As “The Amazing Spider-Man” swings into theaters, naysayers are pointing to the date of the last “Spider-Man” film – 2007, to be exact.
The new film, starring Andrew Garfield as the webslinger and a cast of kind-of-new main characters, is being billed as a reboot of the trilogy that came to theaters starting in 2002 with “Spider-Man,” directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire. The first one was received positively by critics and audiences, and “Spider-Man 2” was widely acknowledged to be even better than its predecessor, with actor Alfred Molina taking on the role of the villainous Dr. Octopus (that’s Doc Ock to you). Then “Spider-Man 3” came, which both critics and audiences agreed was too stuffed with villains and plotlines and is perhaps best remembered for its sequence in which an evil Maguire dances in a jazz club.
A fourth movie by the team who produced the last three was planned, with a release date announced, but ultimately Raimi told the studio he couldn’t produce a film in that timeframe and still meet his personal standards.
“While we were looking forward to doing a fourth one together, the studio and Marvel have a unique opportunity to take the franchise in a new direction, and I know they will do a terrific job,” the director said at the time when they decided to put the kibosh on a fourth film and go with a reboot.
So now we have “The Amazing Spider-Man,” a new version five years later that centers on hero Peter Parker’s time in high school, which was briefly addressed in the first installment of the Raimi series. However, leading lady Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) and best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), as well as Harry’s villainous father Norman, are gone (for now, one presumes). Director Marc Webb’s film, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” brings girlfriend Gwen Stacy back to the forefront after the character had made her first appearance in “Spider-Man 3,” played by actress Bryce Dallas Howard, and introduces Dr. Curt Connors, who has never appeared in a “Spider-Man” film, as its villain. Connors later becomes the sinister Lizard.
“Spider-Man” isn’t the first comic book character to get an all-new film version only a few years after the first. After “Brokeback Mountain” director Ang Lee’s 2003 film adaptation of the Hulk, titled “Hulk” and starring Eric Bana as the scientist, received disappointing reviews and box office returns, director Louis Leterrier tried again in 2008 with “The Incredible Hulk,” this time starring Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. The 2003 version has a 62% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, while the 2008 film has a slightly higher rating with 67%; “Hulk” earned a worldwide box office gross of $245 million, while “The Incredible Hulk” earned $263 million worldwide.
Reviews for “The Amazing Spider-Man” are pretty good to great so far – reviewers' main complaints have been that a remake isn't all that necessary. Monitor critic Peter Rainer wrote that “there isn’t any particular reason, besides the obvious commercial one, why we needed to re-up this franchise. Still, it could have been worse.”
But many critics have praised Garfield’s performance, including Rainer. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan reports that “Garfield also brings an interesting whiff of James Dean-type teen anguish to the role of a young man whose parents up and disappeared when he was small.”
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly agrees. “Garfield fills both his slackerish Peter Parker identity as well as his Spider-Man rubberwear with star-quality confidence… mixing self-effacing sweetness with believable teen boy arrogance, then adding a wee drop of snark,” she writes.
However "Amazing" does at the box office, it's safe to say Hollywood won't fall out of love with the remake anytime soon.