Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yes, No, Maybe So: Spider-Man, Karate Kid, A-Team

Usually when I can remember that the general public doesn't go to the movies to see movies but to be a part of pop culture, I'm okay with the constant regurgitation at the cinema. When I don't remember... when I forget that people don't buy tickets to see CINEMA exactly... that's when the despair sets in and I wonder why they always want to see the same film over and over again. (I know, I know, that's the elitist side of cinephilia talking... but trust that I'm totally populist about the all access issue and I am generally angry with film geeks of any persuasion who automatically assume that the new difficult art film is worthier than the new accessible blockbuster or vice versa).

My friend Nick got angry about our heavily regurgitated culture with last month's Sherlock Holmes, giving it a savage beating in review form for all its shortcut identity theft. That Guy Ritchie flick is actually a perfect example. In order to fully enjoy it, you just have to remember that it's not a movie. Sherlock Holmes was a pop culture stocking suffer: Gobble it up, digest it without thinking, move on to other holiday prezzies. It already feels past tense, doesn't it?

But things are getting worse.

The recent cancellation of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man franchise -- they'll reboot it and go back to high school nerd Peter Parker -- is cause for alarm. I can see rebooting things when the originals are generations ago (Star Trek). But Peter Parker graduated from high school not 10 years ago! People don't start getting nostalgic about going back to high school that soon. That happens when they're in their 30s or 40s and then they go and see movies like Peggy Sue Got Married. Freaky Friday or 17 Again. If that yearning for high school starts in your 20s, you're doing your 20s wrong... sorry, Drew! Why do we need to see this again when we can pop in the DVDs any time and watch Sam Raimi, Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst work their pop culture magic? Rebooting it doesn't even make sense from a nostalgia perspective since it's not "old". There's no new generation to sell it, too. You kind of need a twenty year gap for that excuse.

Spider-Man thru the years: debuted in '62, his own comic by '63,
cartoon by '67, live action by '77, saturday morns in the '80s. The
blockbuster swings in the '00s. This decade might bring
a Broadway musical (long delayed) and a fourth "reboot" film.

There's no movie teaser for my usual "yes, no, maybe so" exercize but Spider-Man 4 breaks down like so in concept...
  • yes: Marc Webb, the franchise's new director, is talented. (500) Days of Summer shows that he's got a playful streak (Spider-Man would be abysmal if it was trying to be Batman) and a real cinematic sensibility -- even those who dislike his breakout film would be hard pressed to say that it's a hack job: there are actual visual and thematic ideas at work. It's no point and shoot job.
  • no: no cobwebs on the original trilogy. What's the point?
  • maybe so: I guess we'll see who they cast as Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy before we decide whether we'll lineup... now that there's a real director on board.
It's too bad that the huge failure of Land of the Lost last summer didn't impede Hollywood's lust for all this recycling. In fact the remake/reboot craze makes no sense to me at all because of the dominance of three things: DVD, Cable and Blu-Ray. When movie culture was confined to actual movie theaters, remakes made sense. Now that everyone can watch the things they love over and over again... well, why stare at a xerox when you can look at the original?

What hath Star Trek (XI) wrought? More TV shows turned movies and more movies turned movie reboots. Not that The A-Team and Karate Kid are sacred entertainment vessels. Although don't tell that to my younger self who wanted to "wax on" and "wax off" until Elisabeth Shue materialised as my real life girlfriend.

The Karate Kid (2010)

The original mainstream 80s classic (of sorts) was so huge it even won an Oscar nomination: Best Supporting Actor for Mr. Miyagi himself, Pat Morita (RIP). Oscar always did love the teachers and mentors... it's a pretty common awards thread. This retread is not likely to win Jackie Chan similar prizes... there's no way a money grab can come across as sweetly likeable and innocent as the original film. The new version also stars genetic lottery winner Jaden Smith. Would you have any concept whatsoever of reality if you grew up with über famous shockingly wealthy parents and were headlining your own movie by the time you were 11 years old? That's like Liza Minnelli mental territory... only quicker like and with deeper pockets.

  • yes: Taraji P. Henson (!) The P stands for "love" in Swahili. And I kinda do.
  • no: Ugh. China as the setting. Even though the lead is black, we've still got to make every foreign or "other" story somehow subtextually about white American superiority. In mere weeks, little Jaden will become better at martial arts than any of the Asian boys who've been doing it their whole lives.
  • maybe so: We already know that 'wax on/wax off' has become "take your jacket off". But what will painting the fence translate to? Remakes have to spin the famous parts and occasionally that's fun (yes... I'm grasping at straws)
The A-Team (2010)

I'm more okay with this one in concept because the original was such disposable entertainment. The Karate Kid (the original) sticks, you know? It's got heart and a fundamental kindness to it which is so not in vogue anymore that I'm scared to think of how comparatively soulless its remake will be. The A-Team is riper for a remake -- even though TV series don't make for great movie concepts -- it was always dumb junk food.

