Commentary

Spidey Spins A Successful Reboot, Most Say

Who do you call when a Super Hero teeters on the brink of losing his or her ability to draw mass amounts of audience on flimsy plot lines, blinding star power and lots of unlikely special effects? The League of Marketers, of course — that amorphous group of Hollywood talent adept in the art of “rebooting” the franchise with a dollop of blarney and a massive infusion of dollars. Witness Peter Parker and his altered ego, Spider Man.

“The Christian Baleera of Batman is closing strong, but the Andrew Garfield era of Spider-Man has opened bigger,” writesEonline.com’s Joal Ryan. For the record, “The Amazing Spider-Man” did $65 million in box office over the weekend after its rare midweek (July Fourth Eve) opening, bringing its domestic total to $140 million for Sony Pictures. It also did $129.1 million overseas in 74 foreign markets for international sales of $201.6 million –- “miles bigger than the starts of rebooted superhero franchises starring the Hulk, Superman and the Caped Crusader,” according to Ryan.

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The first three “Spider Man” flicks, made by director Sam Raimi and starring Tobey McGuire and Kirsten Dunst, were box office smashes but their Spider Man 4 project hit the creative shoals in early 2010 and Raimi pulled out, saying that he couldn’t make the planned release date. 

“Immediately, the news brought celebration and consternation equally to webslinger fanboys who say the reboot plot puts Peter Parker back in high school,” wrote Nikke Finke and Mike Fleming on the Deadline New York blog at the time. “There’s also much unconfirmed speculation that this new franchise will be in 3D.” 

They were right on both scores. New director Marc Webb’s effort attracted “a wide swath of moviegoers: Roughly half of the crowd was older than 25, and the film skewed only slightly more male, with 58% of the audience composed of men,” Amy Kaufman reports in the Los Angeles Times

Only 44% of the audience was willing to shell out the extra bucks for 3D -- a format moviegoers are simultaneously “weary” of and “wary” about, as one observer put it –- but they appeared to like what they saw, however they saw it. Market research firm CinemaScore tallied an average audience score of A-.

“With solid word-of-mouth, the picture likely will be headed toward the same level of massive global ticket sales as its predecessors,” Kaufman predicts.

Scott Mendelson, writing for Huffington Post, takes a more contrarian point of view, particularly after adding up the numbers with inflation and the 3D price bump factored into the equation. The movie actually sold far fewer tickets than the first three movies in the franchises over its first six days, he observes. “Point being, the Sam Raimi trilogy set box office records, while The Amazing Spider-Man merely exists as another relatively large-scale blockbuster amid a sea of preordained blockbusters.”

And even if you argue that “the reboot was rebuilding the brand from the ground up and it had to deal with the general dissatisfaction from ‘Spider-Man 3,’” you’d be right -- but still, it doesn’t have a lot of time to gain ground on those lagging ticket sales.

“If the third [Chris] Nolan ‘Batman’ film is anywhere near as good as the buzz is suggesting (it screened to a handful of lucky bastards on Friday, and I won't see it until a few days prior to opening), I can't imagine anyone giving two bits about Marc Webb's loose remake of Sam Raimi's ‘Spider-Man,’” writes Mendelson, “So whatever money it's going to make must be made in the next two weeks.” 

“But numbers don’t really tell the story for this newest incarnation” of Spidey, Gloria Goodale posits in The Christian Science Monitor. “Fans have turned out for this upstart for three reasons, say movie experts: unexpectedly endearing performances from relative newcomer lead actors Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone; the nearly quixotic hiring of director Marc Webb with one tiny indie feature to recommend him, ‘(500) Days of Summer’; and Peter Parker’s permanent hold on the adolescent psyche.” 

Elaborating on that last point, Goodale writes that “at the heart of the film is still the enduring appeal of a teenage boy bedeviled by high school, hormones, and oh yeah, freakish powers.”

Which brings us to the piece our Aaron Baar has this morning about Sony’s “Welcome to Rekall” sweepstakes for the reboot of “Total Recall” later this summer, this time starring Colin Farrell in the role created by that Master of Reinvention -- himself no stranger to the bedevilments of hormones and freakish powers -- Arnold Schwarzenegger. Did I write reinvention? How dated. Make that Master of Rebooting.

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