Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman

I recently saw The Amazing Spiderman. I can’t offer detailed comparisons between the remake and the origin since it’s been a while since I saw Spiderman 1. I think Spiderman 1 was a good film, while Spiderman 2 was a great film of its kind.

There’s a striking difference between the way Maguire and Garfield play the protagonist. That’s due, in large measure, to the difference between the two actors, although it may also owe something to how the part has been rewritten. I don’t care enough to systematically compare the two scripts.

Maguire plays the character as an introvert while Garfield plays him as an extrovert. Maguire portrays the character as a reluctant hero while Garfield’s characterization relishes his super powers. 

Maguire plays Spiderman as an Everyman who’s been suddenly favored (or cursed) with extraordinary abilities. Maguire and Dunst lack conventional movie star good looks. So they have a common man appeal. By contrast, Garfield and Stone are more photogenic.

As played by Maguire and Dunst, Peter Parker and Mary Jane are both chronic complainers. That makes them tedious. It doesn’t wear well over time. Who wants to be around a complainer all the time?

As played by Garfield and Stone, Peter and Gwen are more fun-loving. They exude youthful exuberance. In addition, Garfield and Stone are physically drawn to each other in a way that Maguire and Dunst never were. At a time when Hollywood keeps shoving homosexuality in our face, it’s refreshing to see normal heterosexual attraction on display. That passion comes through on the screen.

Hollywood has forgotten, or tried to suppress the fact, that most moviegoers enjoy seeing men and women who enjoy being together.

That natural pairing is what made films with Bogie and Bacall, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Cary Grant and Roz Russell, &c., so popular. Normal men and women like seeing movies in which the lead actor and actress like being in each other’s company.

This isn’t distinctively Christian, of course. It’s just a common grace virtue. Men and women who like to spend time together. You can build a whole film around that simple dynamic. Watching them watching each other.

The Amazing Spiderman would be a better film if it did more with Peter and Gwen, and less with staged crises and computer-generated acrobatics. 

There’s also a scene in which Spiderman rescues a boy from a dangling van. Garfield relates to him like a big brother to a kid brother.

Once again, it’s nice to see a film in which a somewhat older male shows that protective concern for a younger boy. Where he risks his neck to save the kid. The cultural elite tries to suppress that native sense of duty.

On the other hand, the film still reflects an agenda to reinvent men. Garfield tears up in situations where a normal teenage boy would not.

Likewise, there’s also a scene where he breaks down in the arms of his Aunt May. It isn’t very realistic.

As a rule, young men (as well as older men) are more inclined to let their guard down around a trusted male friend. If the film were truer to life, it would give Peter a sidekick or buddy with whom he shares his confidences. But that’s a bit too straight, too retro, for modern Hollywood.

There’s a funny scene on the subway where Peter apologetically beats up some muggers. The rebooted Aunt May is easier to take than the original. At least we’re spared the little goody two-shoes homilies that Rosemary Harris used to dole out.

The film suffers from too many clichés and contrivances. Uncle Ben searches for Peter, so that Uncle Ben can be shot to death by an assailant–who just so happens to be a guy Peter encountered minutes before at the 7/11–so that Peter–who just so happens to be near enough to hear the gun go off–can find Uncle Ben bleeding to death, so that he can be guilt-ridden, so that he can become a winged avenger. 

Gwen just happens to be an intern at Oscorp. Gwen’s dad just happens to be a policeman, who just happens to be the stereotypical by-the-book cop who’s too busy hunting down “vigilantes” to protect his own daughter from the real villain while the real hero just happens to be his daughter’s new boyfriend. 

Gwen goes to Oscorp just in time to be threatened by the Lizard, so that Spiderman can rescue her just in time from the Lizard. 

Peter just happens to find his dad’s old suitcase, which just happens to contain a picture of his old colleague, Dr. Connors. Oscorp just happens to be within commuting distance of Midtown Science High. The suitcase just happens to contain an algorithm, which just so happens to be the missing key to Dr. Connors’ cross-species’ experiment.

Gosh. What are the odds?

Now, some films make a virtue of clichés. There are teen-themed movies that revel in clichés. Spoof clichés. The jock. The diva. The geek. The nerd. The bimbo. The bully. The bad boy. The sidekick. The absent-minded professor. The nice Jewish boy. The bleeding-heart teacher. The inspirational teacher. The disciplinarian principal. Cheerleaders. Punks. Misfits. Wiggers. Emokids. Mean girls.

High school has spawned its own genre of stock characters. A self-contained world. The Amazing Spiderman touches on this, but fails to mine the dramatic and comedic potential.

Finally, the film is clearly a set-up for a sequel. So it contains a lot of deliberate loose ends.

Regarding the film generally, I thought the parts were better than the whole. I think the film is surprisingly good given how uneven it is.

1 comment:

  1. I watched it earlier this week, thought it was rather good.

    The casting is much better than the Sam Raimi series. Garfield, in particular, is superior in the lead role to Toby Maguire. Also, his scenes with Kirsten Dunst were hard to watch. The villain this time was a bit underwhelming, though.

    One of the criticisms made against the reboot is that it's only 10 years since the previous series started; too soon to go over familiar ground. In one sense I think that's true enough. Going through the origins scenes did, at times, feel like watching the same movie with different actors. I'm not familiar with the comic books but as I understand it both films follow the pivotal origin events fairly closely. So these are always going to be familiar, as much a part of the series as its other conventions. They can be put together slightly differently but there will always be the same waypoints.

    I do think it's handled better in the reboot, certainly more understandable.