Requiem For A Spider-Man Reboot

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As we all know, the latest buzz going around the ‘net has been about the leaked emails from Sony Pictures and in particular the future of the Spider-Man film franchise. We learned that Sony and Marvel Entertainment came agonizingly close to having Spidey appearing in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and in other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies. Additionally, the emails it’s clear that the Sony executives were up in arms over where to go forward with the franchise.

TSpidey MCUhe Amazing Spider-Man 2 underperformed (and for good reason!) last summer in theaters and took a vicious beating from critics and fans over its convoluted script and having too many characters. The emails prove that Sony knows something is wrong with the franchise, and also demonstrate how they badly lack any creative solutions. Let’s look at their idea for an Aunt May film which would reveal her secret life. Really? That is one dumb idea. Why not have a kid-friendly film starring Ms. Lyons the dog? Then there was the notion of making an animated comedy film about Spidey. That would go over as well as that Broadway play. Or how about a movie about an unnamed female superhero? Sorry, but other film studios are coming out with high profile superheroines like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Seriously, these kinds of ideas make the planned Sinister Six movie to be a brilliant move!

What’s worse is that The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s reception has cast a doubt on continuing the franchise to the point that the planned Venom movie is all but dead and now the likelihood of a Sinister Six film is in doubt. The fragile nature of these films underscore how much the Spider-Man film franchise is in trouble. Announcement after announcement fail to drum up any interest among fans or worse hostility. The only Marvel property that generates more hostility is next year’s Fantastic Four reboot. Smelling blood in the water, many fans are ripping apart the two recent Spider-Man films and a war cry has started for Sony to sell the film rights back to Marvel. That’s regrettable. The reboot had some good parts and shouldn’t be completely disregarded, especially the first film.

From Highlight To Casualty

What the reboot got correct is that the ????????????????????????films moved away from Sam Raimi’s Silver Age-inspired films that were kind of goofy and a bit dated. The new Peter Parker, played excellently by Andrew Garfield, wasn’t a textbook nerd anymore. He was more of a loner, an outsider, and he seemed more modern. Peter was someone who had trouble connecting with the world around him until that famous spider bite changed his life. And the way Spider-Man was presented was just spot-on perfect. He was brash, wise cracking, nimble and at times it seemed like pages from a comic book were literally put on the silver screen without missing anything. Then there was the near-perfect chemistry between Peter and his love Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Some may wonder why Marc Webb, a director known for a romantic comedy – (500) Days of Summer – was picked to direct the rebooted films. Part of that had to be with the success he had with (500) Days of Summer, a genuinely funny and affecting movie that was a chick flick for guys. Webb was able to convey a moving romance between Peter and Gwen and they were the highlights of the rebooted films. However, other parts of the films had severe faults, like cartoony villains and haphazard editing, which is why it’s likely that Webb won’t come back for future Spider-Man films. Continue reading

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How To Fix The Spider-Man Movies

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has been out in theaters for a month already. It’s made close to $500 million worldwide to date, so it’s a hit film. Yet, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has raked in far less money than the previous Spider-Man movie. Despite all the advertising and marketing, the movie has been largely forgotten in this crowded summer movie season. That’s unbelievable for a Spider-Man movie, usually they’re big hits. Something went wrong with the film, and the fans noticed and word of mouth probably has had a hand in keeping the box office numbers down. It’s sad to say but the franchise, despite being rebooted two years ago, seems tired and talk about sequels and spin-off films get yawns from everyone.

The film had its good points, but on the whole, it was a mess and killed any good will towards the franchise. What can be done? Spider-Man is one of the most popular superheroes around, rivaling Batman himself. The character is still viable, but the filmmakers have gotten away from what made Spidey work. If they want to win back the fans and more importantly for the execs, the big box office numbers, the following things have to be done.

Story First

What sunk The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was its sloppy script. The film was loaded with too many time-filler subplots that don’t go anywhere and needless characters. It reminded me of that equally dumb Spider-Man 3 with all the extra characters who didn’t add anything to the story (looking at you Gwen Stacy) and moronic plot twists (so Sandman accidently killed Uncle Ben).

