When cinematically rebooting a well known property, it's important to differentiate the old from the new. You want to convey "Hey, this is something new and different!" That message is especially important when the primary reason for the reboot is that the franchise had come off the rails.
Just look at the genius reinvention of The Dark Knight that took place when Chris Nolan's Batman Begins came into theaters presenting itself as a completely different animal than Batman and Robin.
Look at this:
Another good recent example is the James Bond franchise. After Die Another Day took the series to campy levels not seen since the Roger Moore days- levels that modern audiences just have no interest in- Casino Royale came out, and it was a lean, tense, intimate story that totally hit the Reset Button. The Bond franchise is now more successful than ever.
Then there's Spider-Man. When Sony rebooted the character with Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man, instead of it looking fresh and new it came off like a retread. The trailers for the film contained a whole lot of déjà vu. From familiar set pieces (another climactic showdown on the 59th St Bridge? Really?), to repeated plot elements (Oh, another of Peter's "father figure" types turns his own science onto himself and becomes the villain?), it looked like a remake of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man more than a fresh start. Even the filmmakers muddied the waters with a tagline like "The Untold Story" and soundbites that claimed that this wasn't a reboot but rather a new chapter. This confused audiences, and rightfully so, because the film itself made it plainly obvious that this movie was not in any way related to Raimi's trilogy.
This is not to say that The Amazing Spider-Man was a flop. Quite the contrary. It made nearly $100 million more than that other recent big superhero reboot Man of Steel. But the issue with TASM was that, while it proved that the Spider-Man brand clearly still had legs, it didn't leave fans overly excited about the future. While Begins and Royale helped bring their respective characters to brand new heights, Amazing seemed to leave a "Meh" aftertaste in the mouths of many. As such, TASM2 came out with a marketing campaign that emphasized how super-sized it was and how it was going to blow open the Spider-Man Universe...and it made less money than its predecessor, was rejected by hardcore fans, and received "take it or leave it" reviews from critics.
Which brings us to the present: Marvel is getting ready to produce a new reboot of Spider-Man for Sony, and it will introduce this new version of Peter Parker within their own Marvel Cinematic Universe film Captain America: Civil War to signal to the world that Spider-Man is finally going to get to interact with the rest of studio's heroes. Our friend Devin Faraci, over at Birth Death Movies, had a chance to speak to Marvel's uber-producer Kevin Feige about how the studio is going to approach this second reboot of Spider-Man in the last few years.
We all ready know that Marvel/Sony are going to go younger with Peter Parker this time. The last two times we were introduced to Peter Parker he was in High School, but that period of time was only a footnote in those movies. His life as a teen was glossed over in favor of emphasizing his transformation into a man of "great responsibility." Feige says we're going to finally get a take on Parker that fully dives into that world and the personal stakes that come with just growing up.
"Stakes don’t need to be end of the world. Oftentimes, in our films, it is, and in our future films Thanos doesn’t work small. But sometimes the stakes can just be ‘Will this little girl grow up to be healthy and well put-together, or are there too many issues for her to overcome?’ That’s HUGE! That overrides a threat to reality itself," he told Faraci. "And I think Spider-Man straddles that line in a fun way in his comics. What we wanted was a movie where the stakes could be as high as ‘This bad person is going to do this bad thing, and a lot of people could die’ OR ‘You don’t get home in time and your aunt is going to figure this out, and your whole life is going to change,'" Feige added.
"It's a soap opera in high school," Feige says. "Just as we hadn’t seen a heist movie in a long time, or a shrinking movie in a long time, we haven’t seen a John Hughes movie in a long time. Not that we can make a John Hughes movie - only John Hughes could - but we’re inspired by him, and merging that with the superhero genre in a way we haven’t done before excites us." Evoking the memory of Hughes is kind of a big deal. After all, Hughes was a master at taking seemingly insignificant teenage happenings- an afternoon in detention, a first date, a break-up, a Sweet 16- and turning them into interesting coming-of-age tales. He did so, mind you, with ample touches of humor- something we know Marvel is huge on.
Faraci and Feige spoke at a junket for Ant-Man and found common ground on the new Disney feature Inside Out, a film that Faraci felt had so much at stake- with relatively so little going on. At a time when so many movies make everything about survival, life or death, the end of the world, and center everything on these gargantuan set pieces where everything is blowing up, a film that can make one character's personal journey so important is a welcome piece of art. Feige agrees with that sentiment. "Particularly at that age, in high school, everything feels like life or death. The tests feel like life or death. Coming home from being out with your friends seemed like life or death. The stakes are high at that age, for the same reason you talk about in Inside Out," he said.
So it sounds like rather than going super-sized, as Webb did with TASM2, or like DC/Warner Bros is doing with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, or Fox with X-Men: Apocalypse, Marvel wants to go small with Spider-Man. Tell a personal story. A personal story that, of course, will include all the trappings of a good Spider-Man tale- such as his epic rogues gallery. Speaking of which, Feige spoke words that will be music to your ears: "Right now we’re interested in seeing villains we haven’t seen before." Why is that so awesome? Because Parker's dealings with the Osborn clan, and the various incarnations of Green Goblin and Hobgoblin, have been beaten damn near to death in the five Spidey outings we've seen so far on the big screen.
New villains, an emphasis on Peter Parker's personal life as a teenager just trying to figure things out, and access to the MCU. If those aren't enough to simultaneously announce to the world "Hey, this is new and different!" while also getting people excited about what's to come, I don't know what will.
Oh, and what about mingling Spidey with the "street-level heroes" that Marvel is fleshing out on their Netflix TV shows like Daredevil? To that question, Feige went all Vince McMahon and said "never say never." He then cautioned, "But our current Sony deal is very specific - we’re producing the standalone film, with a certain amount of back and forth allowed."
All in all, it's a very exciting time to be a Spider-Man fan. Wouldn't you agree? Do you think Marvel/Sony can pull this off? Feige's comments here addressed much of my skepticism. How about yours?