  • yes: Liam Neeson as "Hannibal". Something about this totally works for me (at least in teaser form) but then I have a hard time resisting him every 4th movie or so for some reason.
  • no: I can already tell this is one of those movies wherein the action doesn't make any sense. I hate that. This is why James Cameron deserves his unfathomable riches. Explosions and crazy ass cutting do not, in and of themselves, make for satisfying action.
  • maybe so: Bradley Cooper as "Faceman". I'm still deciding about that one... Bradley Cooper, not "Faceman". You?
Do you feel like Hollywood ate too much and vomited its leftovers all over you?


Ryan Ray said...

The Spiderman reboot is easily one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. I'm still perplexed

Robert Hamer said...

"...we've still got to make every foreign or "other" story someone subtextually about white American superiority. In mere weeks, little Jaden will become better at martial arts than any of the Asian boys who've been doing it their whole lives."

Gee, that sounds familiar. What critically acclaimed, Golden Globe winning, billion dollar grossing film ALSO sends that message?

I wonder why Hollywood keeps making those kinds of films in our supposedly more socially enlighted age...

Lou said...

I hate nepotism the way it is, but this early in Jaden's life? That's just all kinds of wrong.

John T said...

Yeah-the Spider-Man reboot, the Hulk reboot-even in the comic book world, there are so many cool and interesting properties out there that they could target. I think instant pop culture has made our current culture both without identity, and for lack of a better word (hey, I am Gen Y), stupid. You can't be nostalgic for something that happened two months ago. We've developed so many damn guilty pleasures in our culture, we've forgotten what they mean-if the only things that you like are guilty pleasures, they aren't guilty pleasures-you just have bad taste.

(Gets off of his Asso Soap Box)

Unknown said...

No on all counts. Stop remaking and re-imagining and come up with something at least partially original, if only to preserve the integrity of the medium. Why must everyone working in the entertainment industry be so egregiously lazy -- and greedy for that matter (adaptation = built-in audience = built-in returns)?

And may I express how much I already can't stand Will Smith's kid?

Liz said...

Robert, you are currently my favorite person. SO true.


troy... you may. i've been worried about that one since Will trotted him out on all those public events and awards shows at an early age. I think it's a lot less concerning when the star parents keep them away from public events watched by bajillions. Some of the kids become famous anyway (it's not like Brad & Angie's kids faces aren't familiar) but notice that they're never really placed on a pedestal for the devouring public ON PURPOSE.

Bunched Undies said...

"Usually when I can remember that the general public doesn't go to the movies to see movies but to be a part of pop culture,"

Wow, that says it all. Great post.

John T said...

On a completely separate and selfish note, I'm really hoping the FBA Best Supporting Actor announcement comes out soon, as I am having trouble building my own list, and was hoping for some suggestions. :)

Jim T said...

Robert, yes!!

I was thinking "Why hasn't anyone in the tribe managed to do what that moron did? It doesn't seem so hard"

Kim said...

Even with Marc Webb, I think the Spiderman reboot is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. And they are wanting it to be grittier? Did they learn nothing from Superman Returns? Some superheroes don't WORK gritty. We like them because they are bright and shiny and optimistic. He is "your friendly neighborhood Spiderman" after all...

From a pure eye candy perspective, I appreciate shirtless Bradley Cooper. I just wish it wasn't Jessica Biel as the love interest. Booooring.

Dorian said...

Yes: "The A-Team"
Sounds cool, and with Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Sharlto Copley, and Patrick Wilson in the cast, it's at least earned opening weekend interest.

No: "The Karate Kid"
The trailer didn't look good to me, Jaden Smith is no Ralph Macchio, and is Jackie Chan the only recognizable middle-age Asian guy they could find for the mentor role? That's sad. Not to mention that "The Spy Next Door" looks like shit on a stick too. I'll keep the original for Macchio and Morita.

Maybe: "Spider-Man"
Marc Webb got me in his corner after "(500) Days of Summer", and with the right casting, I can maybe go for a reboot, even though I know that it's too soon for this to be happening and it's shady what they did to Sam Raimi.

Volvagia said...

