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Five Dos and Don’ts for Rebooting Spider-Man

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The news of Spider-Man 4‘s untimely demise has rocked the Geek-o-sphere. Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire out! Franchise reboot in 2012! Peter Parker going back to high school (maybe)!

First off, everyone take a deep breath. Yes, it would have been nice if Raimi and Maguire had been given one more go at the character, but I think we can all agree that no one was happy with Spider-Man 3. And while I worry about the prospect of once again seeing Peter Parker learning to use his powers, “reboot” doesn’t have to be a dirty word. Let’s look back at the comic book movie reboots that worked, and those that committed “epic fail” to offer the new Spidey team some friendly tips.

Do skip the origin story
the_incredible_hulkedward_norton125.jpgThe spider bite, learning to fire webs in his bedroom, Uncle Ben’s death — at this point, Spider-Man’s origin is as familiar to audiences as James Bond’s choice of cocktail. The first movie wasn’t all that long ago, and it will be difficult to top its iconic status. So take a page from The Incredible Hulk, which recapped the Green Goliath’s origin over the credits before picking up with Bruce Banner on the run from the military. “Reboot” shouldn’t be synonymous with “origin rehash.” We know all about Peter Parker’s home life, work life and supervillain punch-out life. What’s next?

Don’t remake the first movie
superman-returns-125.jpgWarner Bros. execs were baffled when Superman Returns failed to connect with audiences. But a big reason for its failure is the fact that director Bryan Singer basically remade Richard Donner’s 1978 classic. Returns may not retread the Man of Steel’s origin, but Luthor’s scheme pretty much plays out the same way and Parker Posey’s Kitty Kowalski is basically Mrs. Teschmacher with a tiny dog. So no upside down kisses between Peter and MJ, no squabbles with Harry, no Green Goblin or any other villain we’ve already seen. (Unless you want to finally give Venom his due.)

Do go deeper, don’t go darker
batman_begins-125.jpgThe natural move for Sony will be to darken up Spidey in an effort to capitalize on the success of The Dark Knight. But Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboots didn’t succeed solely on their grim tone; they offered a deep, multi-layered human being, thus saving the Caped Crusader from the garish cartoon world of Batman & Robin. The serious, respectful Batman Begins should be the bible for all comic book movie reboots. Mix in the light touch that worked so well for Raimi’s first Spider-Man (and for Iron Man), and sit back and count the box office gold.

Do consider recasting – sometimes, it works
maggieg-darkknight.jpgFans are understandably worried that a Spider-Man reboot means that Zac Efron or one of the Twilight guys will be putting on the mask and tights. In some cases, recasting can inject new life into a franchise. Take The Dark Knight, which ditched its “TomKat” baggage for the much stronger Maggie Gyllenhaal. It’s unlikely that most fans will miss Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane. Not only does Sony have an opportunity to cast an actual redhead, they can bring in someone who will make fans feel like they too have “hit the jackpot.”

Don’t give us Peter Parker: The Teenage Years
maguire-125.jpgSony seems to see the reboot as a chance to throw Peter back in high school along with a teen idol or two. The fact is, young versions of established characters rarely work. The Crow inadvisedly went younger with Edward Furlong and ended up with the embarrassingly awful The Crow: Wicked Prayer. Again, look to the Hulk reboot, which cast one of Hollywood’s top actors as opposed to its youngest. A reboot should never be an excuse to cast the Disney star du jour. Though, try telling that to Singer’s X-Men: First Class

Do you have any tips for the Spider-Man reboot?

Nick Nadel writes for places like HBO and Asylum.com, and is the “geek” blogger for GuySpeak.com. Follow the Comic Book Movies column on Twitter for more superhero news and views.

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