Rebooting 'Spider-Man,' in a flash

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NEW YORK (AP) — On a weekend in January of 2010, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios pivoted faster than even Spider-Man would dare.
A fourth installment of the hugely popular Spider-man franchise was planned, with director Sam Raimi and star Tobey Maguire returning to their trilogy of films that had earned more than $2.5 billion at the global box office and generally been hailed as a standard-bearer in big-screen comic book adaptations.
But by that Monday, Raimi’s dissatisfaction with the script and the producers’ eagerness for a new movie had come to a head. In a flash, the sequel was kaput, and a reboot was ordered up. Next Tuesday, “The Amazing Spider-Man” will be released, charting a new start for the web-slinger just five years after “Spider-Man 3.”
Reboots of film franchises have been typically launched many more years later than that. But today, “five years is a lifetime in the movie business,” says Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal. “I wasn’t troubled by it.”
Reasons for reboots vary from restoring dormant franchises (“Star Trek”), to refreshing long-running ones (James Bond) or improving on previous failures (The Hulk).
The Hulk was famously tried twice, in 2003 and 2008 by Marvel and Universal Pictures. Similarly, a new Superman (“Man of Steel”) is due out next year from Warner Bros., a new start for the DC Comics’ character after 2006’s “Superman Returns” disappointed.
“The Amazing Spider-Man,” on the other hand, comes close on the heels of Raimi’s acclaimed trilogy. Though Sony’s preference was to make a fourth film with the same team, Pascal now says they were “looking for a story that wasn’t there,” following the conclusiveness of “Spider-Man 3.”
That makes the $200 million “Amazing Spider-Man” a somewhat daring maneuver, bound to face comparisons to the recent Spider-Man films and skepticism from some moviegoers.
To combat any Spidey fatigue, Sony has imbued the new, 3-D “Spider-Man” with youth: Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker, Emma Stone plays his girlfriend Gwen Stacy and Marc Webb, whose only previous feature was 2009’s “(500) Days of Summer,” directs.
“The only time to take a break is when your franchise fails,” says Avi Arad, a producer of the film and former CEO of Marvel Studios. “People want Spider-Man, so it’s our responsibility to give them something new, something different and start a whole new generation of Spider-Man lovers.”
Webb’s vision of the film (written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves) is predicated on Parker’s origin — tracing his history as an orphan and beginning with his parents. That also means, come high school, covering some of the same ground from Raimi’s first “Spider-Man”: the spider bite, the uncle’s death, the school hallway showdowns.
“It’s not like we’re retelling the exact origin as Sam had done it,” says Webb. “But I felt it was important for a new story to understand the character from the ground up because I feel like the inflection of this character was quite different than what we’d seen before.”
That inflection is closer to the Spider-Man of the comics. Garfield’s version of the hero is more sarcastic, lithe and twitchy — more of a rebellious teen.
The 28-year-old British actor from “The Social Network,” who’s fresh off an acclaimed performance in “Death of a Salesman” on Broadway, wanted to honor the previous incarnations of Spider-Man. A fan of the comics since childhood, he says taking on the role was less a decision to consider than a matter of listening to “my inner 3-year-old screaming at me.”
“With Spider-Man, the legacy is so huge and there’s so much to pay homage to and respect to, that you have to be as aware of it as much as possible,” Garfield said.