?????????????????????????????????Does anyone care about Peter Parker’s parents? A few lines of dialogue and one or two scenes could’ve wrapped up that plot thread. Then there was the way they tried to convince us that Peter and Harry Osborn were best buddies even though Harry was never mentioned in the previous film. It was just one of too many plot lines in the crowded movie.

What was worst was that the movie felt like an ad for upcoming spinoffs and sequels and that harmed the narrative flow and pacing of this film. It was like director Marc Webb set up a revolving door on the movie set just to introduce new villains, which leads to the next point.

Improve The Villains

The  film execs clearly didn’t learn the lesson with Spider-Man 3. That film was weighed down with three villains ?????????????????????????????????who didn’t get adequate screen time to develop them. The same thing happened here, but worse. Electro was largely a one-dimensional joke, and reminded me of the Riddler from Batman Forever, only Jim Carrey did a better job of portraying a nutjob than Jamie Foxx. His portrayal of Electro before his accident was so over the top and he didn’t gel with the other people around him. I get they were trying to make him a goofy outcast, but it was too much.

spidey and doc ockSeriously, the last great villain in these films was Doctor Octopus and that was ten years ago. I’m not sure why they can’t come up with a worthy villain for Spider-Man, but jamming in a bunch of them to please toymakers isn’t working. It’s a damn shame because Harry Osborn/Green Goblin was pretty decent in this film thanks to Dane DeHaan’s performance, but his time was limited. If they would’ve dumped Electro, Harry would’ve had the needed screen time for his story. Instead, we get a rushed intro of the Green Goblin popping out in the end and briefly fighting Spider-Man. He’s supposed to be his greatest enemy, why relegate him to an extended cameo? The Green Goblin should be the top villain in these films. In this crowded film, he wasn’t the only character to get shafted.

Get Spider-Man’s Supporting Cast More Involved

???????????????????????????????Aunt May was largely wasted in the new Spider-Man movie and that’s an atrocity. The filmmakers went out and hired Sally Field, an Oscar winner, to portray Peter’s aunt and she just gets lost in this film. The few precious moments she has only point out how she was criminally underused. In the comic books, she was involved in major plot lines. Often, Spider-Man was out risking his neck to save her or worrying about her. This was better shown in the last film where Peter brought home organic eggs in the end after saving the city, it was a quiet moment that illustrated his love and responsibility and it worked.

jjj2But Aunt May isn’t the only neglected member of his supporting cast. Flash Thompson, Peter’s nemesis and Spider-Man’s biggest fan was absent this time around and where the hell is J. Jonah Jameson who brings a different kind of headache to Spider-Man? Our web-swinging hero needs a foil and Jameson filled that role perfectly in Sam Raimi’s films. It seems like the producers and Marc Webb couldn’t figure out who should play the newspaper publisher after J.K. Simmon’s act and gave up. Why not just bring him back? It worked for the James Bond flicks when Judi Dench played M with two different actors portraying the famous spy. Any Spidey film should have Jameson hounding him in the public eye. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man Reboot

It can be argued that The Amazing Spider-Man is the Spider-Man film for fans of the web-slinging hero. Frankly, it surpasses Sam Raimi’s trilogy in terms of special effects and that is not overly relying on CGI. The practical effects and stunt work really make Spider-Man come alive in a way that hasn’t been done before. The 3D is visually spectacular even the night shots. Pardon the pun but some shots of Spidey are truly amazing and look as if they were taken out of a comic book panel. Forget about alterations to his costume, the filmmakers captured the essence of Spider-Man.

But enough about the effects and look. The rest of The Amazing Spider-Man is a solid and welcome addition to Marvel’s superhero film roster. While director Marc Webb may not be as gimmicky and flashy as Sam Raimi was, he has an eye for character. He lets the quiet moments speak for themselves and knows how to show just enough of a character moment before moving on. The relationship that Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is the soul of the movie without going overboard.

