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Suited and rebooted

How do you go about updating a classic franchise? Ian Sandwell looks at the latest reboot set to hit our screens this summer, Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man

With $2.5bn caught in the web of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy at the worldwide box office, it is little surprise that when a fourth Raimi instalment was not on the cards, Sony looked at other ways to continue the franchise.

“The idea was to conclude what we had done with Sam, and Sam was the first to say, ‘I’ve told my story and I’m ready to move on,’” says Matt Tolmach, the former president of Sony who oversaw the original trilogy, before setting up his own production company in November 2010, based out of Columbia Pictures. “We were faced with, ‘What do we do?’”

The solution? A reboot in the form of The Amazing Spider-Man. “It is designed to start a new story,” says Avi Arad, former CEO of Marvel Studios, who also worked on the original trilogy before setting up Arad Productions. “You always set out to do the best you can but here we knew we had enough of a story that if it’s done right, it’s fresh.”

To craft that take on Spider-Man, producers Arad, Tolmach and Sony’s Laura Ziskin - who worked on the project until her death in 2011 - turned to (500) Days Of Summer director Marc Webb, who immediately set a different “table” for his Spider-Man to play out on.

“[Webb] was really vocal right away about telling a story that was both about the essence of Peter Parker, but that lived in this world - a more grounded, very contemporary world with gravity,” says Tolmach.

‘We knew we had enough of a story that if it’s done right, it’s fresh’

Avi Arad, producer

If anything about rebooting the Spider-Man franchise daunted Tolmach, it was finding the new Peter Parker. For that, the team turned to UK actor Andrew Garfield - who had gained recognition for his performances in Boy A and the Red Riding trilogy. “He had incredible power on the one hand as an actor and incredible vulnerability,” says Tolmach of Garfield, who has gone on to become one of the hottest young actors in Hollywood as a result of The Social Network.

His co-star Emma Stone - who will play Gwen Stacy, Parker’s first love in the comics who had a tiny part in Spider-Man 3 - has also gone on to box-office success and critical acclaim since being cast in the role, starring in last year’s US smash The Help.

“Since we started, the world has found them,” Tolmach notes. “So now we have Spider-Man with two of the hottest young actors in the business and, more importantly, the best.”

Gwen Stacy’s inclusion in The Amazing Spider-Man, along with its more realistic edge, lends the reboot a potential parallel with other recent successful reboots. Both Batman Begins ($372.7m worldwide) and James Bond film Casino Royale ($594.2m worldwide) took their respective franchises and grounded them in the real world, often adding a tonally dark edge to proceedings that were once more fantastical.

In the comic book, Spider-Man fails to save Gwen Stacy, a conclusion which for some heralded the end of the ‘Silver Age’ of comics. But both Arad and Tolmach are tight-lipped as to the latest ending.

“You’ll see. It’s quite courageous, this relationship, and I think at the end of the movie, you’ll figure it out. It’ll be interesting just to ask yourself, ‘What would I do now?’ That’s what we’ve been asking ourselves,” says Arad.

It is a question they need to solve soon with shooting on The Amazing Spider-Man 2 already scheduled for the end of the year for a May 2014 release. The sequel is being written by Star Trek and Transformers writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, though its director and cast are yet to be announced.

As for box-office potential for this reboot, both producers are confident Spider-Man as a character will prove too big a draw for even those who say it has come too soon, especially with its US release scheduled for Independence Day weekend (July 3).

“We are very pleased and we understood all the questions we’d get - is it too early? Is it too late? If you make it right and you make it new, but keep the spirit of Peter, it’s about Peter at the end of the day,” Arad states.

“It is Spider-Man but you know you have to make a great movie - there’s no room for anything else any more,” adds Tolmach.

Comic-book heroes and reboots at the box office

TitleYearInt’lUSWorldwide
The Dark Knight2008$486.6m$533.3m$1.002bn
Spider-Man 32007$554.3m$336.5m$890.9m
Spider-Man2002$418m$403.7m$821.7m
Spider-Man 22004$410.2m$373.6m$783.8m
Casino Royale2006$426.8m$167.4m$594.2m
Quantum Of Solace2008$417.7m$168.4m$586.1m
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes2011$305m$176.8m$481.8m
Star Trek2009$128m$257.7m$385.7m
Batman Begins2005$167.3m$205.3m$372.7m
The Incredible Hulk2008$128.6m$134.8m$263.4m
Conan The Barbarian2011$40.9m$21.3m$62.1m

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