The Amazing Spider-Man:
Yesterday, I saw The Amazing Spider-Man. Spider-fans, rejoice! This movie reboots Spider-Man to be grittier, faster-paced, and more respectful to the character arcs than the last trilogy with Tobey Macguire. You will get none of that impromptu “evil Spider-Man” dance scene nonsense here, nor the plain Mary Jane. What you will find is a deeper investigation into character backgrounds and motivations, and finally a movie that shows Spider-Man in the air most of the time, that can do his web-slinging acrobatics justice.
The movie begins by launching an investigation into the character’s motivations. Peter Parker finds out that his father was a geneticist involved with cross-species engineering before he died, and so it is that arc that brings him to have his fateful accident and change from high school nerd (Andrew Garfield doesn’t look high-school aged; but then most actors don’t anyway.) to Spider-Man, in an attempt to pick up his father’s work and gradual quest toward responsibility.
Peter Parker is not a hero here, when he first discovers his powers. Like any of us, he is tempted to use his powers to get what he wants and exact revenge on those who’ve wronged him. Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) is the moral support here, and when he first gives the speech he’s supposed to give, Peter doesn’t buy it and it has dire consequences which motivate him to fight crime and swing from buildings. He also learns to control his powers and use them for good. To my knowledge, Tobey Macguire just put on the mask, and decided he was Spider-Man. Here we get more development. It’s nice to see Peter treated seriously, with real problems.
But each well-developed hero must come with an equally well-matched villain. Here’s where I think the movie really does well. Lizardman isn’t a bad guy, he just wants to grow his arm back. And he works with Peter (again, continuing his father’s work.) to develop a serum that will allow him to grow limbs back, like a lizard. But, he goes too far and injects himself with the whole thing, and the lizard takes over. Many of us, particularly in the disability community, can relate to not having “cures” fast enough and letting it consume us. Too often, we see villains as not people. But, in true Marvel fashion, the villain thinks he’s doing the Right thing. He’s redeemable. I felt the whole cast was better than before, really.
Even the choice of Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy was good. Emma Stone always plays good quirky love interests, in my opinion, since her character roles since Superbad are often sympathetic to nerds. She even looks like Gwen Stacy. I liked how her job ties in with the plot. Mary Jane is supposed to be a model. So, her being in a lab on a field trip didn’t really work for me. But, Gwen Stacy works in a lab. It makes more sense how she’d come in contact with mutated spiders. It ties their stories together nicely.
Speaking of mutated spiders, the movie shows off his powers in every way possible, and the CGI web slinging shots are fast paced and a joy to look at. But the one power I thought they did really good illustrating was his super strength. Previous incarnations really don’t do this power justice, since a spider can lift many times its weight. He breaks things without meaning to, and sticks to things he shouldn’t get stuck to otherwise. In the end, they’re able to bring all these characters together, throw in some wonderful wall-climbing web-slinging fights, and all the characters grow in a way we didn’t see in the other movies. It doesn’t say “With great power comes great responsibility”, it shows it.
All in all, this is a more serious take on the Spider-Man mythos, which follows the development of the characters. I don’t mean to spoil anything, but he (Andrew Garfield) will be in Avengers 2, for sure. He still has plenty of room to grow. At least another trilogy would be nice this time!
Finally, as a note to all the people following the blog, I recently picked up six Marvel animated movies. So, after this blog, I’ll be watching one every day, and commenting on how it uses the Heroes’ Journey to overcome obstacles. I will also throw in disability commentary when necessary. Tomorrow’s theme will be Iron Man’s dependence on machinery for his superhero powers, like so many of us who use machines to transcend ordinary limitations day to day. Stay tuned, heroes!