To Reboot or Not to Reboot: Refer to Our Handy Infographic for Determing When Hollywood Should Tell Superhero Origin Stories

The release of The Amazing Spider-Man this week has left some people scratching their heads. How can a movie that is billed as “The Untold Story” be so achingly repetitive? With the first hour of the film an alternate take on the first hour of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man from 2002, people have questioned the need to rehash essentially the same origin story of such a widely-known superhero.

As reported in Latino Review, director Marc Webb insists the reboot was necessary. (Spoiler: it wasn’t.) He continues to say it was to introduce the world to a new Spider-Man and, more importantly, a new Peter Parker. (Spoiler: It really doesn’t.) Whether Webb was pressured by the studio for the redux origin or if he just wanted to not have to follow any of the Raimi canon, it seems silly to tread such familiar ground so soon.

In 2002, Spider-Man continued the trend that X-Men started two years before, making superhero films profitable and possible in the big studio system. Since then, we’ve seen quite a few origin stories – from full-blown reboots of known characters as in Batman Begins to introduction of heroes who aren’t known much outside of comic book fans as in Iron Man. However, with The Man of Steel coming up next year and an obvious Batman reboot once The Dark Knight Rises finishes its run, who knows what Hollywood is going to do next?

While origin stories are necessary for some heroes, they are redundant and counterproductive for others. Obviously if you’re introducing a secondary or tertiary character, or if you’re making a film of fringe comics, an origin is necessary. Even Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, which were based on a popular Marvel characters needed to have their origins explained to the mainstream audience.

But do we really need all this again for the most popular superheroes? Who doesn’t know who Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk are by now? Hell, the names of these characters often say it all. Superman is a man with super powers, and very basic super powers at that. Batman is a guy who dresses as a bat to fight crime. Spider-Man has spider-like abilities. And the Hulk…well, he’s just big, green, and likes to smash.

Hollywood needs to take a page from the James Bond franchise, which doesn’t follow a superhero but Bond is equally as iconic of a character. It took twenty films and more than 40 years before anyone bothered to give Bond an origin in 2006’s Casino Royale. After ten years of finally taking a page from the comic book companies, Hollywood should also take a page on how they write continuing storylines. Just tell a good story with popular characters. Will there really be anyone confused when Superman flies or Spider-Man swings from a web?

To help aid Hollywood in figuring this out, here’s a nifty flowchart to determine if it is really necessary to spit out another origin story or if we can just get a solid adventure film about characters that, frankly, everyone already knows. (Click on image for larger view.)

When do you think superhero movies should have an origin story?

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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