I’m not quite sure when the term ‘reboot’ was first coined in the movie world, but it’s certainly become a popular buzzword these days, and many movie franchises have been rebooted in recent years. The two films that probably made the term fashionable were Batman Begins (2005) and Casino Royale (2006).
When Tim Burton’s Batman was released in 1989, it was the first Batman movie since the 1966 (very tongue in cheek) film of the same name. It was well received, with Michael Keaton as Batman, and Jack Nicholson as the Joker being praised for their performances. Burton’s movie was set in a very comic book world, and although the sequel, Batman Returns (1992), was again critically and commercially successful, the next two films in the series, Batman Forever (with Val Kilmer as Batman) and Batman & Robin (with George Clooney) were a mess, and the franchise seemed to be dead.
Enter Christopher Nolan, and his desire to return to the origins of Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the Batman. As we all know by now, Batman Begins was a huge success, effectively giving Nolan carte blanche to make whatever movie he liked, and was followed by The Dark Knight, which became one of the biggest movies of all time and is regarded as an instant classic. Nolan’s third and final Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises is released later this month, and seems set end this version of Batman in epic style.
The re-invention of James Bond in Casino Royale was also termed a reboot, but the reality is that Bond had been rebooting ever since Sean Connery decided he didn’t want to be Bond anymore, and was replaced by George Lazenby for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. But Die Another Day (2002) had been relatively poorly received, and was Pierce Brosnan’s final Bond movie. The franchise seemed to have become a parody of itself, with an over reliance on daft gadgetry and more comedic elements than the best Bond films.
Production for Casino Royale didn’t get off to an easy start when it was announced that Daniel Craig would replace Brosnan as Bond number 6. With blonde hair and blue eyes, he didn’t fit the fans ideal of a ‘talk, dark and handsome’ Bond, and there was a less than favourable response from critics too. But Casino Royale proved to be one of the very best Bond movies, with Martin Campbell directing a more hard-edged Bond. It was a commercial and critical success, and Bond was back.
Now, like those two franchises, Spider-man is being rebooted, and again like Batman Begins and Casino Royale, The Amazing Spider-Man revisits the origin of the character. But the biggest difference between those reboots and this one is time. Tim Burton’s Batman was released in 1989, making it 16 years before the franchise was rebooted in 2005, while Casino Royale effectively created Bond from scratch, as he has only just earned his license to kill at the beginning of the film, and was released over 40 years after the first Bond movie.
Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film was only released in 2002, with his last offering, Spider-Man 3, released in 2007. So the release of The Amazing Spider-Man comes a little over 10 years after Raimi’s first. And the truth is that it’s just too soon. The Amazing Spider-Man takes a different route to transform Peter Parker from a nerdy schoolboy to a confident superhero, and he has a different love interest (Gwen Stacy instead of Mary-Jane Watson) as well as facing a different villain, this time The Lizard (aka Dr. Curt Connors). But there really isn’t enough difference between The Amazing Spider-Man and the 2002 Spider-Man for this reboot to really work. If you’ve seen Raimi’s movie, you’ll recognise a lot of the elements of the story in the new one, but they just aren’t done as well in this movie as Raimi’s.
Tobey Maguire was much more convincing as a nerdy, unpopular Peter Parker, and there was more satisfaction in seeing him get his revenge on the bullies as he learns to control his new powers. The death of Uncle Ben in The Amazing Spider-Man seems forced too, with the set of circumstances leading to him being killed less believable. The design of the Spider-Man costume was a big part of Raimi’s movie, as Peter first designs a costume to wrestle in, before improving it when he turns to crime-fighting. In The Amazing Spider-Man, Peter sees a wrestling poster advertising a masked wrestler, and chooses to create a mask of his own in a similar style, before switching to the full costume.
All of these things were done in the Raimi movie, and for me, done better. Maybe it will be different for people under 25, who maybe didn’t see the first Raimi Spider-Man, or don’t remember it as much. The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t a bad film, it’s just too familiar. And that would seem to be the lesson of the reboot. The concept is fine, it’s just when you do it that matters.