One year ago I was getting excited for the reboot of one of my favorite pre-Marvel Studios franchises. Before I truly understood comic books and the vast array of characters that exist in Marvel’s stable, Spider-Man was my favorite super hero. He was witty, agile in both actions and words, had an easy to understand power set and background, and ultimately had a 90’s cartoon that was a staple of my daily television watching. All of these features meant that Peter Parker and Spider-Man were going to be my favorite. On top of all that, I saw the original Spider-Man film at a theater in Hawaii on vacation, my first memorable stadium seating theater. Something you don’t forget either as a young teenager.
Let me preface this with my rundown of Spider-Man films. Spider-Man 2 is probably one of my all time favorite superhero movies. It took the first film and ran with it, creating a sequel that was better than the first, and number one is not bad at all. I could watch it for days and never wear out. Spider-Man 3, before you all groan, is the first movie I saw with ComicUI cofounder, Brian. We went open day to the theater at our campus and had a good time. The experience of the movie going affects how I feel about that movie more positively than the end result, which really isn’t a title film, just not great compared to the awesomeness that came prior.
5 years later we get to see the wall crawling, web slinger back on the big screen with a new director, new Peter Parker, and a villain we haven’t seen come to life before. This movie was to reset Peter’s story and tell it fresh. Not to forsake the prior films, but to start again and tell a different version of Spider-Man and his troubles as a teenager/superhero. As I left the theater, people kept asking how I felt about the movie. My immediate response was to let it sink in, which is never a sign a movie truly moved me. A few days later, I readjusted my Spider-Man film rankings to go from 2, 1, Amazing, then 3. The movie was not bad, by any means, but it didn’t really give me a lot of ‘new’ things as it had promised. Everyone knows the origin of Spider-Man, be radioactive spider bite, the loss of Uncle Ben, and growing up being s photographer/geek. This is almost universal knowledge, but the film insisted on telling it to us again, which took away from the potential story telling the film could have presented.
What the film did do well, was create the world Spider-Man exists in, with Oscorp and human/animal cross species engineering. I believed the lizard could exist here, humans could obtain spider abilities, and ultimately lead the way to other villains who exhibit similar qualities later. Also, ASM was able to let Peter Parker be a high school student with a big brain. He created the web slingers (despite my favoritism towards the ‘mutant’ explanation) and could solve the climax of the film with science, not luck. The new Peter we get to see falls more in line with how he should be portrayed.
The actors were well chosen as well. Andrew Garfield is a bit too good looking for Peter Parker, but maybe that’s just personal preference, but his wit and humor didn’t miss a beat. He was also more capable of playing the emotional character we needed to see. His actions caused most of problems presented in the film and Garfield handled it better than Tobey Maguire who came before. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey was another on the mark casting choice. Despite her naturally red hair which is more fitting for Mary Jane, Gwen Stacey is a more integral part of Spider-Man’s backstory. Their love story felt a bit rushed, but they’re high school students and into similar things, so I bought it easier than I should have. However, Stone brought confidence and attractiveness to the role, a stark comparison to Kirsten Dunst’s MJ performance.
Lastly, I think the fun of Spider-Man was taken out of it. Sam Raimi created an exhilarating Spider-Man series that was more fun and light hearted than this darker, dramatic tale. My previous statements about the science of the world being a benefit, almost removes the fantasy part of the tale that super hero films still need to have. Marc Webb created a film at I often liken to Batman Begins of this new Spider-man series, a darker, grittier world that may or may not culminate in an even darker sequel. We haven’t gotten to see the titular villain of Spider-man yet, the fate of Gwen Stacey hangs in the balance, and we don’t know how Sony will handle the franchise from here.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a film that decides not to break any new ground for the web slinging hero, but is able to showcase a more emotionally conflicted Peter Parker who deals with loss and destruction, often indirectly due to his own actions. Now that this new world is created and the origin story is behind us, I hope that we get to see more tales that follow this tone, but can implement some of the happier, silly moments that make children and adults everywhere adore Spider-Man.