The director choice is smart, but the Raimi adaptations were already a bit too dark. If they want this re-boot to be "grittier" than Raimi's adaptations they'll lose people.
So, to sum up: re-boot = smart. Grittier re-boot = Wrong.
Karate-Kid remake: Not as bad as remaking, Gremlins, say, but close. Staying on the 80s kick, I actually wonder if some studio wants to remake Stand By Me or Blue Velvet.
A-Team Adaptation: Oi! I just wanted this to be Dropkick Murphyed.

Timothy Griffiths said...

When the tank fell out of the burning plane in the A-Team trailer and Bradley Cooper started manning the gun, I got bad flashbacks to Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle and I suddenly wanted to rip my own scalp off.

That being said, no, no, and no to all three of these.

Spiderman: Too soon for a reboot and the Sam Raimi ones aren't even that good, especially the 3rd one.

Karate Kid: For all the reasons Nat said, plus, am I the only immature four-year-old who noticed that they're saying "JACK IT OFF, JACK IT ON, JACK IT OFF" in the trailer? What a bunch of sick perverts who made that movie.

A-Team: For reasons stated above.

ClaudeMedwenitsch said...

Generation Y or how you want to call it (maybe "The Looser Generation" or "Generation Nervous Breakdown" haha) is not allowed to grow older. THAT'S SO WEIRD!

Jim T said...

So Nathaniel, have you made up your mind on which movies you'll see at Sundance?

Anonymous said...

Anyone following the industry developments behind Sony's decision to reboot the Spider-Man franchise saw this one coming from a mile away.

In case you weren't on top of that: Basically, Sony was locked in for a summer 2011 release for the 4th Spider-Man movie, with pretty much a giant crew at the ready to start production (including a massive visual effects team). But Sam Raimi really hated the script that was set for use, even after several re-writes, and he stood his ground that he would not start shooting until he had a workable script. Tobey Maguire would not move forward until Raimi was ready and happy either.

Meanwhile, Sony is trying to cut costs as the price tags on the cast, crew, and entire franchise have continued to rise (as they are bound to do after repeated success at the B.O.), so they were actually hoping to shoot #4 and #5 at the same time (like the last two 'Pirates' and 'Twilight' movies). But now they can't even get the ball rolling with #4. And they've essentially got an entire industry on hold while Raimi works out his creative differences.

Raimi wants to start from scratch on the script, but there is simply not enough time. So Sony digs out a couple of "back-up" Spider-Man scripts they purchased several years ago, none of which would fit within the context of the current franchise.

So the solution-- the obvious solution, I might add-- was to start afresh with one of those scripts. No need to keep the expensive talent of the last franchise on board if they're starting over, so they get a new director, and the search for the new Spidey begins.

Sony gets to bring the costs way down and have more control over the production of the film (and, if it does well, its sequels, too). Also, they only have to postpone the film's release by a year and not have to worry about securing all the big names from the last three films.

It's a sour story, sure, but that's showbiz!

Missy said...

Spiderman just needs to go away. I think it's a big mistake to reboot so soon.

I'm all in for A-Team. I love me some BCoop.


this is all true and i'm sad to say this because I like Marc Webb but i REALLY HOPE for cinema's sake and the superhhero genre's sake that it flops.

Studio's are not the best judge of these things. It's the filmmakers job to be the creative one and to make the decisions such as what to include and what not to include and what tone to nail and which to avoid. The prime reason the spider-man films were so awesome (except #3) was Sam Raimi's creativity and exuberant control. And notice that the first two MASSIVE SUCCESSES stuck to primarily one villain... something that most superhero films don't do. And yet Sony thought they knew better than Raimi -- and that that massive success should be just like every other superhero flick instead (all of lesser success) which always overstuffs, drones on and ones and gives short shrift to multiple characters under the false impression that the more characters the more money you make... even though Sam Raimi's movies had already disproven that theory.

so they had to f*** up #3. such a shame.

MRRIPLEY said...

I hope the Karate Kid fails and sends jaden SMITH back to where he belongs SCHOOL!!!!!

Runs Like A Gay said...

With regards to the profitability of the Spider franchise you have to ask whether the money is in the cinematic release or the tie ins?

Spider-Man 3 may have been given a critical drubbing, and lost ground on receipts, but did it shift the same or more toys, DVDs, fan boy literature? The sad fact is that it probably didn't make much difference to the overall profits.

Much like the quality (or lack thereof) of the Transformers films doesn't stop them from raking in the cash. The studio probably don't care that much. Make 'em cheap and stack 'em high appears to be the philosophy.

