Michael C here to get Spidey's back this Fourth of July.
There used to be a natural life cycle for big movie franchises. It began with audiences thrilling to the sight of Christopher Reeve soaring over Metropolis and ended a few films later with everyone looking away in embarrassment as Superman traded punches with Nuclear Man on the moon. This was followed by a period of mourning long enough for everyone to wonder if the last film was some kind of fever dream, and then and only then could a fresh creative team breathe life into the dormant franchise.
But now, no sooner does Emo Spidey cha-cha his way into an early grave, than the suits decide to shake the etch-a-sketch on the whole show and pretend the last three films never happened. In a world fast approaching franchise over-saturation, with sequels dropping with a frequency normally reserved for Tetris blocks, the idea of a hugely successful series starting over from scratch while the body of the last entry is still warm, feels like a new low in shameless cash-grabbing.
But take a step back for a moment, put emotions on hold and ask the logical question: What is so bad about an instant reboot?
The most common refrain in the wake of the reboot announcement was “Why do we need a retelling of Spiderman’s origin?” Not exactly a fair question since the wisdom of making a movie can only truly be decided in hindsight. How many people thought we really needed a sequel to The Addams Family before we got a great one? A fresh, entertaining take on the material justifies its own creation, same as with any film, reboot or otherwise.
I sympathize with those fans who worry that too many versions of a single story dilutes the power of each individual telling. But when you are dealing with properties that have been around for decades and decades like Spiderman or James Bond, or even longer like Robin Hood, there is no point in getting precious about it. Varied takes on the character having kept them going this far and will keep them going into the future, and that's all there is to it.
Rebooting a property certainly does less violence to a film’s legacy than a terrible sequel or various competing director’s cuts, or –shudder - a digitally “improved version”. Take Bond. No amount of invisible cars and ice fortresses could ever spoil my enjoyment of Goldfinger. Craig and Connery stand side by side in my estimation without one intruding on the other’s cinematic territory. Likewise, rebooting Spider-man whole cloth allows the Raimi trilogy to stand on its own while a new creative team gets a crack at the character.
And on the subject of Spidey, isn’t this exactly what the comic books have been doing for ages? Restarting and doubling back over the same material, allowing different artists to apply their own voice? Why should movies be limited to one interpretation per generation? Why should one dud entry like Superman IV or Batman and Robin bury a beloved character for a decade or more? Why not just let the studios swing away and let film audiences do what the comic fans do – celebrate the successes and let the passage of time wipe the failures from memory.
Of course I haven’t made the best case against immediate reboots: the case for originality. The position that Hollywood should just drop the franchises altogether - be they sequels, prequels, reboots or whatever - and cultivate original ideas. But that is an argument for an idealistic flight of fancy. As far as dealing with the reality of Hollywood as it stands where the sequels continue to come 2 fast and 2 furious I have a hard time justifying some sort of polite waiting period before new blood can get pumped into a film series.
So that's my best argument for reboots. An argument I'm surprised to find myself making. Am I right to find no real harm in the practice or am I whistling past the graveyard as this trend drags down the popular culture? Let me know in the comments.