It took many years, various screenwriters and directors, but the wall-crawling superhero known as Spider-Man finally leapt off the comic book pages and onto the big screen in 2002 with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. The Marvel Comics character was portrayed by Tobey Maguire, who was a smart choice for the duel role of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Two more sequels followed in 2004 and 2007, and each was bigger in scope and budget. Spider-Man 3 proved to be problematic as Raimi was forced to start production without a finished script and had to shoehorn in the character of Venom (a popular Spider-Man villain that Raimi really disliked). When it came time for Spider-Man 4, Raimi didn’t want to start production until there was a finished script (he wanted to avoid the problems he had in making the previous Spider-Man film). When Sony pushed for a production start without a finished screenplay, Raimi left the project and the film ended up being canceled. Not long after, Sony went forward with its plan to reboot the Spider-Man franchise (rather than let the rights revert back to Marvel Studios).
2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man centers on a teenager named Peter Parker who lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May. Peter is still haunted by the death of his parents roughly a decade before. One day, Peter finds a briefcase that belonged to his father (who was a scientist at Oscorp). Peter looks into Oscorp, and manages to sneak his way into a group of Oscorp interns led by Gwen Stacey, a classmate of his. Peter snoops around and soon finds himself in a room with genetically engineered spiders. Peter is soon bit by one, and acquires spider-like abilities. After his Uncle Ben is shot and killed (a result of inaction on Peter’s part), Peter uses his new abilities to track down the shooter. He creates a costume to protect his identity and web shooters that enable him to create webs and swing across great distances (like a spider). Having become Spider-Man, he soon gains the attention of the NYPD and is declared a vigilante. Peter’s abilities are put to the test as he tries to balance his dual lives and contend with the emergence of a creature called the Lizard.
This Spider-Man reboot is certainly a mixed bag. Based on the success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Sony felt it was necessary to make the character darker (or at least inhabit a grittier New York City). Unlike Raimi’s Spider-Man films, this Spider-Man film includes the mysterious disappearance of Peter Parker’s parents, the creation of the web shooters (which aren’t organic here), and Gwen Stacey being Peter’s first love. While these changes are more faithful to the comics, they exist mainly to set this film apart from Raimi’s trilogy. Showing the origin story for Spider-Man again might not have been the best way to go; watching the first hour of this film brings a “been there, done that” feeling of over-familiarity to the proceedings as the 2002 Spider-Man film is still fresh in people’s minds. On the other hand, the story is still well-executed and the new cast (Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, and Irrfan Khan) is superb. Despite its faults, director Marc Webb delivered a film that is quite good. James Horner wrote an incredible score (it’s a shame that the producers didn’t want him back for the sequel). I do believe that it was too soon for Sony to reboot the Spider-Man franchise, and that they should’ve gone ahead with Spider-Man 4 as a re-casted sequel with a new director and crew at the helm. Nevertheless, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man a lot and am looking forward to seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this summer.