Sam Raimi's Spider-Man starring Tobey Maguire came out in 2002, broke box office records and was followed by two successful sequels—most recently, Spider-Man 3 in 2007—yet Sony has decided it is soon enough to reboot the entire franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man. The new movie starring Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker just opened on Wednesday to favorable reviews, super box-office numbers, and has two sequels already greenlit despite the fact that many of the plot points are the same ones covered in Raimi's original, which is only a decade old.
The time span between reboots is becoming shorter as studios scramble to inject new life into their superhero franchises, but sometimes the time between original film and reboot is head-scratchingly short. Ang Lee's Hulk came out in 2003 and was criticized for being too arty for a movie about an angry green giant, so Universal went back to the drawing board and released the more action-packed The Incredible Hulk a short five years later with Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. Then, for The Avengers, Norton walked and a third actor, Mark Ruffalo, played Hulk.
Adam West first played the Caped Crusader on the big screen in 1966's Batman, which was an extension of the campy TV show. Then, in 1989, Tim Burton's Batman starring Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne and Jack Nicholson as the Joker kicked off a multi-million dollar franchise, including Burton's Batman Returns and Joel Schumacher's lesser Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. After the latter starring George Clooney as Batman underperformed in 1997, Christopher Nolan rebooted the franchise eight years later with Batman Begins, which starred Christian Bale and was followed up by The Dark Knight, currently the fourth highest-grossing domestic release of all time. The last chapter in the rebooted franchise, The Dark Knight Rises, opens in theaters this month, so place your bets as to how long it will take before a new Bat series flaps into theaters.
Another superhero that keeps getting a big-screen makeover is the Punisher. Dolph Lundgren first played the vigilante Frank Castle in 1989's The Punisher, which went straight to video in North America. Years later, in 2004, Artisan Entertainment tried to reboot the series with a new The Punisher starring Thomas Jane as Castle. It didn't exactly punish the box office with its worldwide take of $55 million, and since it was the last film ever produced by Artisan, that tells you that its reception was disappointing. Lionsgate apparently thought the franchise was worth another go, so along came a second reboot in Punisher: War Zone, which was directed by Lexi Alexander and arguably the most violent movie ever directed by a woman. This notoriety didn't translate into dollars, with the film pulling in a paltry $10 million worldwide. This is a superhero that only seems to punish a studio's bottom line, so with three strikes we say that this one is out for the count.
Richard Donner's Superman became one of the most beloved superhero movies of all time when it was released in 1978, but Supes first soared into theaters in 1951's Superman and the Mole Men, which, like the first Batman movie, was based on a TV series. Donner's version starring Christopher Reeve is the one most people cherish, and Reeve returned for Superman II, Superman III and the schlocky Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in 1987. Nearly two decades after that stinker, Bryan Singer paid homage to Donner's original with Superman Returns. Although he recast Brandon Routh as Superman, Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor and Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, Singer's movie is actually a sequel—not a reboot—because it follows the events that happened in the first two movies. Superman won't get a real reboot until Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, set for release in 2013 and starring Henry Cavill as our favorite Krypton orphan.