*slight spoilers in this review*
I still, for the life of me, cannot understand why there is a need to reboot Spider-man. The last three-installment-effort starring Tobey Maguire still works, and the 3rd one was shown just 5 years ago (2007). It’s not like it’s dated or anything. But hey, there is only one word to explain this reboot:
Yep, moolah. Lots of it. The Spider-man trilogy of the previous decade earned gazillions of money at the box-office and given this generation’s fascination, nay, desperate need for superhero movies (the non-stop successful superhero movies from Marvel like Iron Man and its sequel, Thor, and the Avengers serve as a reminder of the people’s desperation for somebody, anybody to rescue them from their dreary, godforsaken lives), I’m guessing we are far, far away from curtailing this super attraction with superheroes.
But still, the triple Tobey threat in tights a mere few years back is still good. What’s there to see and experience with a reboot?
Answer: Andrew Garfield.
His presence, I think, was the most important element in the whole spider affair. While the entire cast was superb, not to mention “youngified” (Uncle Ben and aunt May finally look like an uncle and an aunt, unlike in the Maguire films where they could pass as Peter’s grandparents), and I must say I completely adore Emma Stone (as Gwen Stacy) in every movie she’s made and I love her chemistry with Andrew, it’s this new Peter Parker’s kinetic charm that makes him a refreshing man in tights.
It must be said that I loved Tobey as Peter Parker. He gave this hero a certain geeky but sublime aura. As Peter Parker, Tobey’s heroic journey was very moving and awe-inspiring it was beautiful beyond words. But his sublimity was too mature, too mellow for this guy Parker. Not a fault, just his take on the character. Kind of like a torn and tormented man-child struggling to become a hero amidst the challenges that beset him on a daily basis.
Garfield’s take on the character couldn’t be more different. While the tortured persona is still there (a staple Spidey trait I must say), take away the maturity and sublimity and replace it with a youthful, very dynamic, very vibrant kind of Parker. Like Spider-man on crack. And guess what? It works!
His kineticism gives a different kind of exuberance to this webbed wonder. I also truly love the fact that he is shown as a hero who actually enjoys and is truly having fun with his powers. He moves differently, too. Tobey’s Spider-man was more man than spider. Andrew’s was more spider than man. I particularly liked this one scene when Andrew was inside his bedroom, and when his super spider sense started to kick in, he literally assumed a spider stance, left leg defensively set, on the ready.
It was all about his legs, yes. 😀
Mr. Garfield’s legs aside, I must say I didn’t really like the film too much for me to rave about it, which is unfortunate because once I start raving, it usually takes me forever to shut up. Something was off.
Act 1: character exposition (orphaned background of Peter and the rest of the Parkers are introduced to showcase this hero-in-the-making’s raw stage, i.e., a man in need of fatherly guidance and the young man’s desire for what Joseph Campbell refers to as “Father Atonement/At-ONE-ment”), leading up to the main character being bitten (call to adventure) and his eventual physical transformation (plus training/initiation, of course).
Act 2: conflict is introduced. Parker’s physical transformation is at odds with his internal struggle. He desires to be more like his father, to be his very father (remember that fabulous scene when Peter removed his contact lenses and wore his father’s spectacles? A superficial At-ONE-ment with the father, that one is, for the hero is not yet ready for the metaphorical union), and disregards the guidance offered by his Uncle Ben (his true mentor). This is the point where the hero reaches his darkest and lowest point and struggles with the loss of the guardian and then must make a critical decision.
Act 3: resolution. This is the stage where the hero finally makes that decision. What decision? To be the person he was born to be; not to be like his father, but to be better than his father. The scene at the bridge where Spider-man had to save this young boy from the hanging, burning car showcases this critical juncture. When the father of the young boy asked who he was, he said , after a beat or two: “I’m Spider-man.” Bam. Acceptance. Bam. The hero has arrived.
This was also the stage where the hero must finally defeat the enemy (arch-nemesis). Dr. Connors was Richard Parker’s dark shadow, and unwittingly became his son’s Dark Father/evil mentor. The villain’s presence is again a critical one for it is instrumental in the true birth and transformation of the hero.
Given this triptych, I’d say The Amazing Spider-Man nails the first 2/3 of the movie. Act 1 was superbly executed. It didn’t rush to explain the backstory. I also liked that in this case, the cause for Peter’s spider bite was due to his spirited curiosity (he was a man on a mission at Oscorp) and not out of a mere accident (field trip gone bad in the Tobey movie). The relationships were well thought-out as well, and all the funnies were there, too. Act 2 was also splendid. While Tobey Maguire’s Uncle Ben immortalized the iconic line, “with great power comes great responsibility”, and there is truly no escaping it even now, even if Garfield’s Uncle Ben is the wonderful Martin Sheen himself, the Garfield-Sheen combo is as poignant and maybe even more heartbreaking than the original pair.
Act 3 was just. . . oh what’s the word?
It was all over the place. It had too many superfluous scenes (the fight between Spidey and the Lizard on high school grounds immediately comes to mind. I mean, come on. There was the bridge meet up, then the sewer fight, then the high school grudge match, then the final battle at Oscorp building. Way too many, I believe). The soundtrack was gratuitous on so many moments as well. Less is more, folks. Less is more.
Speaking of the villain, I’m guessing the filmmakers tried to borrow a page from Doctor Octopus of the 2nd film installment. Doc Ock (spectacularly played by Alfred Molina) was not your simple, garden-variety villain. While he was super smart, he was also a very sympathetic character. We understood his motivations from the get-go and we saw the reason for his downfall. His villainy was not two dimensional, far from it. I’d say he was the best villain of all three Spider-man movies.
Dr. Connors was created of the same mold. He was made to look sympathetic, what with the one missing arm and his humanitarian inspirations brought to the fore. But. . . it just didn’t work for me. At times I found myself cringing at the melodrama of it all, particularly at the interaction between the hero and the villain (whether as the Lizard or as the scientist). There was no chemistry between the two, and heaven knows there should be intense chemistry between any hero and his villain (for example: Harry and Voldemort, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, Superman and Lex Luthor, Neo and Agent Smith, Thor and Loki. . .the list goes ever on). It just didn’t work, and I am truly sorry. And what about how it all ended? The main conflict was Peter’s search for his identity, a typical hero route. How did the movie end? Not so much as strengthening his newfound identity, but resolving his issue with his girlfriend. *guffaws*
I really, really wanted to love this movie, this being Spider-man after all, my second favorite superhero of all time (Thor, I must say is just 3rd, but coming in very close to Spidey’s web. My Top Superhero is a no-brainer, if you really know me, that is), but it didn’t feel 100% right to me. Oh I love Andrew Garfield. I think he is a remarkable actor. Some people thought he was the next big thing after The Social Network but I saw his potential way earlier, as Frank (fabulous name for a character. It must be fate, hahaha) in the third season of Doctor Who (Daleks in Manhattan) and yes, more significantly, thanks to Robert Redford’s genius casting call in Lions for Lambs. You should watch it, incidentally. Good cast (Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Robert Redford AND Andrew Garfield), great plot, and yes, a very young, angsty, Peter Parker in the making. No leg scenes though, sorry.
Overall, I say go watch The Amazing Spider-man. It’s still fun, good entertainment if you ask me, only not as good as it should have been (high expectations much? I suppose). Tobey’s Spider-man 2 still holds the record for being the best Spidey movie for me. Some might say it’s unfair to compare, but the thing is, to compare is not surprising. It is as natural as Andrew Garfield’s fabulous hair.
Let’s sing it together, “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head. . . .”