Are reboots of comic book movies more forgivable?
Before I get into today’s topic, I want to give a quick shoutout to At the Back who passed me the Versatile Blogger Award. I really do appreciate the award for what it is, he thinks this site is in his top 10 list of blogs. But I’m not going to participate in the meme. If you follow me on Twitter, you did get to hear 10 random facts about me, but that’s as far as I’m going with it. I’ll stick with my Follow Fridays to share the blogging love. But today I wanted to go back to The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s a great movie, did well in the box office, though not quite as well as any of the Raimi movies yet, and was received rather well critically. But the thing hanging in the air in almost every single discussion about the movie was that it was too soon for a reboot. So my question for today is, should we be more forgiving of reboots of comic book movies?
If you look at comic books themselves, especially the biggest characters such as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and the X-Men. They’ve been around for decades. They’ve been changed, re-imagined, re-booted, re-vamped countless times. Batman used to wield a gun. Superman originally didn’t fly. Beast was originally just a big guy with maybe a Robin Williams level of body hair, not thick blue fur. There was an eight year gap between Batman and Robin and Batman Begins. That’s only 3 more years than Spider-Man, but I don’t remember anyone saying “eight years is too soon for a reboot!” There was also only 5 years between X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class, and only 2 years after X-Men: Wolverine, but if I do a search for “too soon for a reboot?” on Google, not a single mention of X-Men on the front page, even if I stuff X-Men into my search, I find only old news about how it was in the works, but no outcry. So why is it that The Amazing Spider-Man is the one to cause so much of a ruckus when those other two reboots went by without hardly any fuss? Spider-Man 3 was even considered an awful movie by most moviegoers, and yet few people are thanking Marc Webb for cleansing the stink of Sam Raimi’s Venom away.
Honestly, I think comic book movies lend themselves to re-interpretations more than other genres of movies. Aside from a handful of titles that had a short but popular run, like Watchmen, or characters that have only been written by a single author, of which I don’t even know of any aside from the relatively unknown Sam Keith’s the Maxx, along with many other less familiar characters. And even books written by a single author can sometimes have different artists that help bring their own ideas to the character which can influence the stories. Comics evolve and change just as much as any other medium, the difference is that they retain their characters year after year after year.
I personally don’t feel that 5 years is too short of a time to bring a new interpretation of a well known superhero back into the theaters, or even on television. Smallville went off the air just last year, and this year they’re rebooting the character Green Arrow, who featured prominently in that series, into his own series. And once again, I see no outcry, no backlash, nothing. In fact, I generally see positivity towards the project. Or at the very least curiosity.
I think the biggest reason that fans are up in arms, or at least were up in arms; I think the backlash has quieted down a bit since the movie was actually good, is because of the Avengers. How can I make that connection? Well it’s time to put on my lawyer hat for a little bit here. A long while back when Marvel movies actually started making a little bit of bank, movie studios wanted to get the rights to other heroes. Fox got X-Men, Sony got Spider-Man, and so on. The way the internet understands these kind of agreements is that while Sony owns the rights to the Spider-Man character, they can make however many movies they want as long as they keep using the character. If a gap of X many years go by with no Spider-Man movie, then the rights automatically go back to Marvel. Before, that would mean that Marvel would have to shop Spider-Man to another movie studio before they could make a new Spider-Man movie, but now that Marvel is a studio in its own right, and a thumping impressive one with the Avengers movie at it forefront, I think a lot of fans would rather see Spider-Man go back to Marvel in the hopes of a future Spider-Man/Avengers team-up, or something like that. And on top of that, there’s also the general negativity surrounding making a movie strictly for the rights rather than the organic need to make a new incarnation of the character. I liked the movie a lot, and I even watched it only a couple days after watching the Raimi version of the origin. Was it too soon for a reboot of Spider-Man? No. Of course, that begs the question of how soon is too soon? I’ll let you know when I see it. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.
Posted on July 11, 2012, in Blogs and tagged Blog, comic books, green arrow, movies, reboot, spider-man. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.
As big of a superhero movie fan I am, I don’t think it’s ever too soon. If there’s great filmmakers and amazing storytellers willing to make something good, I’m all for it. Hell, I’d be up for a Batman movie every year. There’s just too much story and too much source material to have something dismissed too quickly without any thought. People can complain, sure, but if I was involved in Hollywood (as a fanboy myself), I’d be dying for a chance to be involved with a superhero movie. Too many people want to be involved in the stories we all know and I don’t see the desire to make these films dying anytime soon. My only complaint is that if someone completely destroys a character (Batman and Robin, Spider-Man 3, etc), give it a little time for the wound to heal. Sure, you’d think we’d quickly want the bad taste out of our mouths, but give us time to forget, dammit.
