The Not-So-Amazing Spider-Man (Part 3)

In this final segment, I’ll be wrapping up with a critique of the marketing from The Amazing Spider-Man so far, as well as posting my final thoughts on what we can expect from the film this July.

MARKETING

With a new cast, crew, and overall direction, the general consensus is that The Amazing Spider-Man will be a full-on reboot, wiping away any and all connections to the previous series. However, Entertainment Weekly published this as part of an interview with longtime Marvel producer Avi Arad in regards to the new film’s continuity standing: 

Exec producer Avi Arad says the film won’t erase what came before but will try to weave a narrative that could take place within the framework of the earlier films. ‘It’s not a comeback,’ he says. ‘You have to look at it this way: Do you want to know more about Spider-Man? This movie is going to tell stories that you didn’t see in movies 1, 2, and 3.’

This could very well just be the way EW framed the quote, but based on the way that blurb reads, it’s almost as if Arad is stepping back and trying to position the new movie as “More Spider-Man”, which is itself acknowledging the first three movies’ existence. I get a sense that he’s trying to promote the new movie as both a continuation of Raimi’s films and a reboot.

There is of course plenty of evidence to the contrary, so why is Arad backtracking? Pretty obvious if you ask me – there was a considerable divide amongst Spider-Man fans when the reboot was announced, and the best way to try and please both crowds is simple – promote the film as “More Spider-Man”, or more accurately “the Untold Story”, as has been used in the marketing, which inherently suggests a backstory left out of the original films that this new story will now cover. In that, Sony is positioning The Amazing Spider-Man as a new Spidey film that will appease both those who swear by Raimi’s films as well as new audiences looking for a fresh start.

Sound in approach perhaps, but the reality is that there’s no way Sony can have their cake and eat it too. As I mentioned in Part I, Raimi’s films built up a devoted audience who became invested in these characters and the drama they inspired. You can’t try to play to that crowd while prematurely starting from the ground up again. Fans aren’t going to buy it.

Not to mention, Sony acknowledging the existence of the original films at all in official marketing shows a distinct lack of confidence in their new product. Not being completely willing to pick up and start over tells me that Sony isn’t certain that what they have will truly hold its own against what came before. If the company had come out and said, “We made the decision to reboot because we think we have a great idea here and we believe we can do even better than the first three films”, then I’d at least give them props for having the balls to fully commit to the new direction. Instead, the company is adopting a wishy-washy, vague stance on the film’s continuity in its marketing, which communicates that they aren’t entirely sure the new movie can stand alone.

And just to prove that I’m not talking out of my ass here, Sony did almost the exact same thing with the recent Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. While that film was frequently cited by its creative team as a reboot of the 2007 film, Sony chose to market the film with posters featuring taglines like “He Rides Again”, again, acknowledging what came before. The first film, despite being a critical failure, grossed solid numbers at the box office. In an effort to maintain those figures for the sequel, which the company probably knew was going to bomb, Sony likely used marketing to tie Spirit of Vengeance to the first film. Essentially, Sony’s official statement on the film’s continuity would be, “Yeah…er, sure. It’s a sequel. Let’s go with that. Will you buy a ticket now?”

But let’s overlook all that for now and just conclude that Sony has a new Spider-Man film which they obviously want to get people to see. As I mentioned above, much of the marketing is using the tagline, “The Untold Story.” Director Marc Webb says this:

It’s really important for us to be able to communicate that this isn’t a remake of Sam Raimi’s movie. There’s a new territory, there’s a new villain, it’s a different Peter Parker.

Again overlooking the glaring contradiction between that statement and Sony’s marketing, note that Webb is clear about how vital it is for the creative team to differentiate from Raimi’s films. Webb has actually reiterated this fairly often in interviews about the film. Now, if this new movie was truly a completely different experience from the first three films, why would Webb and Co. make it such a high priority to hammer that home? Why not just let the work speak for itself, perhaps promoting the bits of the film that don’t hearken back to what Raimi did? I’m not trying to suggest that Webb’s film is just a carbon-copy of Raimi’s by this (though the trailer itself does more or less confirm that notion), but it does seem rather desperate of Webb when he’s the one continuously bringing it up.

