“Garfield and Stone perform onscreen magic, while Spider-man still struggles with the burden of responsibility.”
With that instant reaction quote, I left the theater tonight, still buzzing over the stunning 3D/Imax version of The Amazing Spider-man (my seventh most anticipated movie of the summer) which seemed like a quiet, indie flick dressed up as a summer blockbuster…. and I mean that as a compliment. Sure, the webswinging and lizard fighting scenes are awesome, but Andrew Garfield (especially in his scenes with Emma Stone) proves to be a force of nature in his quiet, dead-on articulation of Peter Parker.
In case you’ve never read the comics (go do that, now!) or seen the trailer, Peter finds himself struggling against the experimentation and consequences of Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans, playing his second villain this year), who wants to use lizard DNA to regenerate his arm. But any background with Parker/Spider-man reminds us that these stories are always about the struggle: the struggle to be respected, to be loved, to be part of the community, whether it’s family or high school.
Yes, it may have been too soon in the mind of public opinion to reboot a series that Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire made into a banner for superhero movies. But really, is there any doubting that Garfield is a better actor, and better suited to play Parker, than the gee-shucks Maguire spin? While Maguire and Kirsten Dunst may have had “the Kiss,” Garfield and Stone light up the screen with their dialed-back romance and courtship.
If anything, Stone’s Gwen Stacy highlights what I saw as the major indie plot here, which is not about Parker stopping the Doctor/Lizard from hurting himself or others (we almost feel sorry for him) but is instead about Parker’s search for a father. In any good Disney movie, the main character is orphaned, but Parker is orphaned three times in this movie (which is a bit of a spoiler).
First, there’s the loss of his parents, which I’d never heard explained before, but which seems tied up in Oscorp. [Cliff notes: Oscorp always equals “evil.”] Then, there’s the comic book-to-screen death of Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen, living it up), and the death of Parker’s third father figure, which shocked the majority of the audience tonight who hadn’t ever read the comics. Parker is resentful of what he can’t grasp, and life keeps swinging away at him.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one of the deep synchronicities with the Maguire/Raimi trilogy was the focus on responsibility. But the responsibility thing is part of any superhero, and a superhero teenager finding his way can’t help but struggle with his hormones, his family dynamics, his secrets, and his newfound powers. When it comes down to it, each of us has those struggles (maybe without Spidey sense) and in the end, figuring out how to deal with them, what the call is on our lives, and how we should rightly live in society is all part of the story of “who am I?”
With the exception of a five-minute scene involving New York pride and a series of cranes, there were no wasted moments in the two-hour-plus movie. The dialogue was amusing and moved the story along; the stunts were jaw-dropping within the spectrum of Spidey’s abilities and adventures.
The remake at least equalled the first Spiderman movie, probably surpassing it, and certainly set the stage for something much greater than the zany Spiderman 2 and the commercially-driven Spiderman 3. And while I’m usually not up for dropping $17.50 on a movie, it was certainly “spectacular” watching it in 3D and Imax.
Now, we just have to wait for May 2, 2014. Go ahead, sign me up.