That Guy’s A Hero?

So I saw The Amazing Spider-Man today. My mum took me and bought me ice cream and I wanted to yell at the dumb kids who were yakking during the opening minutes before I realised I didn’t want anyone to realise that I was going to the cinema WITH MY MUM.

It was okayy. I’ve heard some people putting it on a par with The Avengers for entertainment and heart, but I really wouldn’t go that far. I’ll stand by my original thoughts that director Marc Webb was an interesting choice, and there were some neat touches he added to the Spidey story, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was the right one, or even close for that matter.

For starter’s, there’s the retelling of the origin story, which I actually think is reasonably justified in theory, given that superhero movies are supposed to be for kids and teenagers and the first Raimi Spider-Man came out 11 years ago (remember seeing that in the theatre and instantly feel old), so a great deal of your demographic ain’t going to know how the heck this dude’s swinging about and climbing up walls and stuff. Except there are two big problems with this:

1. TASM seems to be taking itself pretty seriously in terms of themes and (relative) reality, and really doesn’t play like a childrens’ movie at all–especially the mostly mumbled, unfinished dialogue between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

2. EVERYONE KNOWS WHO SPIDER-MAN IS ALREADY! HE’S IN A MILLION COMIC BOOKS, CARTOONS, TV SHOWS AND MOVIES ALREADY, AND IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ANY OF THOSE AROUND LATELY THEN YOU PROBABLY DON’T HAVE ANY INTEREST IN SPENDING TWO HOURS WATCHING A GUY FLY AROUND IN A SKINTIGHT SUIT.

So yeah, thanks for expecting us to have the memory of a goldfish, studio execs.

But I can get over that; I expected it (though it really shouldn’t have to be expected). One of the other things that really bothered me was one of the things I had an inkling would be a problem – that Webb doesn’t know how to do action…or at least, not as well as Sam Raimi can.

Anyone who’s seen 500 Days of Summer will know that it’s a very visually engaging film and one my eyes lapped up, but it mostly just involves a lot of people talking either sat down, on beds or walking through shops; not exactly the most frenetic and energetic of sequences, I think we can all agree. While Sam Raimi threw his Spidey all over the shop and kept the pace and tension up so high that the odd bit of slow motion here and there was actually a natural break in the action, Webb doesn’t seem confident enough to let loose with the camera and tries to play it as safe as possible, one of Spider-Man and the Lizard’s fights occurring with one lying on top of the other and resembling a love scene more than anything else.

Perhaps the comparison to Raimi’s technique is unfair as they both have wildly different visual styles, but then again it’s really not unfair as I was longing for a hit to really CONNECT with something or the sound of bone brunching to make me squirm in my seat, anything that would make me root for a character rather than just wanting the more bearable angst-ridden high school scenes to come along.

I can get over those concerns if they’re the biggest problems in a movie. I like action in movies, but it’s not what I go to see them for. It’s much more enjoyable when justified and I care about the people fighting, and that’s what brings me to TASM‘s biggest flaw:

It has no hero.

Garfield’s Peter Parker is (for want of a better phrase) something of a selfish prick. Nothing he does in the film is motivated by anything other than selfish need. He created the monster he has to fight, and all other fights are purely for self-preservation or revenge. When his girlfriend is trying to do the right thing and save countless lives, he tells her to run because he likes her and doesn’t want her to get hurt. She disobeys and basically saves the city because she feels a moral obligation to do The Right Thing.

There’s even a sequence toward the end of the film where something potentially calamitous happens and Spider-Man does nothing about it aside from saving his own skin. We don’t know if anyone is hurt by this occurrence because we’re not shown the consequence, and that’s a big problem for Spidey as a hero, because heroes (especially this one) are all about responsibility, and being responsible means understanding and dealing with the consequences of your actions.

I’ll end with a quote from someone – a great film blogger and tweeter by the name of Film Crit Hulk who sums up the whole problem with the character better than I can:

RAIMI’S PETER PARKER WAS SOMEONE WHO STRUGGLED WITH THE DIFFICULTIES OF ALWAYS DOING THE RIGHT THING IN A WORLD THAT MAKES IT HARD TO DO SO.

TASM’S PETER PARKER WAS SOMEONE WHO COULD BARELY FIGURE OUT THAT DOING THE RIGHT THING IS, LIKE, IMPORTANT AND STUFF.

THAT DIFFERENCE SAYS EVERYTHING.

It really does.

One last thing: In a scene in Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, Spidey has been beaten senseless by Doc Ock on the subway and all of the passengers stand up to defend him. That’s my favourite moment from all three movies, and you can call it corny or ridiculous or whatever, but it’s a perfect summation of what Spider-Man is and needs to be: he gives so much of himself to New York (just because he has to) that he and the city are one; and when NYC can’t defend itself, there are none better than its citizens to pick up the slack.

The only thing that even came close to that moment in this movie when, while saving a boy, Spidey gives him his mask and tells him it’ll make him stronger. This moment is ruined when he saves the kid in a way that he could have done just as easily about 3 minutes earlier without the perpetuated danger and the whole thing is then cheapened by becoming a callback to the daddy issues brought up earlier in the movie.

I really wanted it to be another Avengers, but I don’t even think they’d let this guy on their team.

P.S. Martin Sheen and Emma Stone sure give it their all, though Sheen is criminally underused and his emotional payoff works solely because EVERYONE LOVES MARTIN SHEEN ANYWAY.

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