Your article brings up a lot of good points and is a great start to a discussion I can talk about for days. Do you have a podcast by the way? I think you’d be fun to talk to/with and go on and on about whatever.
I don’t yet, though I will be making a debut on the Lambcast later this month. I’ve talked with one of my old friends and may look into doing one, but nothing’s concrete at the moment. I’m good at writing, but I’m not sure if I have the speaking chops to cut it as a podcaster.
I agree that a large part of the backlash here is because it was fairly obvious as a rights grab, and because fans are curious what Marvel Studios could do with it, but there are also a couple of other factors at play. The first is that even though the third Spider-Man film was terrible, it wasn’t a franchise killer. There was still a sense that it was an aberration, unlike the 1990s Batman films which were all disappointing to some degree, or Superman Returns which stood alone in its terribleness. Spider-Man 3 could simply have been the odd-film-out. People still wanted to see Raimi and Maguire come back with a fourth, better, film. And that was in the works for quite a while after Spider-Man 3. It was only after Raimi and Maguire (and Dunst, but who cares?) officially stated they weren’t coming back that Sony declared that stage of things done. And it was immediately after that announcement that they announced the reboot. So it feels shorter (for the internet pundits, anyway, and I think they’re the only ones who were really saying it was too soon) because it began right on the heels of the death of the previous franchise, as opposed to Batman, which had lain completely fallow for a few years before Batman Begins was even considered.
There’s also a difference in that it doesn’t just reboot the franchise, it covers the same ground as an existing movie, in retelling his origin. That’s new. Batman Begins was the first time the origins of Batman were shown on the big screen. X-Men: First Class was the first time the origins of the team were shown in film (and, not having seen it, I’ll have to defer to you on whether it’s a true reboot; if it doesn’t contradict anything major from the original trilogy, it may not count yet.) But The Amazing Spider-Man tells Spider-Man’s origin again, which was already told in Spider-Man. That makes it that much harder to treat it as its own separate thing; it invites the comparison. That said, if the movie is good (again, I’ll have to defer to you on that for now), people will forgive just about any perceived “transgression”. If the film had been poorly received, people wouldn’t have a casual “was it too soon?” attached to their reviews, it would have been a lengthy diatribe stating it was absolutely too soon.
It’s true that in both cases I mentioned, they could be considered more prequels than reboots, but at least in my opinion, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. There were a whole lot of contradictions between First Class and the other X-Men movies, but there was a very brief cameo by both Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn which did connect the movies. I think it’s just the fact that the internet is a fickle audience, and there’s no telling what it will latch onto and what it will rail against.
I have no problem with reboots. I do think Amazing Spiderman is a much different animal than your other examples. Joel Schumacher burned the Batman franchise to the ground and the last two X-Men films were not nearly as adored as the first two. Both of those franchises were ready for a new take.
With Spiderman, Raimi’s third wasn’t as beloved, but there was still a lot of goodwill towards him and the cast. The narrative amongst fanboys became the studio forcing Venom into the film and compromising Raimi’s story.
I was ready to love the new film, but I think it does a better job of telling the Peter-Gwen story than the Spiderman one. I liked it, but didn’t love it
One minor correction: Marvel actually sold their film rights when they were on the verge of bankruptcy. It took a few years for studios to see the value of the properties. Hence, we got awful fil versions of Punisher, Captain America and Fantastic Four (from Roger Corman!)
Funnily enough, I have actually reviewed all three of those awful movies that you mentioned and was rather fond of Captain America in all its cheesyness. It’s interesting to see what different people take away from the reboot. I do get the sense that the negativity towards Spider-Man 3 is mostly directed at the studio’s involvement rather than the actual directing and acting teams. But at the same time, no matter what ends up happening, if it’s done well then I’m all for it. Thanks for stopping by.
Considering how often the comics themselves keep rebooting things, I don’t know that it really matters. I think a lot of the rage is that the superhero movie fad is now in full swing, whereas older ones like Hulk and Punisher were at the beginning, and people weren’t paying so much attention to it.
I think there was a lot of love out there for the Spiderman trilogy, too, while the other series that got rebooted weren’t as popular in the first place.
I had forgotten about Hulk, though I guess if I had thought about it as to whether I would have preferred a reboot, or a sequel with all different actors. I think I would have preferred the reboot. But enough with the origin movies.
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