— by CAM SMITH —
Well, Spidey fans, your unbearable week of uncertainty waiting to find out the director choice for the “Spider-Man” reboot is at last over, as Sony Pictures has secured their first choice Marc Webb — of the winning “(500) Days of Summer” — to breathe new life into the still warm Marvel Comics franchise.
In a gushing confirmation press-release, Sony co-chair Amy Pascal and Columbia Pictures president Matt Tolmach announced: “At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world. The key for us as we sought a new director was to identify filmmakers who could give sharp focus to Peter Parker’s life. We wanted someone who could capture the awe of being in Peter’s shoes so the audience could experience his sense of discovery while giving real heart to the emotion, anxiety, and recklessness of that age and coupling all of that with the adrenaline of Spider-Man’s adventure. We believe Marc Webb is the perfect choice to bring us on that journey.”
In response, Webb, suitably brimming with enthusiasm, but respectfully modest, declared: “This is a dream come true and I couldn’t be more aware of the challenge, responsibility, or opportunity. Sam Raimi’s virtuoso rendering of Spider-Man is a humbling precedent to follow and build upon. The first three films are beloved for good reason. But I think the Spider-Man mythology transcends not only generations but directors as well. I am signing on not to ‘take over’ from Sam. That would be impossible. Not to mention arrogant. I’m here because there’s an opportunity for ideas, stories and histories that will add a new dimension, canvas, and creative voice to Spider-Man.”
Now, although I’m thoroughly against this hastily conceived reboot, I actually agree with Webb’s sentiments. Spider-Man is indeed bigger than any director — just as Batman, James Bond and Harry Potter are — and he has every right to build his own Web-Slinging universe, free of the shadow of Sam Raimi.
Certainly, unlike Raimi, who drew inspiration from the original ’60s-era issues of “Amazing Spider-Man,” Webb’s film(s) will go in a completely different direction altogether, using the “Ultimate Spider-Man” comic-book line — a sharply-written series, set in contemporary times, by Brian Michael Bendis — as a jump-off point and “centering on a high school kid who is dealing with the knowledge that his uncle died even though [he] had the power to stop it.”
However, as I stated in my previous story on this news item, I have grave doubts that Webb will be able to realize his own true vision of this storyline with the studio breathing heavily down his neck. This is, at this point, destined to be a runaway train of a production that, with a May 2012 release date not too far off, has precious little time to waste in assembling its crew and cast and getting before cameras.
There’s also the curious info included in the Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision Blog that the director will be working with a ludicrously-small projected budget of $80 million. That’s a mighty underwhelming number (less than “Hellboy II”!), given the nature of summer blockbusters, and doesn’t bode well for the series’ history of breath-taking action set-pieces and ground-breaking effects. It’s even stranger when you consider that the budget for the original “Spider-Man” was a reasonably robust $139 million — roughly double the reboot’s price-tag, when you take inflation into account.
Sure, they’ll save a few bucks by hiring, as Heat Vision puts it, “a cast of relative unknowns,” but one has to question how much Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst were demanding before “Spider-Man’s” release sent their stardom-meter a-soarin.’
No, deep down, this feels like a serious indication of the studio’s low confidence in the entire project. They are likely grimly aware that, in re-jiggering the series into a teen-friendly high school drama, they are potentially losing a large section of their audience and are merely hedging their bets so as to guarantee that, unless the near-impossible occurs and the film flops spectacularly, they’ll make their money back lickety-split. Sure, they may have to sacrifice spectacle — and possibly New York as a filming location — to do it, but this decision means that they’ll be able to call the reboot move a success no matter what. Good for them.
I just hope that, whatever happens, Webb makes it out of this situation relatively unscathed, as I think he has far more exciting things in him than this troubling enterprise. Let’s hope that one day, in a brighter future, we get to see them.
So, with this hurdle out of the way, I would assume that the next announcements will centre on casting. I’m going to place my bets on Electro being the heavy, as he’s a well-known, high B-lister who’s fairly cheap to bring to the screen. Vulture would probably be even cheaper, but we know now that THAT ain’t happening!
How are you all feeling about this news? Which villains do you expect to figure into the stripped-down excitement? Sticky your insights to our comment section, true believers!
Follow Cam Smith on Twitter at http://twitter.com/camspcepisodes.