear that this is in no way connected with the other films. This Spider-Man doesn’t shoot webs from his wrists directly, but instead from web cartridges that are within his suit. Many fans were upset by the lack of cartridges in the other films and so this bought them some positive PR right off the bat.

For those non-comic book geeks: yes this is a huge deal. It’s strange, I know.

This is also based on another comic book series entirely. There are actually four (to my knowledge) completely separate comics involving everyone’s favorite web-slinger. This gives the filmmakers an opportunity to draw on an entirely different mythos and entirely different villains/styles/stories.

And they can do all of that without tainting or taking back what Raimi and Maguire did. As a filmmaking tactic it’s kind of cheating, but it’s very clever cheating.

Ever since Batman’s blockbuster 2008 film The Dark Knight, everybody wants to go dark. Next year’s Superman film, The Man of Steel, is going to be more intense and even “creatively grandfathered” by nerd demigod Christopher Nolan (director: Inception, The Dark Knight).

No introductions needed. We know who you are. You’re going to get the bad guy. (Publicity photo)

So why not Spidey?

Peter Parker is a dorky kid who is given powers, that’s always been his character. But since he’s also a teenager when he first receives them, that means that you can also tap into the whole Twilight-inspired “angst craze” that films are experiencing at the moment. A certain kind of moneymaking math is involved in choosing how to make films. The writing credits go to one or a few people, but an entire studio’s worth of executives decided how to make their picture both profitable and artistic.

Or just profitable, if they have to choose.

Thankfully, it appears as though they’ve done both with this latest Spider-Man movie. Andrew Garfield was chosen for the title role, and he was the best part of 2010’s Best Picture nominee The Social Network. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his performance in that film.

Martin Sheen plays Uncle Ben. (Publicity photo)

Add to him Hollywood it-girl Emma Stone, longtime respected actor and Oscar nominee Martin Sheen, and a villain that everyone had been wanting since the first film back in 2002, and you’ve got a probable blockbuster.

So why didn’t more people go to see it? Don’t get me wrong, 140 million dollars in 6 days in nothing to sneeze at. But it’s less than any of the other Spidey movies made in the same amount of time. I’ve heard nothing but good things from fans, so why the stingy pocketbooks?

Because people recognize it for what it is. No matter how high the quality is, we’ve all seen Spider-Man done before and we’ve seen him done justice. Even though people hate 3 they still love 1 and 2. Some may prefer Andrew Garfield. But we didn’t need a new Spider-Man. We already had one.

I’m sure the film gives you everything you could possibly want in a Spider-Man film. It even looks like it gives you some things the other films didn’t (a darker side of Spidey, a more realistic tone of the overall film, an over-arching story through all 3 of the proposed new trilogy, etc.). But we don’t need it.

We’ve seen it all before and we’ve seen it with the same character. It’s one thing to have a movie like Thor that does almost nothing new but does it all well and with a character we hadn’t seen before in theaters. That’s a great movie. A lot of that comes from the fact that even though we’ve seen the same formula before again and again, we haven’t seen it in quite that way. We’ve seen tricksters but we haven’t seen Loki. We’ve seen powerful fathers teach their sons a harsh lesson, but we haven’t seen Odin. We’ve seen jerks eat humble pie but we haven’t seen them smash it on the ground and say “ANOTHER!”

Spider-Man will not be part of the Avenger’s series. Too bad. He’s not alone. The X-Men are out too. (Publicity poster from Marvel)

Another reason that another Spider-Man film is a bit of an odd choice is that he can’t be a part of the Avengers. Why, you ask? Because Columbia owns the film rights to Spider-Man and Paramount owns the rest of the team. And don’t expect to see Wolverine or any of the rest of the X-Men pop up in Avengers 2 either because 20th Century Fox owns them.

It’s a bit mind-boggling to think about how the company that created all of these characters (Marvel) can’t do what they want with them when it comes to films. But that’s how the industry works. So while every other Marvel superhero is out having his own film (Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, you’d better believe they’re all happening before the Avengers assemble once more. There might even be a Mark Ruffalo Hulk in there) Spidey will be off doing his own thing. The awkward forgotten child of Nick Fury’s team of demi-gods.

So the filmmakers made it dark, they gave it a conspiracy storyline (all the cool kids are), they put it in 3D, they hired a recognizable-but-still-skilled actor, they pleased fans of the comics, they avoided revisiting old Raimi territory, and they came out far enough ahead of Batman to ensure people would actually see it. And they did. But I don’t think people will be scrambling to see the two sequels in quite as many numbers.

Because as fickle as the American moviegoer can be, their memory lasts a little longer than five years.