But back to this “Untold Story” angle…what “untold story”? There is no “untold story” in Spider-Man. Sam Raimi showcased a relatively comprehensive origin for the character in the first movie, so what exactly hasn’t yet been told that would validate returning to the origin just ten years after the first film? A leaked synopsis/treatment from a while back suggests that Peter’s birthparents were some kind of secret agents involved in a caper at Oscorp. Sorry, what? The comics have never given much attention to Peter’s birthparents, why invent some ridiculous, unnecessary subplot surrounding them that only does more to deviate from the mythology than expand upon it? Are they really that desperate to make this new movie different from the previous three that they’re grasping at some of the most minor, insignificant aspects of the mythology and bringing them to the forefront? Here’s a thought: make a good movie that adheres to the source material. That’s what Raimi did, and that’s what made his movies work so well in the first place.

A shot of Oscorp in the trailer validates the above synopsis, which also suggests a sequel likely featuring Norman Osborne’s Green Goblin persona and the death of Gwen Stacy as seen in the comics. It also matches the fact that James Vanderbilt has a second script already drafted (see Part I), and that Sony has a sequel set for release in the first week of May 2014. I realize studios plan on major franchise sequels ahead of time as a way of keeping costs down in actors’ contracts, among other expenses, but still, it’s incredibly presumptuous to publically announce a sequel when the first film hasn’t even been released. It’s only going to come back to bite them if/when the film bites the big one…just look at Green Lantern.

Also worth mentioning is the film’s ongoing viral campaign, which I have not been following, but which recently unveiled this clip from the film:

Which begs the question…why? This clip provides zero context to clue us in on why the doorman is barring Peter’s entry. Is it supposed to be funny? Maybe show us how Peter is always being dicked on by the man? And really, what doorman doesn’t let some kid in to see a tenant without first looking in his bag? When does that ever happen? The clip stands as yet another baffling marketing decision that makes me wonder why I’m even wasting my breath on this movie.

CONCLUSION

The Amazing Spider-Man looks to be a film far removed from its namesake. Just about everything I’ve seen from the production leads me to believe the final product will be trashy, forgettable dreck. Boasting a thoroughly misguided direction, very little originality, grungy, unappealing visuals, abysmal casting, and a pathetically unfocused marketing campaign, this is destined to be one of the biggest bombs of the year, and I have a feeling a lot of people that turn a blind eye to these criticisms are going to be hugely disappointed. As far as box office is concerned, there’s no telling how low the film will sink. It has just two weeks to make sufficient bank before it’s violently shoved aside in favor of surefire moneymaker The Dark Knight Rises. Could bad word-of-mouth kill it even before then?

And don’t get me wrong…I’m not too proud to admit when I’m wrong, and if this film is released to widespread critical and commercial acclaim, I’ll be the first to eat my words. I really do love Spider-Man and want nothing but the best for the mythology on film. But the way things are looking, I don’t expect to be at all enamored by this new entry.

I can only hope that people on the internet will return to appreciating what Sam Raimi did for the franchise after this probable garbage heap is set out. Sunlight-deprived fanboys may have turned against his films in a bout of characteristic flip-flopping and bandwagoning, but general audiences that grew up with them have certainly not. Raimi made Spider-Man just a step away from the best it could possibly be, and it will be a long time before his efforts will even come close to being surpassed.

Regardless, Sony’s handling of the franchise post-Raimi will be a telling sign of whether or not they’ll continue making Marvel films altogether. Coupled with the studio’s aforementioned Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance tanking with audiences and critics alike, I’d like nothing more than to see Sony fold and relinquish both properties to Marvel Studios where they belong, ensuring that future films will have the benefit of a sound, reverent direction. As it stands, I’m steering clear of the new movie…Spider-Man deserves far better.

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