Is 'Spider-Man' In Trouble?

There's a rumor floating around the Web (heh) that Sony is none too pleased with its latest superhero picture, The Amazing Spider-Man, an ostensible reboot of a franchise that debuted only ten years ago.

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There's a rumor floating around the Web (heh) that Sony is none too pleased with its latest superhero picture, The Amazing Spider-Man, an ostensible reboot of a franchise that debuted only ten years ago. The studio is bullish enough on the project to already be planning a sequel, but they've hired new writers (Transformers scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) and there's no indication that director Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) will return. Again, Sony's displeasure is a rumor at this point, but based on early buzz for the movie — which is to say, based on not very much — we're inclined to believe it.

This new version retells the same old Spider-Man origin story, only with different a love interest (Gwen Stacy instead of Mary Jane Watson) and a new villain (goodbye Green Goblin, hello Lizard). Those changes aside, there doesn't seem to be enough reinvention involved to really merit a reboot, especially considering the last film in the previous series opened merely five short years ago. Nor does the cartoonish trailer instill much enthusiasm that we'll be seeing something new and revolutionary. We'd guess that Sony is right to worry. Sandwiching a new-ish Spider-Man story between the big, bombastic Avengers movie (opening Friday) and the finish to Christopher Nolan's Batman series in July seems pretty risky — so far those two films have dominated much of the conversation, leaving Spidey out in the relative cold. Like last year's Green Lantern, we think this might be this summer's superhero flick that gets largely ignored, that sputters at the box office and quickly disappears. Its July 4th weekend opening date ought to help it some, but The Dark Knight Rises drops two short weeks later. That just doesn't sound like enough time to gain much traction.

And, yeah, speaking of time: Why the rush to do this project? Spider-Man's quick turnaround time isn't exactly a unique phenomenon — The Hulk (2003) was redone as The Incredible Hulk (2008), Warner Bros. hopes that Superman Returns (2006) will be wiped from memory by Man of Steel (2013) — but in those cases the first films were considered disappointments or outright failures. By contrast, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy was an enormous, record-breaking success. So why then redo the thing five measly years later and expect a big hit all over again? It smacks of stereotypical unimaginative studio thinking, the kind of lazy cash-grab mentality that mindlessly churns out so many clunkers every summer (and fall and winter and spring). In some ways this perceived studio cynicism has produced a kind of animus against The Amazing Spider-Man, a distaste for the producers trying to trick us into forking over a handful of cash to watch the same old story we just saw.

But they've made the film and it needs releasing, so release it they will and, depending, will do a sequel. And this ever-shortening reanimation cycle will likely continue apace in the future. In fact, it's already happening elsewhere. Universal just announced today that they've tapped Orci and Kurtzman (these dudes are everywhere) to spearhead the "modern reimagining" of old studio library titles like The Mummy and Van Helsing. Uh, you mean The Mummy franchise that ended in 2008? And the (execrable) Van Helsing from 2004? Guys, you just did those! Modern reimagining or not, please wait a damn while.

Supposedly Tom Cruise is involved with this Van Helsing project and, admittedly, it's a good enough character that we think he might need reconsidering in the wake of Stephen Sommer's disastrous Hugh Jackman version, but it still feels too soon. Maybe The Amazing Spider-Man will be used as the litmus test for future quickie reboots and remakes and, if it does badly, these Universal projects will be scrapped. Though we kinda doubt that will happen. After all, Nolan's Batman Begins opened only eight years after the epically terrible Batman & Robin, and the entire franchise was revitalized -- financially and creatively. So it seems likely that the studios will keep banging away at the same spot, hoping to recreate Batman's restorative magic for other characters. But, eh, we just don't see that happening with Peter Parker and friends. Sure there's the Spider-Man Broadway musical that's selling well despite creative catastrophe, but that's a relatively tiny market compared to a summer blockbuster. Plus Marc Webb is not the visionary that Christopher Nolan is, and really the character is not in such disrepair that anyone is loudly demanding to see him rebuilt from scratch. Tobey Maguire left him in pretty good shape, didn't he? We thought so. But it would seem that the allure of making all that money all over again was too great for Sony to respect that trilogy and quit while it was ahead.

They have a lot of work to do before July 3rd if they're hoping to relive the money tsunami that was 2002. Buzz on the new movie is pretty thin and they certainly don't need rumors like today's floating around tainting the atmosphere. They have two months to gin up some excitement for this thing, and in the movie world that's a pretty short runway. Unfortunately, we think that, no matter what Sony does, Spidey is just not ready to fly again. It seems all to possible that he's going to land with a great big splat.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.