My one big pre-screening fear with The Amazing Spider-Man was that it was going to retell a story that was just barely told to us via three movie installments over the last ten years. Why reboot something that isn’t at all old in the exact same fashion that we just saw it? Trailers and dozens of clips were let loose online that only furthered this concern. But what I didn’t know was what The Amazing Spider-Man was actually trying to do. Sure, this version of Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield) is replacing that played by Tobey Maguire, but it’s not erasing him. No, this version is more like an alternate reality where events occur in a similar fashion, but through different means. There are countless easter eggs pointing back at the three movies. In doing so, it’s not mimicking the motions of Sam Raimi’s first three Spider-Man films; Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man is paying homage to them. If J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek can create a new reality with the same events, why can’t Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man? After all, weren’t comic books one of the first mediums to bank entirely off the use of alternate realities?
Peter Parker is still a geek, but he’s not the same super nerdy geek that Maguire played. Garfield’s Parker is more like an average intelligent guy who wants to be left alone. He isn’t picked on for wanting to be left alone; he only finds himself at the end of a bully’s fist when he tries helping others – which is more of a fitting reason why Parker would use his powers for good.
Maguire’s Parker had James Franco’s Harry Osborn to keep him company. Garfield’s is all alone – but there’s a reason for it. The Amazing Spider-Man opens with an impressive tone-setting scene that shows how his childhood came to an end. A plane crash took the lives of his parents, which is how he came to live with Uncle Ben and Aunt May. (While Martin Sheen’s Ben is simply fantastic, Sally Field’s May is just okay). This tone is never fleeting. The Amazing Spider-Man is grounded in our emotional reality. The range doesn’t flow from borderline melodramtic to quirky like it did in Raimi’s flicks. The love triangle is gone (thank heaven). This round, Spidey is all about the emotion.
Having said that, know that the weakest part of the movie is the villian. Sure, he creates tension and unravels a Batman Begins-esque plot against the city that makes way for an intense finale, but this is more of a movie about its characters and their relationships – and it completely works. If it didn’t, the first-act absence of the masked spandex-wearing superhero would make audiences stir crazy – but it doesn’t.
Long live Spider-Man. I thoroughly enjoyed each of Raimi’s Spider-Man movies, but Webb’s is the one that functions closer to my level. It’s moody and emotional without ever feeling like a soap opera. It’s action-packed and stunning, but never repetitious or tiring. The Amazing Spider-Man is established on the same sturdy foundation as the Spider-Man movies of yester-decade, but the structure that’s build upon it is much more elaborate, beautiful and personal.
No matter what you thought of the last three Spider-Man movies or what you fear about this one, I recommend that you set those complaints aside and give The Amazing Spider-Man a chance. Sony has done what Fox did last summer with X-Men: First Class – they’ve proved that Marvel Studios isn’t the only one that can pump out Marvel comicbook movie gold.
Photo credit: Sony