Back when Sony Pictures announced it was going to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, it felt as if Dr. Octopus had simultaneously slapped my face, sucker punched me and whacked me on the nuts. After waiting three years for signs that Sam Raimi would recapture the magic of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 (and make amends for the listless mess that was Spider-Man 3), the disheartening news came. The powers that be had decided to serve up the same old familiar origin story (misfit Peter Parker gets bitten, goes through Spidey-puberty and lets his uncle die because he hasn’t got his proverbial caca together), instead of taking the saga into more interesting territory.
This was not just an “aw, shucks” let-down like the one I felt when I heard Edward Norton wouldn’t be reprising the role of Bruce Banner in The Avengers. I actually sunk into an existential lament for the future of the superhero genre. I imagined a future where other franchises would follow suit, offering formulaic retreads of the exact same plot points ad infinitum. But three things happened: Time passed, my doctor upped my meds and I suddenly found myself able to put things in a brighter perspective.
Now that the opening of The Amazing Spider-Man is finally upon us, I am choosing to be optimistic. I am defiantly hoping against all common sense for a future free of arachnid reboot fatigue.
Assuming Sony can manage to hang on to the Spidey movie rights long enough, here are four reasons why the franchise needn’t be rebooted for at least another 20 years.
- Look at Star Wars. George Lucas has kept the Star Wars brand alive through 35 years of prequels, spinoffs and one-offs. He’s proven that if a cinematic pop-culture mythology connects with its audience and sparks the imagination on a profound level, it can have serious legs. For as easily as one can argue that Lucas has done nothing but dilute the power of his original trilogy through myriad bastardizations, at least he’s never opted to officially reboot the series. And generations of fans continue to gravitate to Star Wars as a result.
- First-tier villains needn’t be expendable. Over the course of his Spider-Man trilogy, Raimi and his screenwriters painted themselves into a corner by killing off most of the best-known villains: Green Goblins Sr. and Jr., Dr. Octopus, Sandman and Venom. From this reboot on, we can only hope that future writers will have the good sense to not prematurely dispatch Spidey’s classic archenemies. Wikipedia tells me there are more than 120 villains in the comic book series’ gallery of rogues. Along with the heavy hitters, there are plenty of lesser known second-tier villains to serve as cannon fodder.
- Spider-Man has no shortage of story material. Like most classic comic book heroes, Spider-Man comes with a rich legacy that future writers can draw on. The Spider-Man canon presents roughly five decades of exhilirating victories and crushing failures, on both a human and superhuman scale. Writers willing to do their due diligence can easily mine that legacy for decades to come.
- Fifty is the new forty. Some critics are saying that — at 28 — Andrew Garfield looks a bit old to play a convincing teenager. Naturally, the thought of Garfield playing Spider-Man at 48 might give one pause. But if he’s got the chops and the stamina and he ages reasonably well, why the hell can’t he play Spider-Man for the next couple decades? Hell, with a bit of subtle CGI, Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise can pass for much younger than their true ages and (offscreen personal drama notwithstanding) are still considered by many to be credible leading men.
It’s time to grudgingly get back to reality. I’m sure we won’t go anywhere near two decades before we’re subjected to yet another Spider-Man reboot. I should probably just resign myself to that certainty.
But is it too much to hope that, when the inevitable reboot arrives, we’ll see a true reinvention of the character? Hell, maybe in a few years’ time, if we’re lucky, we’ll see the studio powers that be decide that moviegoing audiences are ready for a black Spider-Man.