I’m the type of person who tries to stay away from things that get a lot of hype. If I’m told repeatedly how awesome something is I get worried that it won’t deliver on its promises and I avoid it like the plague. I’ve been disappointed by “great” things before. I’ve stood in line at midnight only to go home a sad little fangirl, I’ve dropped $60 on a game only to want to trade it in the next morning. I’ve sat through 2 hour long movies and wondered what the weather was like outside because it just had to be better than the crap I had just spent money on. So I’ve decided to do a segment about those popular things we’re all told to watch and play and answer the question, “Is it worth the hype?”
This week’s topic:
A reboot? A reimagining? It’s definitely a something. This week’s topic is “The Amazing Spider-man.”
I’m kidding, that’s not how it starts. This is how it starts:
Nope that’s not it either, what the heck?! O.K. Those two videos are my beginning memories of Spider-man, but here’s the actual trailer to the new movie:
By now, most of us know the story of Peter Parker being bitten by a radioactive spider, but this movie does things a bit differently. Peter Parker may be your normal, everyday, skateboarding techno geek but his parents have a secret that he’s slowly starting to piece together. Being left with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May for years, he discovers a briefcase with a picture of his father standing with Dr. Conners, a brilliant man working with cross-species genetics.
Already quite different from the previous movie trilogy, is it not?
After sneaking into OzCorp, Peter Parker discovers research being done on the genetics of several animals, some of which are — you guessed it — spiders. The rest, as they say, is history.
Spider-man himself has been around for longer than I’ve been alive, so it’s not so much as it being hype as it is being part of history. The Spider-man I remember is from that second link I posted, that 90s cartoon with that guitar blaring in the background to the catchy chorus of “Radioactive Spider-man.” My dad was/still is a comic book guy, so I recognized the character, but it was that animated series that got my young self into the Spider-man legacy.
Like all heroes, a movie would come along — three to be exact. I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember much about the first two movies, just that they weren’t nearly as bad as the trainwreck of a third one. Like everyone else I was terribly excited over the appearance of Venom, even in the 90s cartoon that black suit was creepy — I still remember that dream Peter Parker has about the black suit pulling him in with a ferocious growl. And, like everyone else, I was terribly disappointed with Venom in the third movie. How did a 90s cartoon outshine a movie made in 2007? But it did, and we all quietly wept for our web-swinging hero.
Then a reboot was announced.
This movie has some rather interesting hype behind it. Before the movie was out feelings were extremely mixed. Sure, the previews looked cool, the web-swinging looked great — thank you, “Mirror’s Edge” first person POV — and the idea of tackling Peter Parker’s parents was exciting, especially after “The Avengers.” But a lot of us still remembered that last movie, that thing that was released with the emo!Peter Parker who strutted down the street and slid across the dance floor on a chair. No matter how much “The Amazing Spider-man” promised to be edgier, we weren’t sure if we believed it.
I wanted to see the movie, yes, but I didn’t feel the excitement I did with “The Avengers.” We’ve all seen those pictures online, the ones where “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises” throw money at one another with a wimpy little Spider-man crawling around to pick up their scraps. I mean, were the creators of this movie crazy?! Releasing a reboot in the middle of two giant comic movie releases?! Or were they just so confident in their film that they boldly stepped forward to deliver us a Spider-man unlike any other?
Then the movie was released and it… did really, really well. In fact, it made more money than expected. So, finally, I decided to go out and see it.
I think my partner put it best when she said, “This is the Spider-man movie I’ve always wanted, I just never realized it until I saw it.” I had been content with the original trilogy of movies — except the last one — because, at the time, that was the only option. After seeing this new one? Andrew Garfield is my Peter Parker, my Spider-man, my everything. Now I’m not saying that those other movies were bad, they were enjoyable, but I’ll put it like this: this new Spider-man fits perfectly in between “The Avengers” and “Dark Knight Rises,” whereas the 2007 one would’ve been laughed it.
What makes this movie so great are the characters, and this really shines through in the side characters as well as Peter Parker himself. Everyone knows how the story goes: Spider-man is sort of an irresponsible guy, he lets a robber go because it’s not his problem. His uncle gets killed, Spidey finds the perp, and decides to let him live because, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This movie is a bit more realistic than that. First of all, Uncle Ben and Aunt May are actual characters and not just plot points disguised as real people. I always felt like they — especially Uncle Ben — were just there in the original movies, sort of lacking a personality. Uncle Ben was there to die, Aunt May was there to give advice and — on occasion — get kidnapped. This goes for the cartoon as well, which I think is where the Uncle Ben story was told in flashback with narration by Peter Parker.
In “The Amazing Spider-man,” both uncle and aunt feel more important than that. Peter Parker actually gets family time with them, from being dropped off on their doorstep, to eating Aunt May’s meatloaf, and even having Uncle Ben come to the principal’s office. Therefore, when Uncle Ben does die, it makes more of an impact. But best of all, Peter Parker doesn’t just chase down the attacker and get over it. This Peter Parker has a chip on his shoulder, has the wanted poster at his desk as a reminder of what he inadvertently caused. This, to me, is much more realistic than simply remembering Uncle Ben’s words and moving on. This was Peter Parker’s father figure, he’s going to be upset for quite sometime. Death isn’t something you can just get over, let alone murder. Realistically, Peter Parker is going to walk around school like a zombie. Realistically, Spider-man is going to try his damndest to find the guy and take things too far. He’s the hero of the story, yes, but first and foremost the movie remembers that he’s human.
