The web is currently twitching with news of everyone’s favourite web-slinger. The release online of pictures of Andrew Garfield as the new Spider-man has given us our first taste of what Sony’s rebooted franchise has in store. And judging by the demeanour of Garfield in the picture, it’s looking like Spidey may be heading for the sort of dark, brooding arena usually reserved for billionaire playboys with bat fixations. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a far cry from the tone set by Sam Raimi’s trilogy, which adopted the brightly coloured tones of a comic book.
Despite my inherent distaste for spiders, a distaste which used to be a cold fear, I’ve been a fan of Peter Parker and his alter ego since childhood. Unlike Batman, Superman or Captain America, Spider-man was someone I could relate to; he struggled through real life, he was a bit dorky (Clark Kent was just pretending) and he was flat broke. Here was a superhero who was one of us. I always liked that about him.
Sam Raimi’s first Spider-man movie was a great attempt to translate the superhero for cinema, after a long wait for special effects to reach a point where a man swinging around New York on webs could be done without looking crap. If you want an example of how limited effects can ruin the idea, look no further than the awful movie and TV series starring Nicholas Hammond in the 70s. Rarely has a guy dressed up in a daft costume looked so much like a guy dressed up in a daft costume. Oh dear Lord, it sucked so bad. He didn’t even have webs, for crying out loud, he had ropes! Ropes! And a utility belt! He was Rappelling-man. Fail! Anyway, I’m drifting from the point.
Reaction to the new look and new actor has been mixed. The new costume has some minor alterations, most notably the spider logo, but I’m pretty sure the state of it is more to do with recent wear and tear than Parker’s personal hygiene. Some have been making derogatory noises about Garfield’s lack of bulk and muscle, writing him off as too skinny. This is missing the point since Peter Parker was never Mr. Universe, anyway. He was a wimpy kid who just happened to have super-strength. So, technically, Garfield is a much better fit for Spidey than the stocky, gym-enhanced Tobey Maguire ever was. Truth be told, while I liked Raimi’s trilogy a great deal, I never 100% took to Maguire as either Spidey or Peter Parker. Aside from the fact that he’s built like the short guy who always makes trouble in bars, he was a little too whiny and a little too bratty for my tastes. Most of the time I just wanted to smack his head and tell him to stop pouting. I’m pretty sure I never had that reaction to the comic books.
The new movie will take the story back to Peter Parker’s transformation into Spider-man, and reports seem to indicate that it will stick more closely to the original comics than its three predecessors, with the character of Gwen Stacey, who made a brief appearance in Spider-man 3, taking centre-stage. Director Marc Webb (you couldn’t make this stuff up) has the excellent 500 Days of Summer to his name, which inspires confidence. Add to that Garfield’s impressive turn in The Social Network and this could be the Spider-man movie that actually gets everything right.
Usually, when I hear the word ‘reboot’ used in connection to a movie franchise I reach for my gun. For ‘reboot’ read ‘cash-in’. But it worked for Christopher Nolan and Batman, and I have the feeling it’s going to work for Marc Webb and Spider-man, too. I just have one request for the new franchise. Can we have a bit more Spider-man and a bit less Peter Parker this time?
Here’s Andrew Garfield as the friendly, neighbourhood guy in a tight suit.