Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Amazing Spiderman review

    Warning - nonsensical Spiderman ramblings incomprehensible to the regular reader ahead.

    The Amazing Spiderman A.K.A Spiderman Begins. When we saw the trailer for this dark and angsty upgrade to Peter Parker's life, we all knew it was an attempt to cash-in on the popularity of Bruce Wayne's latest re-invention. The popular Sam Raimi trilogy had crashed and burned with it's third installment and, God Help Me, I was glad to it arrived D.O.A. I never much cared for Sam Raimi's version of Peter Parker and found its success to be inexplicable. I say this as a fan who wallpapered his room in poly-bagged issues of Spiderman from the Hobgoblin to Clone Saga.

    The Amazing Spiderman is a movie who suffers less from being based on Batman Begins than, say, the Man of Steel because Spiderman has always been the weird hybrid of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. Peter Parker as an angst driven teen suffering from the weight of both his guilt and anger is, actually, pretty close to the interpretation of the character I grew up with. Well, not the teen part, because god forbid superheroes ever mature but, really, the whole thing where Peter Parker becomes an obsessively revenge-driven Emo type who listens to Linkin Park in Spiderman 3 was so dissonant for me because--well, THAT IS PART OF PETER PARKER'S THING.

    Spiderman *is* anger, guilt, and revenge-driven under all his cavalier four-color exterior. He remembers the "with great power comes great responsibility" thing because, dammit, that cheese-ball saying is one of the few things he has to remember his dead Uncle by. The jokes are just a means of deflecting from his existential angst. Indeed, that's another reason why Peter Parker is a teenager since that sort of brooding would be ridiculous in an adult.

    Sorry Bruce.

A random Emma Stone picture because, why not?
    The Amazing Spiderman does a lot of things right which the previous trilogy did not. Peter Parker's love of science, his social awkwardness being a bigger issue than any 1960s nerd stereotypes, and the fact Peter actually quips while in the damn suit. Sally Field may be an awful visual choice for Aunt May but I believed her when she wondered why her surrogate son was coming home at odd hours of the night with signs of getting the crap beaten out of him.

    Admittedly, I had to wonder who was beating up Spiderman before the Lizard was created but I understood what the story was trying to convey. Aunt May is trying to deal with her son doing things she doesn't understand and is unwilling to talk about. Peter Parker is THE teenaged superhero, existing above all the rest since Robin and others were conceived as cash-in adolescents. Hell, he was doing this sort of "monsters as a metaphor for high school" thing long before Buffy the Vampire Slayer made it trendy.

    The premise is a familiar one. Peter Parker, guy who would be a magnet to the ladies in high school if not for his personality and geeky hobbies (he IS a wish-fulfillment character after all), is struggling with life. Cue Radioactive Spider. Peter Parker loses his uncle soon after due to a tragic event which leaves him feeling questionable guilt. Doubly questionable in this film since I'd argue it was Uncle Ben's fault for trying to stop a feeling suspect over a couple of hundred bucks. There's some mad science, monster creation, and ultimately a lesson in great power coming with great something or other.

I will say, the Lizard looks ridiculous.
    In short, a adequately-told Spiderman tale. There's nothing overwhelmingly original about this premise, it's extremely derivative in fact, but you don't expect twists when retelling Romeo and Juliet. Andrew Garfield plays a man who, for whatever reason, never quite got the socialization thing. It's doubly frustrating because, unlike Toby Maguire's Spiderman, the audience senses he's THIS close to being cool. Life is the handsome Byronic poet was consumed with angst but ruined it by talking about his favorite X-men characters.

    I also don't agree with detractors who Doctor Kurt Conners being a surrogate father figure to Peter Parker is a re-hashed idea since this, combined with MAD SCIENCE, has always been Doctor Conner's thing. I even approve of the removal of Connor's family since it makes the act where he saves Peter in the end all the more touching. This version of Doctor Conners has only his research to keep him going and the prospect of a new arm is only secondary to SCIENCE! Shameless sequel bait or not, I also want to see this movie franchise's version of Norman Osbourne.

    As for Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy? I find her and Kirsten Dunt's Mary Jane to be interchangeable except for the former being able to do math. Still, if an attractive smart girl showed me attention in high school--you'd bet I'd think we were the love story of our age. Besides, at the end we also have them united in tragedy so there's that. Plus, well, she's Emma Stone and in the fight between two gorgeous but inexplicably short women, I have to choose Emma Stone. Maybe in future installments of the Spiderman series we can have Hayden Panettiere play Betty Brant.

    In short, I heartily recommend The Amazing Spiderman. It's a far from perfect movie but it is one of the more underrated offerings of Fox superhero movies. I look forward to seeing more of Garfield's Spiderman and hope the series makes it to trilogy status.


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