Is your Spidey sense tingling? Marvel Comics and Columbia Pictures certainly hope so, having made the unorthodox decision to recast and reboot the immensely successful “Spider-Man” franchise, just a decade after Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst and writer-director Sam Raimi captured the nation’s post-9/11 mood -- and launched the 21st century superhero boom.
As anyone who’s seen a bus shelter, a train station, a freeway billboard or a television set in the last several weeks already knows, “The Amazing Spider-Man” will open worldwide just before the Fourth of July, with English actor Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin in “The Social Network") as tormented webslinger Peter Parker and Emma Stone (Skeeter in “The Help”) as his love interest.
The Raimi “Spider-Man” trilogy released between 2002 and 2007 grossed a staggering worldwide total of $2.5 billion, and while advance word on director Marc Webb’s “Amazing Spider-Man” is strong, I’m not sure anybody expects that can be repeated. Indeed, while the initial Columbia/Marvel decision to pull the plug and start over was viewed, in part, as a financial decision, Webb’s film was shot in 3-D (which looks glorious, for a change) and wound up costing almost as much as Raimi’s $250 million-plus “Spider-Man 3.” Pure, dumb demographics probably had more to do with it. These movies need to attract the summer-job dollars of teenagers, and Maguire and Dunst are now 37 and 30, respectively, which even by Hollywood standards is pushing it when playing characters who are supposed to barely be adults. (Garfield and Stone are 28 and 23 -- and playing Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy as high school students.)
Yes, that’s right: Emma Stone is not playing the same character that Kirsten Dunst played in the Raimi movies. If you already knew that and have forceful opinions about how that meshes with the early-’60s Spider-Man mythos as created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, then you’re ready for the advanced course in Spidey-ology, where we’ll debate all aspects of continuity and disjunction between the comic books, the four movies, the various TV series and all the heretical offshoots thereof. But let’s table that for now, because today’s party game -- a Spidey-specific variant of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon -- requires no deep Marvel Comics science whatever. Here’s how it works:
Making connections between the three Maguire-Dunst movies and “The Amazing Spider-Man” is a breeze, of course. Many of the same producers and writers were involved, most notably big-time Hollywood power broker Laura Ziskin, who sadly did not live to see “Amazing Spider-Man” released. So let’s make it more challenging.
You have to connect the cast of “Spider-Man" to the cast of “Spider-Man 2” by way of one or more completely unrelated films -- as different in genre and tone as possible -- and then repeat the process for “Spider-Man 3” and “Amazing Spider-Man." The movies must be in the correct chronological sequence, and you can use no actor as a connector more than once. You get extra points for economy (let’s say nine steps or fewer, in total) and also for baroque elaboration: If you can construct a chain of 14 or 15 entries, I want to see it!
I was originally hoping to raise the degree of difficulty by linking all the “Spider-Man” movies through, say, Jim Jarmusch or Lars von Trier, but I couldn’t make that work. (I have used von Trier’s movies twice, but that isn’t a rule. It seemed perversely amusing, and it hewed to the principle of going as far afield as possible.)
I have little doubt that there are many ways of doing this, and I strongly suspect mine is not the most elegant. Feel free to play along in the comments!