The Amazing Spider-man This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

July 23, 2012
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Spiderman is an atypical superhero. More like the snarky, wisecracking comicbook mercenary Deadpool than the stalwart, barrel-chested Last Son of Krypton, Peter Parker and his web-spinning alter ego are decided antiheroes. Armed only with spinnerettes, a tight-fitting latex suit, and the supernatural ability to tell when a gigantic, reptilian fist is about to smack him upside the head, Spider-man’s charm and humor are his real appeal. Much like the Dark Knight series, minus the corruption and cowls, the Spiderman franchise is about reinvention and what it means to be human. Spidey’s villains are typically people with a burning desire to transform themselves into something new, something powerful – in the case of The Amazing Spider-Man, something that looks like it crawled off Ishiro Honda’s film set. The Amazing Spider-Man itself is a reinvention of Sam Raimi’s 2002 version– director Marc Webb of 500 Hundred Days of Summer starts at a different point in the Spidery chronology –before Mary Jane and Norman Osborn appear. And that creates problems.

The core of Rami’s Spider-man was Peter Parker’s romantic love for Mary Jane, poignant and painfully sincere. This time around, Emma Stone, usually quirky and interesting, is just another movie girlfriend. There’s only one brief moment when police chief dad Dennis Leary orders her down for dinner, where she breaks out into more conventional Stone territory, excusing herself with a hastily and hilariously concocted explanation of her feminine problems.

The bigger disappointment is Peter Parker. Raimi’s Spider-Man opened with a poor schmuck (Maguire) running for the bus. Terrorized by bullies, lost, rejected and hopeless - an outcast. Maguire, emotionally shaky despite rock-hard abs and the ability to look in eight places at once, crashes into walls after getting his newfound powers and never really recovers his footing; he always seems disconnected from his alter ego. Garfield’s Spidey struts around in spandex, roguishly confident, playing Spiderman instead of Peter. We only know he’s undergoing a tortured battle with himself because his Bambi-esque eyes continually well with tears and the dialogue takes us by the elbow-- “Are you having trouble finding yourself?” asks a preternaturally savvy secretary.

The first Spider-Man was thrilling, cartoonish, and affectionately campy. It had drama - the lightning flash that exposes Uncle Ben’s killer in the warehouse - and moments of real feeling - James Franco’s rage, Maguire’s poignant renunciation of Mary Jane to ensure her safety. We were simultaneously sucked into the story and tickled by the breeze from Raimi’s heavy wink. Trying - presumably - to be different, The Amazing Spiderman glosses over parts of Parker’s transformation and rise to heroism, losing most of its charm and dramatic narrative. We’re left with a plot where the main villain maniacally schemes to turn everyone into a lizard-person. Near the end of the movie, Spider-Man, having sustained a gunshot wound to the leg, quickly sprays it over with web, hoping the improvised solution will heal him. Maybe it’ll work for Peter Parker, but not for the Spidey franchise.





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