On the other hand i'm thinking this is all a publicitiy stunt. After all they've given Spider-man to a bloke called Web(b).

Daniel Armour said...

Just to get this out of the way, Sam Raimi's original treatment for Spider-Man 3 had three villains before Venom was added. Originally, it was supposed to be New Goblin, Sandman and Vulture. Anyway, back to the main topic:

NO to the Karate Kid remake. The concept of a remake is pointless, the trailer was awful and everyone in the film - except for Ms. Henson - is starting to annoy me.

Maybe to No on the Spider-Man Reboot. I thought (500) Days of Summer was decent so I'll give Webb the benefit of the doubt. However, it's just too soon to be rebooting the series when Spider-Man 1 is only eight years old! Besides, the idea of focusing it around Parker's High School troubles, as well as making it "gritty", doesn't sit well with me at all.

Maybe to the A-team. It has Liam Neeson in it, so that's definitely a plus. Still, I barely remember the A-Team and the trailer didn't impress me.

Simone said...

Adam M, thanks for providing more information about the behind the scenes strategizing about Raimi being released/fired by Sony for the Spiderman franchise. I cannot believe that Sony (well, maybe I can) have such a hard on to release the next Spiderman movies on set predetermined dates without a care as to the QUALITY of the script.

Raimi has demonstrated that he can create box office successes with the Spiderman films, why drop a proven director this way? It's so narrow minded, myopic, greedy, and just plain stupid.

As a result, I don't give a damn about future Spiderman movies. I will not go to see them in the theater, especially since they are going back to Parker being in high school and will most likely hire a talentless current flavor of the month under 25 pretty boy.

Hollywood sucks big time these days and the only way I deal with it is by being very, very selective in what I bother seeing. That list of must see films get smaller and smaller each year because of the regurgitated crap that Hollywood puts out.

Anonymous said...

@Nat/Simone - From what I understand, Spidey 3 was very much a Sam Raimi product. When it didn't do so well with the critics, he lost that bit of credibility... of being able to consistently deliver with his creativity and ingenuity, if you will.

Of course, Sony didn't care so much as long as he got the job done. But allegedly, Raimi was quite disturbed by his inability to successfully put that third film together (in a creative sense, at least). So he took a little break to refresh his creative juices, churned out Drag Me to Hell, and Sony, meanwhile, put the Spider-Man franchise on hold.

Sony was very eager to get moving on the next film after what would ultimately be a 4 year delay (hey, it's an extremely valuable franchise, and they don't want it to sit around and collect dust). So Sam Raimi climbed back on board and they started working through a script. But Raimi was still sort of stuck in a rut. He did not want to mess the next one up after the lackluster critical response to the last one. He sent the script through a rewrite, and then another, and another, and he got to the point where he wanted to scrap the entire thing and start back from the drawing board. (For the record, I heard that the script was indeed a nightmare. And during rewrites, Sony kept insisting on new tweaks and ideas that only made it worse-- i.e. let's find a part for Taylor Lautner, or how about we make that villain a woman and cast Anne Hathaway, and she and Spidey can suffer from bouts of sexual tension throughout.)

Sony didn't have time for the drawing board (they had a large crew including outsourced visual effects artists all on retainer), and there were a lot of doubts that Raimi would ever be able to make up his mind. But he would not budge, and neither would, reportedly, Tobey Maguire, out of commitment and solidarity and all that I'm sure. The most efficient and expedient solution for Sony was to reboot.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be negative, but I do not think the new Karate Kid movie will do very well either. If you're going to do a remake of it, at least write it more believable than that. Although it will probably get all the nostalgic people who grew up on the franchise.
I am kindof excited about the new A-Team movie as well.


Daniel -- even if Raimi wanted to overstuff with the villains himself, let him do the ones he wants. I think those first two films are so perfect as comic book films go, why screw with that creative vision.

anyway. i don't need a gritty high school spider-man.

i like marc webb (so far) but it just sounds like such a terrible idea to me, no matter how "valuable" the franchise is.

here's an idea. Let things run their course. make your billion dollars and MOVE ON.

even if the studios are stuck on superhero films there are thousands that haven't been tried.

Marshall1 said...

I hate that the Westerners treat Jackie Chan only as a comedian/fighter. Nat, and others, you can actually watch his latest movie "the Shinjuku Incident" on Youtube and it's NOT, I repeat, NOT a kungfu movie!!!!
He gives one of his best performances of his career.

Spiderman Wall Stickers said...

Everyone is really looking forward to watch the next Spiderman sequel!