Which leads me to Peter Parker/Spider-man. Once upon a time Andrew Garfield was just a normal, everyday Spider-man fan. Now, he’s been given the ultimate dream: web-swinging for a franchise reboot. Man, oh man, does he do a damn good job. It reminds me of seeing Robert Downy Jr. and instantly thinking, “Ironman.” You know, you see him in another movie and you still think of him as Ironman, because he’s just that good. The same goes for the other Avengers, of course, but now Andrew Garfield has joined that growing line of actors who simply are their heroic counterparts.
This rebooted Peter Parker is geeky, but loveable. He’s got issues but instead of feeling whiny and emo — I’m looking at you, emo!Peter of “Spider-man 3” — it feels absolutely justified. Trying to find the meaning behind his parents’ disappearance, he begins to slowly pull away from Uncle Ben and Aunt May. On the one hand, you’re telling him to go back home and bring that carton of eggs, but on the other hand you really want him to find out what happened to his mother and father. Getting the super powers is almost an afterthought, but not in a bad way. This is an origin story, and it takes a bit for our lead character to actually become that hero the city needs. When he does take the hero role it’s not just because of Uncle Ben, but because of the city itself, which actually makes the citizens of New York feel just as important as the main characters. Hell, even Flash develops as a character, and he’s only got about four scenes in the movie.
It takes a while for Spider-man to get the hang of things. Sometimes, he throws the football a bit too hard, or he turns the faucet and it’s yanked off in a splash of water. At the same time, you get to see him adapt and it’s impressive to see how similar he really is to a spider. It’s not just the web-swinging and wall climbing, but he’ll crouch on the ground like a spider, or twist his body around and move across the floor as if he had eight legs instead of two. During this sort of ongoing, subtle training montage Peter Parker and Spider-man feel like the same person. Spider-man keeps the personality that Peter has, and Peter has moments where he has to be Spider-man even when he’s not wearing the suit. There’s no moment of, “I’m Spider-man, no, I’m Peter Parker,” instead it feels like he’s both. It also helps that the people closest to him know his secret — while Aunt May doesn’t say she knows, you can just tell that she does.
There is and isn’t a villain in the movie. The Lizard is there, yes, and he’s Spider-man’s adversary, but Dr. Conners is more misguided than evil. Seeing Peter again gives him hope in a project that no one believes in, and Peter sort of has a hand in creating the Lizard — accidentally, of course. The one downside is that I don’t really feel the burning need from Dr. Conners to grow his arm back. You can see it’s gone, of course, and it’s obvious that he wants it back. But the movie did such a great job in showing Peter’s feelings that you want the same passion from Dr. Conners. Even the animated series took time to show him with his family, embracing his wife with one arm, desperate to hold her with two.
Of course I should speak on the romance between Peter and Gwen. Gwen Stacy is sort of a nerd too, top of her class but popular enough to not be picked on by Flash. As the movie goes on she becomes just as adorably awkward as she gets closer to Peter, stuttering just a bit when she’s giving him her address. Their relationship is — for lack of better words — really, really cute, and you’re rooting for them to get together. I think I may have been rooting for Peter and Mary Jane before because, from the cartoons, I knew that they were supposed to be together. In this movie, Peter and Gwen’s relationship actually develops into something that you want to happen. There is a point where the movie pulls the, “It’s too dangerous for you to be with me,” plot that the original trilogy liked to pull, but where that Peter Parker felt whiny, this one feels justified in his worries over Gwen. Her father is already a police officer, now she’s dating a vigilante? On top of the mystery of his parents’ disappearance, there’s a giant lizard who just so happens to be an old family friend. The warning signs are flashing brightly in the sky and there’s a moment when I thought to myself, “Wow, maybe he should break up with her.”
On top of having a wonderful cast of characters, the movie is just enjoyable to watch. Gritty, perhaps, isn’t the right word, but it’s definitely more serious than the original trilogy. The web-swinging is impressive and watching Spider-man and the Lizard go at it is intense. I still can’t get over Spider-man moving around like an actual spider, but the same goes for the Lizard, who will keep up with the scurrying spider he chases after. Spider-man also manages to be cheesy without being corny. He’s snarky as hell, and his jokes are actually funny, gaining chuckles instead of that uncomfortable eye roll I use to do with the corny lines he’d spout out in the previous movies.
And most importantly, “The Amazing Spider-man,” has the best Stan Lee cameo ever in a Marvel movie.
So is this reboot worth all of the positive reviews it’s getting? Well, yes. Is it better than the other movies? Again, yes. Those movies were great for their time, but watching them now would probably make me laugh more than anything else. I think this new movie can, and will, stand the test of time. If I pick it up years later and re-watch it, I’d be just as amazed as I was in the movie theatre. Hell, even the type of geek Peter Parker is will stand the test of time. He’s just awkward, really, and he skateboards — and we all know skateboarders will never die.
If you were hesitant about seeing this movie, fear not, it’s actually a good time. I know I went in with pretty below average expectations, but this movie really blew my mind. Great characters, a good story, humor, and even parts that tug at the web around your heart. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they do with this new, and amazing, Spider-man.
Want to see something make it into the segment? Let me know via email:[email protected] Tell me what it is and why you feel it is over-hyped, under-hyped, or hyped just right. Take care, fair readers, and remember: small knives are my one weakness.