Webb wisely uses this constraint in showing us other aspects of Parker. This results in the film not being as cornball or overly sentimental as Raimi’s Spider-Man films sometimes felt. Don’t worry, there aren’t any dance numbers! Garfield does an excellent job portraying him and his masked alter ego. He makes viewers and fans forget about Tobey Maguire with his constant moping and sad eyes. This Parker while burdened with responsibility is very proactive and as Spider-Man he cracks jokes, and behaves just like he does in the comic books. While this film has the hero constantly unmasked it actually works and one doesn’t mind.

As for the rest of the cast, they turn in fine performances with top honors going to Stone and Denis Leary (as her father police captain George Stacy). The captain’s obsession with trying to arrest Spider-Man is an engaging subplot that was never explored in depth before on film and deftly adds to Spider-Man’s headaches. BTW, Stan Lee has one of his very best and funniest cameos in the film that puts him in the same shot with his greatest creation.

The main villain in The Amazing Spider-Man as everyone knows is the Lizard a.k.a. Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a one-armed scientist with ties to his dead parents. The film links his creation to Spider-Man’s and it’s a complaint that goes back to many of these films (such as Batman) but it’s handled fairly well. Compared to the comic book version, Connors isn’t as sympathetic which is a detriment to the film. The Lizard may not be as great a villain as Doctor Octopus but he is still an imposing, formidable  character who puts Spider-Man through hell. Standing nearly eight feet tall with regenerative powers and a cunning mind he seems more like a smart Hulk mixed with Wolverine and a velociraptor from Jurassic Park. That’s a deadly combination.

The film does have faults: we didn’t need to see another origin sequence, which could’ve been handled with flashbacks; some plot developments are dropped too cleanly; the score by James Horner isn’t particularly memorable. But there are so many things that the filmmakers get right with this film because like Sam Raimi, they understand Spider-Man and it shows. So how does it compare to the previous films? Well it’s much, much better than Spider-Man 3 and arguably on par with the first Spider-Man. Despite Spider-Man 2’s flaws it was Raimi at his energetic best and a better film than The Amazing Spider-Man, but Spider-Man 2 set a high bar that is hard to top. It’s too bad Sony chose to release The Amazing Spider-Man so soon after Raimi’s trilogy ended. This is bringing about some unfair comparisons by fans of those films. But go in with an open mind and be prepared to be amazed.

José Soto

Forget Summer 2011, Bring on Next Summer’s Films!

Well the summer 2011 movie season is drawing to a close. Yes, August isn’t even here yet, but almost all of the big guns from the studios have been fired. There are just a handful of anticipated, genre flicks that haven’t been released yet. They include Rise of the Planet of the ApesConan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Final Destination 5. With this year’s Comic-Con, all the buzz is still about next year’s, and more specifically, next summer’s film releases. Here’s a list of what to look forward to:

May 2012

May 4–The Avengers–What better way to kick off the summer movie season (and Free Comic Book Day) than with a Marvel superhero film? Continuing a years’-long tradition, Marvel Studios is releasing its most anticipated film that teams up its A-list superheroes; Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and the Hulk. Plus, it’s directed by fan favorite Joss Whedon so expect it to make some moolah.

May 11–Dark Shadows–Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp (again!) in this remake of the popular 1960s soap opera about the vampire Barnabas Collins which predates True Blood, Twilight and all the other hot vampire shows and films.

May 18–Battleship–The Internet’s been percolating with a newly released teaser trailer. At first people were scratching their heads over the idea that Universal Studios canceled Ron Howard’s production of The Dark Tower saga in lieu of this reportedly $200 million sci-fi film directed by Peter Berg (who’s last film Hancock didn’t exactly thrill audiences). But the sight of U.S. Navy ships getting ready to square off against Transformer-like alien ships won over many doubters.

