In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, the Spider-Man franchise starts anew.
The Raimi era was over and Sony needed a new director to take over the reins. The found him in a director with only one film credit to his name, and that was a quirky romantic comedy.
Outside of a handful of music videos, the only credit on Marc Webb’s resume was 2009’s (500) Days of Summer. That film made a splash, but it’s not the kind of film you’d expect would inspire confidence in directing action films.
But Webb got the job nonetheless and began the process of building a script around a screenplay written by Alvin Sargent, James Vanderbilt, and Steve Cloves. The Lizard would be the main villain, although two other villains—Proto-Goblin and Big Wheel were also considered. Gwen Stacy would be the romantic interest instead of Mary Jane Watson in this go around.
Webb began to looking for a cast for his movie. For the teenage Peter, he chose British actor Andrew Garfield. Garfield was 27 at the time he was cast, making him older than Tobey Maguire when he was cast as Peter Parker. Emma Stone was chosen for Gwen Stacy, with Rhys Ifans playing Curt Connors/the Lizard, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field playing Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May.
The first half of the film was a rehash of the origin and it was a bear to get through. It was like someone was sitting with a clipboard and a check list and just going through the beats needed. “Okay, this is how he gets bitten by the spider, this is what we are going to use instead of the wrestling scene, here’s the discovery that he has powers…”
But I think a lot of the changes were good, if not an improvement on the original. Peter Parker in this one wasn’t a put-upon loser, he was a kid who never got over being abandoned by his parents. He was an outcast because he was damaged, not because he was a nerd. This rose criticisms of him being “too emo.” Well, A) I like emo music and B)it makes the character more believable in my eyes.
Giving Peter his advanced aptitude in science back was also a great step. Yes, he makes his own web-shooters again after Raimi took that iconic part of the comics away from him because he thought it was unbelievable. However, I always considered it an important part of the character, and was glad to see it back.
Peter being good at science also made the romance more believable this time around. Of course, that was due to the filmmakers turning Gwen into a science prodigy (how’s that for believability, huh Raimi?). Both the both character’s love of science gave them a common interest, which is more than Peter and Mary Jane had in the first set of films. Add to this the fact that Peter is a good man who sticks up for those weaker than him, much like Gwen’s police captain father, and you have another level of attraction.
The film made $752,216,557 worldwide, which was the least of all the Spider-Man films but still good enough for a sequel. Or two. Or three. Sony not only announced that there would be The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but also an Amazing Spider-Man 3 & 4 as well.
James Vanderbilt was back to write the film, and his screen play was rewritten by Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. After a brief period of uncertainty about his return, director Marc Webb signed on, and Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were contracted for two more films.
The first sequel will feature Jamie Foxx as an OsCorp employee who is transform into the supervillain Electro. It will also feature Paul Giamatti as a Russian mobster in an OsCorp armored suit in a modern take on the Spidey villain, the Rhino. Dale DeHaan will play Harry Osborn, and it appears that he will spend some time as the Green Goblin. There will also be references to the Vulture and Doctor Octopus in the film as well. It will be a very busy film from a bad guy perspective.
Who will not be in the film is Shailine Woodley. The actress was cast as Mary Jane Watson and spent week filming the role before it was revealed that the part was cut from the final film. Rumor had it that negative Internet reaction about her looks might have played a part in the cut, and that the part will be recast for The Amazing Spider-Man 3. I spoke about that here, and my hope is that we’ll see Mary Jane, with Woodley playing her, in the next sequel.
In addition to the sequels to the main film, Sony also announced that it would be producing films on The Sinister Six and Venom as they try to spin off the franchise into a shared universe, which is so popular these days.
All in all, I think this is betting a lot on a franchise that hasn’t really proven itself as of yet. But Spider-Man is such an iconic character that even if this doesn’t work, more films will be made starring him. He has come a long way from his early days as a horror film misinterpretation.