By now we’ve all grown used to the idea that Marvel’s Spider-Man character is going to be rebooted yet again. For the first time in three tries, however, the character will be roped into the larger Marvel “universe” consisting of the Avengers and a growing collection of additional comics-based characters. That alone lends a new flavour to the coming version of Spider-Man, but the question remains: will it work?
We tend to view Spider-Man as one of the most popular comic book superheroes, but it’s not as if the character has been without its missteps in modern entertainment. Most notably, Sam Raimi’s abominable Spider-Man 3 was so horrible that it basically terminated the Tobey Maguire-as-Peter Parker series; Raimi himself called the film “awful,” and unfortunately it left a bad taste in the mouths of droves of fans who adored the cheesy but irresistible Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. Not too long after, the rebooted series (consisting of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2) directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield did OK, but by most people’s estimation didn’t quite live up to the first two Raimi films.
And then of course there was the infamous Broadway flop that almost made it seem as if the public was no longer interested in the hero. Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark once sounded promising, in that it would be bringing New York’s most iconic superhero to life on Broadway stages, swinging about like a Cirque du Soleil performer in the context of a musical partially composed by U2. It was hugely ambitious and exciting. But in the end it was little more than a disastrously expensive disappointment, plagued by a terrible script, a constant barrage of injuries to key players, and a relentless stream of harsh critical reviews. When the musical finally closed down, NPR recapped the action in the most succinctly fitting manner: “Ultimately,” a critic who covered the musical was quoted, “it’s a bad show.”
Considering all of that, Spider-Man has actually been on something of a cold streak since about 2007, even if the Webb/Garfield films weren’t terrible. If there’s been a clear indication, however, that the character has remained just as popular as ever with comic fans, it probably lies in gaming. Over the years, even since the unfortunate release of Spider-Man 3, there have been numerous successful video games built around Spider-Man, including a few based on the Webb/Garfield films. The character even stands out in smaller areas of the video game world: Gala Casino hosts a Spider-Man game among its numerous themed slot machines and jackpots, and Spider-Man Unlimited by Gameloft is sometimes ranked as one of the best superhero gaming apps. The former is a relatively ordinary slot arcade that’s greatly enhanced by the presence of the Green G
oblin and Spider-Man as semi-interactive characters, while the latter is basically an endless runner spun into a playable comic.
But if Spider-Man is to have further success in film, it’s going to take a pretty significant effort on the part of Marvel’s creative teams. Gaming is one thing: it can survive, as demonstrated by the titles just mentioned, by tossing Spidey’s image into an established format. But the new cinematic reboot will have to largely reinvent the character and his surrounding environment if it’s to emerge successfully from the shadow of Spider-Man 3 and the Webb/Garfield series. So can Marvel pull it off?
That remains to be seen. While the reboot isn’t scheduled for release until 2017, we’ll get our first glimpse at the new Spider-Man (to be played by Tom Holland), in this spring’s Captain America: Civil War. Various folks at Marvel have discussed the idea that this new version of the character will be introduced as the high school student version. He’s not on the verge of graduating as we saw in the Maguire and Garfield interpretations but rather a boy only just testing his powers and capabilities. As such, the character needs a mentor and it’s been heavily rumoured that said mentor will be Tony Stark. Along with this rumour comes the idea that Stark may even fashion Peter Parker a suit, as has happened in some versions of the comics.
Watch a trailer for the The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie.
That alone will make this Spider-Man very different from the ones we’ve seen in the past, both of whom were relative loners arguably handicapped by a lack of mentorship rather than helped along by established heroes. But the other factor that could help this reboot to succeed is the young man stepping into the suit. Tom Holland is earning early raves, most notably from Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn, who called Holland “off-the-charts awesome” in the role. Indeed, for any who happened to see The Impossible, Holland is recognisable as a relatively unknown young actor meant to bring a fresh face to the role and as a potentially major talent on the cusp of breaking out.
Many more factors will have to play into a successful 2017 reboot. But the lingering popularity of Spider-Man in the aftermath of some pretty catastrophic failures coupled with the early promise of the new project certainly bode well.