Sorry, but every Amazing Spider-Man-related article to come out in the last week has used some variation on this question, so I figured I’d start there.
The answer is because Sony doesn’t want to lose the rights to a lucrative franchise, dummy movie reviewer. You know it, I know it, Sony sure as shit knows it. So quit wringing your hands over it and move on.
And you BETTER not ask this question when the rebooted Fantastic Four and Daredevil films show up, either.
(AND WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT: The reason the upcoming Green Arrow TV series is called simply “Arrow” is because the CW would rather not have audiences connect this to two recent cinematic failures, Green Lantern and Green Hornet. It’s the same reason Red Dragon was renamed Manhunter in the 80’s. So you can all shut your question-holes about that one, too.)
Anyway, here’s an even better answer to “Why reboot the Spider-Man franchise?” and the reason I’m actually starting to look forward to it a little more.
(I mean, a better answer than, “Spider-Man is usually portrayed as a high school/college aged guy, and Toby Maguire is like 40 now.”)
It’s because every single character in these movies is Just The Worst.
Let’s run it down:
The Worst because: In the movie universe, Spider-Man’s powers are directly proportionate to how good he feels about himself, which…if that’s how powers work, you got yourself a shitty set of powers there, fella.
And he has a habit of swinging right in front of the flight path of police helicopters in mid-town Manhattan, and that just seems reckless. (OK, that’s just a nitpick of mine but come on, man.)
The Worst because: He’s just a goddamn mop of a human being. Obviously a chief trait of the character is that he’s perpetually down on his luck, or that every time something good happens to him it’s immediately offset by some kind of loss (the “Parker Luck”), but Maguire’s version gets whacked by schoolbags and doesn’t react with more than a sigh, he fights a losing battle against a broom closet, and he can’t articulate a single thought to his aunt or defend himself to his best friends.
And we’re not talking about little things like, “Oh, I couldn’t make your play because an usher was being a jerk to me.” We are talking, “Hey Harry, slow your stab-roll, man – I didn’t kill your dad, your dad was an insane supervillain trying to kill ME who got in the way of his own weapon, but for SOME REASON I thought you might not take that so well, so excuuuuuuse me.”
The Worst because: She is a delusional, self-involved jerk. In the first movie, her dreams of being a famous actress are dashed when she’s told she needs acting lessons at an audition for a soap opera. She takes that as an insult, rather than a valid criticism. Later, she gets a major role in The Importance of Being Earnest based solely on a photo shoot for a perfume ad (so you KNOW that’s gonna be a good production) and makes Peter attend on the grounds that “Aunt May and Harry have already come” (which, nice of you guys to invite Peter, jerks), and “I’ll be disappointed if you don’t.”
THE DUDE IS A COLLEGE STUDENT TRYING TO LIVE IN ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE CITIES IN THE WORLD. MAYBE HE HAS TO WORK THAT NIGHT, MARY JANE.
And look, I have a lot of friends who perform in plays. All the time. Can’t always go. (Sometimes I just plain don’t want to because I don’t like the play, and that’s okay, too!) And they never, ever give me grief over it.
Oh, and then she mega-flirts with him so he’ll come out and say he loves her, and when he can’t articulate that (because he’s The Worst at that), she tells him she’s been dating a guy. She kept that detail in her back pocket, just so that Peter could feel WORSE about himself (which as we know, makes him lose his powers because that is how powers work).
She also leaves a dude at the altar but that’s just because he cannot provide the upside-down kisses Mary Jane has become accustomed to.
Then there is the third movie, where she cannot be happy for her boyfriend finally getting a little respect for regularly saving lives, because her acting career has (rightfully) hit the skids and he’s not devoting enough time to help her wallow in self-pity.
The Worst because: He can’t make up his goddamn mind what kind of character he is. I mean, clearly he’s not the brightest bulb and he really only wants to impress his dad, so we can let a lot of this slide, but for a dude who only has one friend, he’s pretty terrible to Peter. Whether it’s dating a girl he KNOWS Peter is in love with (and also keeping it a secret), or attending Peter’s sad little birthday party primarily so he can turn on a murderous scowl whenever he asks Peter about taking pictures of Spider-Man, this is a shitty best friend to have, and that’s even before he stone-cold starts trying to murder him.
On the other hand, he is boisterous playboy who gleefully funds Dr. Octopus’s research for fame and fortune.
Though he may be mentally ill, which is apparently something you inherit only when your father breathes in an experimental super-steroid when you’re a teenager, because he hallucinates his dead dad lecturing him. So maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on him.
And he’s a mumbler, too. In fact, all three of these guys are mumblers.
The worst because: Oh my god Aunt May shut UP already. You think Uncle Ben was the Dispenser of Wisdom in the Parker family? No way. He only had “With great power comes great responsibility” and he got that shit locked down to a tight six words.
Aunt May has something to say about dating, about responsibility, about heroism, about getting engaged too early, and because she is old and feeble she KNOWS you’ll feel guilty enough to just sit there and listen to every rambling, pace-destroying monologue she feels like delivering.
Crafty old bat.
New York City
The worst because: Well…I just don’t like New York very much, but that’s just because I’ve had to attend one too many conferences in Times Square. So that’s not really on this movie.
But apparently NYC is filled to the brim with extras who can’t fucking act at all. And buskers.
The worst because: He hired all these people and he stuck Willem Dafoe’s super-emotive face behind a frozen plastic helmet. That is just a bad call.
So yeah, let it be said that I’m for a rebooted franchise mostly because I dislike each hokey, badly-plotted, sluggishly-paced movie in the previous series. But just so you know I am not completely joyless, there are definitely parts that are Not The Worst. Which, I guess, is usually called “Good” but I’ve lost six hours to these things over the last couple days so I’m not feeling too charitable.
- Willem Dafoe’s awesomely creepy expressions during the Thanksgiving scene, including his straight-up murder-eyes when Aunt May slaps his hand away from the stuffing
- Every single thing that comes out of JK Simmons’ mouth
- Doctor Octopus’s whole deal (easily the strongest villain of the series), assuming you can go along with the fact that his robot arms are terrifying death-bots that need to be kept in check with an inhibitor chip lest they take over his brain (seriously, why on earth would you build and then strap something like that onto you?!)
- New York teaming up, in the spirit of unity and civic-mindedness, to throw shit at the Green Goblin, because of course they do.