It’s possible my expectations going into this film were so low that there was no way I wouldn’t be pleasantly surprised. And I was, thoroughly, in spite of its meaningless, baffling plot and awkward pacing. To me it succeeded in what was most important in a film about Spider-Man: capturing the character I fell in love with as a child, the one I daydreamed about being, whose world I visited as often as possible (or as often as my allowance could afford it).
Everyone has their book, some people are into Batman or Superman or even The Fantastic Four (although I have no idea who those people are), for me it was the Wall Crawler. In particular The Amazing Spider-Man which had the best writing and art design as far as I could tell:
How about those thighs.
There were multiple iterations running at the same time: The Spectacular, The Incredible, Ultimate, etc. but Amazing was the best, bar none. Peter Parker was down to earth, poor, a complete smart ass and an old fashioned good guy with a stunning bombshell red haired girlfriend who worried but supported him with a delightfully plucky ‘Go get ’em, Tiger’. This was and is my favorite superhero out there which is something that I forgot with all the brilliance of the Dark Knight Trilogy and the scope of the Marvel Universe that has unfolded over the last few years, tragically bereft of their one time flagship character, Spidey himself.
This affection I have for this character has been, up until this point, robbed of me due to the inanity of his handling on the big screen, starting with his interpretation in the hands of one Sam Raimi and one Tobey Maguire. The first three films do have their qualities from here and there:
Okay, YES, that makes me choke up a bit, [Ed. Note, a LOT, “He’s…just a kid…”] and in spite of Maguire’s butt-chin, there are moments in the second installment that shine through to the purity of the character, however wrong they are for the canon, but everything else in those films are absolutely wretched. There is a clear sense that these pictures were created by committee, by people who were handed a Cliffs Notes report on the character and asked to construct ‘Summer Blockbuster’ with all the appropriate action beats.
There is some kind of character arc for the Peter Parker they had created on screen but no regard whatsoever for what the character on the page was like. And this became more and more infuriating as time goes on. What’s more frustrating is that I began to forget the character on the page myself and Tobey Maguire’s big stupid face began permeating my understanding of the Web Slinger. Maybe he WAS crying all the time. Maybe he DID come off as an insufferable bore and an attention obsessed preening jackass. Maybe Mary Jane was an utterly unlikable former Prom Queen/popular kid who fell from grace. Maybe I was remembering this character from my childhood with rose colored glasses.
Thanks, Over Acting Kevin Spacey. I was wrong. When Sony rebooted the series I was as confused as anyone else but optimistic, nonetheless. How much worse could it get? My main bone (insert Beavis and/or Butthead chuckle at “bone”)……(heh, “insert”) of contention lay with another Origin Story and a weak villain. Who on Earth doesn’t know Spider-Man’s origin? Radioactive spider bites the dude. Now he’s got dem powers. Let’s move on. And Lizard? Have we learned nothing from one-off villains? When Loki is the most popular Marvel villain even though most people had never heard of him before Thor? All due respect to Tom Hiddleston and his incredibly entertaining performances. Here’s one for Tom:
Never mind, Doctor Octopus, the first villain who truly kicked his ass and sent him packing. Or Venom, arguably the Joker to his Bats. Green Goblin was before my time but he still deserved a little more consideration. Whatever, the most important and encouraging thing to come out of the reboot was Andrew Garfield and his incredibly long neck. He had the voice and the witty trash talking that woke up my inner child. This is the guy, the hero who has a sense of humor throughout, who has that vulnerable accessible goodness about him. In the sequel, however, Peter is conflicted. Literally haunted by Dennis Leary and his constant leering judgement of him for continuing to be involved with his charming, gorgeous daughter. This is like the worst kind of Third Degree possible, it’s coming from the AFTERLIFE, so you can’t even pretend to be a fan of her dad’s sports team or what have you. There are problems with this film, it is replete with logical inconsistencies, I’ll give an example:
Harry Osborn: Spider-Man, I’m dying from… Turning Into Green Monster Disease and I need your blood to cure me of it. Don’t ask me why because I have no effing clue how I came to this conclusion.
Spider-Man: But my blood might kill you, there is no way to be certain. No idea or explanation why I know that.
Harry Osborn: But I”m dying anyway, so….I mean. Come on, man. Gimme dat blood.
Who wouldn’t be pissed off at Spidey after that exchange, hell, I wanted to punch him the balls. And of course it all comes around to bite him in his spandex behind when his over protection and fear of taking a risk on behalf of one friend ends up costing him something even more dear. Because themes. Themes that are not analyzed or referenced in this film.
Spider-Man is not a millionaire or a ladies man or a tortured soul obsessed with fighting crime out of a bitter sense of revenge for his losses. He fights crime because he can and because he knows he should. Because great power comes with great responsibility. Because it’s fun and right. That might be his greatest appeal to me, his humble sense of accountability that distinguishes him from the rest of the comic book universe. Most other comic creations are motivated by politics and exclusion (X-Men), by revenge (Batman, Punisher, etc.), by being an invulnerable demigod with nothing else to do, or a massive jingoistic streak (Superman and Captain America, respectively). One of the things that made the Civil War series so brilliant and thought provoking was Spider-Man and his role as the Every Man, the only hero without an agenda. He ultimately serves as the conscience of the superhero community as they war between the pro registration forces of Iron Man and the anti registration forces led by Captain America.
[Ed. Note, I have totally made it with a girl before. Like, a bunch of times.]
So the plot of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 leaves a lot to be desired. Someone needs to stop Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci or whomever it is that is under the impression these guys know what they are doing with a keyboard (Here is an excellent article written by one of my idols extolling what he aptly describes as their War On Narrative Coherence). But the heart of Garfield, the strength of character in Emma Stone, and the affection for the content that Marc Webb seems to have was enough for me. This film serves as a jumping off point for The Sinister Six and other spinoffs. I have not given up on this series, I still have hope that this can turn into something truly special and as loyal to the Spider-Man universe as is possible with present day copyright law, even if that makes me a boob. To me The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had a kind of Empire Strikes Back feel to it. The demons are on the move and our hero (my hero) is pushing on, into and through the dark after losing what he held dearest of all without losing his sense of responsibility or humor. That’s what hope can do.
I love this guy.