Can we all just agree, Spider-Man is the best superhero out there? He’s not a brooding emo like Batman or a stuffed-shirt conservative like Superman. He’s completely vulnerable, unlike Wolverine and he isn’t impotent like The Hulk.
Why do we love him so much? Because his origin story could happen to any of us.
We all got beaten up at high school in front of the hot girl. We all excelled at science. We all lost our parents at an early age. And his radioactive spider bite could have happened to anyone.
We could never be Superman because we were born on Earth. We could never be Batman because frankly, who’d want to be? But any one of us could walk through a scientific laboratory and getting bitten by a spider. He is by far the best superhero to fantasise about being (as opposed to Catwoman who is the best superhero to fantasise about being with).
So with all my Spidey love, why didn’t I walk out of the cinema with a raging-huge mega-hard fully erect sense of appreciation for the dramatic representation of my special boy?
Well, I’d already seen it.
You remember? It was ten years ago and everybody was saying, “Really? Tobey Maguire as a superhero?” Then we saw it and went, “Huh. That totally worked.”
I still love the moment where he puts on his glasses and everything is blurry till he takes them off again. His sudden-onset washboard stomach and slow motion bully beatdown were iconic moments. It combined some great awkward puberty jokes (Aunt May tries to walk in while his room is covered with sticky white web) and the tragic reality of what it means to stand by when evil is afoot.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This latest version, directed by the appropriately/awkwardly named Marc Webb is pretty good. It really does everything right, it just doesn’t do it new. Peter’s powers unleash themselves while on the train in a scene that was actually pretty damn funny. He takes out the school bully in a wonderfully satisfying way. Uncle Ben’s death is no less heart-wrenching.
I’d just seen it all before.
Anyway, enough of the comparisons and onto the film itself.
The plot is pure old-school Spider-Man. He doesn’t work for the Daily Bugle yet. Mary-Jane is not on the scene and Norman Osborne is the faceless owner of Oscorp. His web-slinging ability isn’t internal, it happens via a machine of his own design. This is Spiderman before he was cool. I really liked this aspect, I felt like I was experiencing the original stories, not just the ones that seemed good for a movie.
Andrew Garfield, a relatively unknown actor who portrayed Zuckerberg’s screwed-over friend, Eduardo Saverin, takes on the title role, . Garfield did a fantastic job, being enough of a nerd to make me feel for him but with a cute enough smile to my make wife just want to feel him. Emma Stone is his pre-MJ girlfriend, Gwen Stacey. Stone is a current favourite of mine but at 23 she’s starting to push believability as a high-school girl. Still, her presence was really the only reason my wife came to see it with me in the first place.
Old Spider-Man fought bad guys based on animals, like my favourite, The Rhino. This incarnation fights The Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. As Dr. Curt Connors he just wants to make the world a better place but when The Lizard takes over he lives for carnage. Yeah, it’s basically the same idea as the Green Goblin but who cares, it works.
Sally Field and Martin Sheen play Aunt May and Uncle Ben and I totally bought them. May is kind and mothering and Ben is kind and fathering. You know they’re responsible for Parker growing up to be such a fine, young man.
Stan Lee makes yet another cameo appearance which was very funny but totally inappropriately positioned. Its appearance completely destroyed the pacing of a scene and really felt jarring. I love these cameos (especially in Iron Man) but they blew it with this one. At least it wasn’t as vomit-inducing as his appearance in Spider Man 3.
The plot was simple. Spider-Man has powers, therefore responsibilities. He learns the hard way what ignoring these responsibilities means. He gets a chance to redeem himself by beating the snot out of a giant lizard and he takes it.
What was great was the sense of causation. What happens to Uncle Ben was indirectly Parker’s fault. Likewise the creation of The Lizard. Basically every bad thing that happens in the story can be traced back to Parker. He has to deal with this guilt and learn to stop moping and start punching.
There are rumours flying around about Spider-Man making an appearance in The Avengers 2 but my guess is that it’s just a fantasy. Unless Disney and Sony can shake hands like adults we won’t be seeing this. Garfield himself commented on how it killed him to be watching The Avengers and knowing he should be in it. He wanted it, the fans wanted it but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Overall, I enjoyed the film but I didn’t feel any need to rave about it to others. When asked what I thought I shrugged and said, “Yeah, it was ok.” You’ll probably like it, especially if you’re already a Marvel fan. Let’s be honest though, if you’re a Marvel fan you’ll see this movie regardless.
Go. Enjoy. I hope your experience is better than mine.