First of all, a round of applause for all of Raimi’s hard work and creativity. His first two Spidey films were great fun, and the second is certainly one of my favorite superhero films to date; it will go down in cinema history as a classic. The third installment? Well… not so much. Spider-Man 3 fell into the textbook trap of how to ruin a superhero movie: overstuff it with everything (including the kitchen sink) you can lay hands on. So, the less said about that, the better. Let’s remember Alfred Molina’s stirring turn as Dr. Octopus, and Spidey’s heroic rescue of the runaway commuter train in Spider-Man 2.
Applause, also, for Webb. I really enjoyed (500) Days of Summer a lot. (See my review.) Webb’s light touch with personal drama will come in handy, since his objective is to reboot the franchise with an emphasis on Peter Parker, the Webhead’s civilian identity. Webb’s statement read (in part):
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.
And Sony’s statement crystallized the studio thinking behind hiring Webb:
At its core, Spider-Man is a small, intimate human story about an everyday teenager that takes place in an epic super-human world.
Now, I admit that Spider-Man 3 went overboard on the Spidey persona, but the there is a danger of overdosing on Peter Parker, too. I, for one, do not what to pay $10.50 to watch Peter moon over Gwen or Mary Jane for 86 minutes. The cinema landscape is littered with romantic comedies about nerdy guys who can’t land the hottie of his dreams. I want to see a movie about a nerd who escapes his geeky life by becoming a crusading masked hero. It’s the spider powers that set Peter apart, and I don’t want to see the hero reduced to an afterthought (See Superman Returns for a lesson in how disappointing a passive superhero can be) in a generic rom-com with the clever “twist” that Gwen needs a date for the costume party, so Peter decides to wear his Spidey threads. (“Boy, if she only knew his costume is real…”)
So, anyway, my initial gut reactions: Guarded optimism, with a heavy dose of skepticism, for a bold, outside-the-box choice. Let’s see what 2012 brings…