May 25–Men In Black III–Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and director Barry Sonnenfeld reteam for the third outing of Earth-based illegal alien hunting agents. Little is known about the film, only that it involves time travel which is impossible according to some scientists in Hong Kong.

June 2012

June 1–Snow White and the Huntsman–Starring Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, this reimaging of the classic fairy tale is supposedly more action packed and darker. Already people are clamoring for it or dismissing this as another Twilight clone. Given Stewart’s popularity with Twihards it may do well at the box office.

June 8–Prometheus–Perhaps the most anticipated sci-fi film of 2012 as Ridley Scott returns to the director’s chair to helm this prequel (?) to the Alien franchise. Little has been revealed about this film that might be about the alien space jockey whose skeleton was seen in the first Alien film. This veil of secrecy hasn’t been seen in a film for a while and its whipping up interest among fans burned out by the awful Aliens vs. Predators films.

June 8–Madagascar 3–Dreamworks Animation’s big offering for the summer brings us the further adventures of Alex the lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo as they try yet again to find their way back to New York’s Central Park Zoo. Reportedly the gang winds up in Europe and a traveling circus; the kids already can’t wait!

June 15–Jack the Giant Killer–Bryan Singer directs this fantasy epic about a young farmhand who battles against a race of giants. Described as an adult take of the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale this film features Ewan MacGregor and Stanley Tucci.

June 22-Brave–Pixar’s latest film has many firsts for the acclaimed animation studio; its first fairy tale, its first film directed by a woman and the first one to feature a girl protagonist. Its appeal to young girls who favor Disney films and Pixar’s brand for putting out animated masterpieces  should make a killing at the box office.  

June 22-Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter–Based on the popular novel of the same name it’s directed by  Timur Bekmambetov (his last film was the action-packed Wanted). It’s an interesting alternative for moviegoers who may not be into the month’s fairy tale releases.

June 29–G.I. Joe 2–The first film wasn’t exactly beloved even by those who swear by the Transformers films. But it made enough money to warrant a sequel. The question is how will it hold up to the heavy hitters released around the same time? It has got to have a killer trailer or word of mouth to get some momentum.

July 2012

July 3–The Amazing Spider-Man–Sony’s reboot of the Spider-Man film series has many Spider-fans torn over the need for a re-imaging so recently after Sam Raimi’s flicks. Yet again maybe the studio wants to get rid of the ill will the last film generated. Still no matter what critics say about Andrew Garfield looking like an emo, he does resemble Peter Parker and the mechanical web shooters will be used!

July 13–Ice Age: Continental Drift–The prehistoric mammals (featuring a wooly mammoth, a saber-tooth cat and a ground sloth) from the kid-friendly movie series return in this story that has them trapped on an iceberg and off on a seagoing adventure.

July 13–TedFamily Guy’s Seth MacFarlane makes his live-action directorial debut about a man (Mark Wahlberg) and his childhood teddy bear that comes to life. Sounds like a combo of Harvey and the recent TV show Wilfred. If Mike Judge could make the live-action transition then so could MacFarlane.

July 20–The Dark Knight Rises–OK hands down this is the BIG ONE for moviegoers. Whether or not you are a Batman fan you can’t deny the phenomenon of the last Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film. Touted as his last film and with Catwoman and Bane as the villains it might be the year’s biggest hit. In fact it’s expected to be so successful that it seems as if the rest of the summer season is drawing to a close afterwards.

August 2012

August 3–Total Recall–Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston star in the remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi movie that was based on a Philip K. Dick short story. Farrell stated recently that the film, like the original, will differ from the author’s tale.

August 17–ParaNorman–A stop-motion animated film that takes place in a town besieged by zombies. The citizens then call upon the services of a boy who is a sort of zombie whisperer to take care of the problem.

Of course, these release dates are subject to change and will most likely do so. Already, the new Star Trek film that was scheduled for the summer has been pushed back, so it won’t be surprising to learn that one of the above films has been removed from the schedule or another will join the list. No matter what, it’s good to know that there are plenty of films to choose from for next summer.

José Soto