Why the ‘Spider-Man’ Reboot?

A mere five years since Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 3” was released, a new version of Peter Parker’s journey from awkward high school student to crime fighter is hitting the silver screen next week. So why is the Webbed One getting the reboot treatment?

I posed that question to the cast of “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

“Each generation needs a Spider-Man to mirror their angst,” said Rhys Ifans, who plays Dr. Curt Connors in the movie. While Ifans might be measuring generations in dog years, he does have a point. Back when the first “Spider-Man” movie came out in 2002, smart phones weren’t very smart, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was just about to start at Harvard, and tweeting was just for the birds. It’s a different world now, especially for high school students like Parker.

[Related: See showtimes for ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’]

Raimi’s candy-colored trilogy made a whopping $2.5 billion worldwide and, as anyone who’s been to ComicCon can attest, there’s still a huge appetite for the superhero. The challenge is keeping the franchise fresh. “Spider-Man 3” made a pile of money but was savaged by critics and hardcore fans alike; it felt like the series ran out of gas.

Thus in 2010, Sony Pictures announced that it selected Mark Webb to helm the reboot. It was a bold choice as Webb’s only feature film experience was directing the indie rom-com “500 Days of Summer.” But the genre had changed a lot since the last Spidey-flick. Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” proved that not only would audiences flock to darker, edgier, more realistic superhero movies, but also that the movie could earn Oscars, too. And the “Twilight” franchise proved that big-budget spectaculars that gave more than just an obligatory nod to female movie-goers could be rewarded with preposterous amounts of money.

The entire cast went to great pains to distance this movie from the previous ones.

“This Spider-Man is different in that it’s set in the present day,” continued Ifans. “It’s not as fantastical as the other Spider-Mans. It’s placed in a real and tangible world.”

“I think it is completely different,” said Spidey himself, Andrew Garfield. “I’m a huge fan of the previous ones but the story follows a different path. And what it focuses on is Peter’s search for who he is.”

[Related: Emma Stone nudged toward ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ role by Jennifer Lawrence]

The movie does delve deeper into the psychology of the franchise’s central character than with Raimi’s movies, focusing on the sudden and mysterious loss of Parker’s parents. And Garfield’s interpretation of Parker is much more angry and introverted than lovably goofy. As a result, Parker and everyone else feel much more psychologically grounded.

“There are so many secrets kept from Peter and there’s so much he wants to know,” said Emma Stone. “So it turns him into this quiet, bullied guy. He’s enigmatic. You don’t know what’s going on with him, but there’s something kind of heroic about him, too.”

Stone plays Parker’s love interest, Gwen Stacy. Anyone familiar with the Spidey mythology knows that Stacy has a much different, and more tragic, fate than Mary Jane, Spidey’s girl in the Raimi’s movies.

Though the movie has plenty of spine-tingling action, wildly destructive fights and way-cool explosions, the really striking thing about the movie is the palpable chemistry between Parker and Stacy. It’s the sort of thing that has led the Daily Telegraph to quip “Webb has created the first superhero movie aimed primarily at women.” That may or may not be the case, but this might be one of the few movies out there that will appeal to both hard core fanboys and their rom-com-loving girlfriends.

[Related: Indie Roundup: ‘Extraterrestrial’ and ‘Beyond the Black Rainbow’]

Dennis Leary, who plays Gwen’s father Captain Stacy, credits Webb’s background in indie movies.

“[Webb] was talking about making a small acting movie full of characters with this giant action budget. He did a lot of improvisation. We did a lot of talking our way through these scenes. So it’s kind of extraordinary that he pulled it off.”

“The Amazing Spider-Man” opens July 3rd.

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June 2012

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