The Amazing Spider-Man and the rise of the film reboot
When I was watching the new Spider-Man film last week, I felt old. I felt old watching a film that I could remember seeing the first time round with a different actor. I felt old as I mentally compared Tobey Maguire’s rasping, geeky Spider-man with Andrew Garfield’s emo skater version. It was like I had already passed into a different generation, and was watching a film freshly made for those younger than me. Except I haven’t – and it wasn’t.
Spider-Man 3, the last film in the trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, only came out in 2007. That was five years ago. Five years may seem like a long time in the movie world, but certainly isn’t long enough for an audience to forget the original version. Those who saw X-Men: First Class last year still had 2006’s The Last Stand in their minds. Those who go to see the new Fantastic Four film, just announced this weekend, will still remember Jessica Alba’s vision in latex – and maybe spare a mournful thought for her career.
There was a time when films were only remade for the benefit of a new generation, with different versions standing as hallmarks of their era. But that time has now gone. Reboots are on the rise, and the time it takes to release a new version of an old film is ever more rapid. As an April Fool’s joke this year, the entertainment news website We Got This Covered announced that Batman would be rebooted yet again with Ryan Reynolds taking the lead role. Even with the final part of Christopher Nolan’s current Dark Knight trilogy yet to be released, people believed the rumours.
It’s hard to blame them. “Reboot” seems to be Hollywood’s magic word at the moment. There have always been sequels and remakes, but reboots are different: they can add a twist to an existing film universe, creating an entirely new tone and even storyline. As the word suggests, producing a reboot is like pressing the ‘off’ button on a lacklustre franchise and then starting it up again, hoping something will click. Take the Superman films: in 2006 Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns failed to charm audiences after almost a twenty-year wait, so now a new Superman reboot – directed by Zack Snyder and starring Henry Cavill – is in production, scheduled for release in 2013.
At the same time, reboots reflect the way that our modern culture has changed storytelling, thanks to new technology. We live an age when personal computers and the internet are more pervasive influences than anything we see at the cinema. For audiences used to seeing stories retold and remixed on the internet, reboots are a natural progression for feature films.
Fan fiction has played a big part in this. Whether it’s homosexual erotica featuring Harry Potter characters or film remakes made entirely out of Lego, fans can create their own versions of whatever Hollywood throws at them. Nowadays, new versions of old films don’t have to define an era, because our era is defined by multiple versions of everything. What’s happening on the big screen is just a reflection of what’s happening on the small screens of our laptops, tablets and smartphones. Everybody has an opinion, and each perspective has a platform.
While reboots can seem like lazy money-making ventures, the good news is that they actually tend to raise the bar for film franchises. As fans grow more vocal, holding the power to create or deflate buzz around a new movie, they are demanding more from filmmakers. As a result, rebooted films are becoming more carefully and beautifully crafted, more witty and more self-aware. A generic action-fuelled approach with token eye candy just doesn’t cut it any more.
Later this week, The Dark Knight Rises will hit cinemas around the world, completing Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed reboot of the Batman franchise. As soon as it’s out, we can start counting down the days until a new reboot is announced. We don’t know if it will star Ryan Reynolds. But what we do know is that there will be fans who are already posting their own parodies and homages online. Perhaps it’s one of these people who will be directing the next reboot in, let’s say, five year’s time.Tagged in: Andrew Garfield, batman, christian bale, film, movies, remake, rises, spiderman, spirder-man, superman, The Dark Knight, tom hardy
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