Spider-ManYou've got to hand it to them. Hollywood executives are not normally known for their bravery and ability to embrace change. But, in rebooting the 'Spider-Man' franchise, as we've just seen Sony do, the studio suits have shown a willingness to throw out a successful juggernaut and hope for the best with a new team. Out went director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and a proven track record that pulled in $2.5 billion in three films. In their place? Half of the puzzle so far: A one-time director of a romantic comedy, Marc Webb.

But the people at Sony didn't go into this blindly. They saw strong precedent for an overhaul. 2005's 'Batman Begins' brought us a new caped crusader (Christian Bale) and director (Christopher Nolan), who are now working on their third Batman film in a franchise that has been totally revitalized. Or, there's 007, which got a reboot in 2006, with a new super spy played by Daniel Craig, who will be leading the way to a third film in the franchise.
Spider-Man

You've got to hand it to them. Hollywood executives are not normally known for their bravery and ability to embrace change. But, in rebooting the 'Spider-Man' franchise, as we've just seen Sony do, the studio suits have shown a willingness to throw out a successful juggernaut and hope for the best with a new team. Out went director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire and a proven track record that pulled in $2.5 billion in three films. In their place? Half of the puzzle so far: A one-time director of a romantic comedy, Marc Webb.

But the people at Sony didn't go into this blindly. They saw strong precedent for an overhaul. 2005's 'Batman Begins' brought us a new caped crusader (Christian Bale) and director (Christopher Nolan), who are now working on their third Batman film in a franchise that has been totally revitalized. Or, there's 007, which got a reboot in 2006, with a new super spy played by Daniel Craig, who will be leading the way to a third film in the franchise.

Look around, and it begins to appear that Hollywood is reboot trigger-happy: the horror genre is studded with examples ('Halloween,' 'Friday the 13th,' 'Nightmare on Elm Street') and word just came out that 'Jurassic Park' will be rebooted. Both Batman and Bond have been around so long that they've both been rebooted multiple times. As has 'Star Trek': The second reboot in that franchise came this summer, scoring $257 million in the U.S. alone.

There has been at least one reboot that proved less than successful: 2008's 'The Incredible Hulk,' starring Edward Norton, was a miss. No doubt, Universal thought they could improve on Ang Lee's 2003 cerebral spin on the green guy, starring Eric Bana. That previous movie disappointed with a $245 million worldwide gross. But, in his place, Norton couldn't do much better, with his version grossing $263 million worldwide and costing a lot more to make.

Casino RoyaleWhen it comes to Spidey's future, the important factor to look at is from whence those other reboots came. Most of those other franchises were long dead or riding off the rails; Batman had been moribund for eight years and Star Trek was M.I.A for seven. The reboot of Bond is probably most similar to the current Spider-Man transition. As a film, 2002's 'Die Another Day' was a joke (remember the ice castle?), but it still raked in more than $400 million worldwide. It took some guts to drop Pierce Brosnan for Craig, when he could have been milked for at least one more film. Spider-Man is similarly doing just fine, and actually hasn't suffered (much) in terms of quality (although, to be fair, Spidey 3's reviews were mixed compared to its predecessors). The worldwide gross of the three films has been $821 million, $783 million and $890 million.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is typically the norm in Hollywood, but, in the end, Sony didn't really have much choice in the matter. Raimi wanted a bigger budget than they were willing to provide. And, really, Maguire was getting a little long in the tooth for the role.

With a new 'Spider-Man' slated for release in 2012, it'll be five years since the last one. When you consider all of the also-ran comic book heroes (Iron Man, Green Lantern, Captain America) we'll see between now and then, it'll be refreshing to have Spider-Man back. No one can compete with the web-slinger when it comes to familiarity and popular appeal. It should be hard to mess it up -- not that it's impossible. Webb -- despite the nice pun -- doesn't appear to be a very inspired choice, and if they match him with his '(500) Days of Summer ' star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, we'll scream.

Then again, if they pick up his other '(500) Days' star, Zooey Deschanel as Mary-Jane, we'll cheer.

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