Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

In most Comic Book hero movies you gave a 10 minute synopsis of the back history and then Krypton is forgotten altogether and Superman and Lex Luthor spend the next 90 minutes fighting to the death.

This time around, Spiderman's creation takes up a full hour of the movie. This film is even more beginny than Batman Begins was. We don't just see Peter Parker lose his uncle, we see the first goodbyes that shape his life, as his clandestine parents make a hasty departure, never to be seen again. Then, we enter John Hughes' territory and follow Peter's geeky travails in High School, where he's pummeled by the bully Flash and smitten by the caring Gwen. By the time he's actually bitten by the radioactive spider, we're more concerned with his feelings than with his new powers.

Even after he perfects the web-swinging and costume, the audience sees and hears, a boy in a mask, not the burgeoning legend. Superman never becomes a stately, deep-voiced hero in this film. Andrew Garfield is an engaging lead. Even though the actor is 28, he's credible as a teen, his shyly bowed head more believable than Spider-man's derring do.

Even before he got his spidey-senses, Peter was always a protector. Intervening when he saw schoolmates humiliated or misused, though he couldn't protect himself, much less others. He trespasses into a genetic testing facility and is bitten by a bionic spider more robot than insect. From there, his superhuman powers begin to emerge and humor ensues as he struggles to control, then perfect them.

At school, the newly invincible Peter puts the old bully Flash in his place. Curiously, he is scolded by his uncle for doing so. Ben asks if Flash is the same person who punched Peter. Peter says he is and Ben scolds that getting revenge on Flash must have made Peter feel proud. Well, what if it did? Why shouldn't revenge on a bully feel good. Ben may be worried that Peter has turned into a bully himself, but he never asked Peter why Flash hit him in the first place. It was because Peter wouldn't let Flash abuse others. He got beat up for doing right when he was a weakling and, after he gained super powers, he still didn't use them to dominate Flash until after Flash, again, terrorized a third person. Peter did not pick on Flash for self-gratification as Ben, unreasonably, assumes that he has.

Nothing in the boy's (mostly polite) behavior at home would have given Ben that impression of Peter. But I guess the plot won't get furthered unless Ben jumps to such conclusions. He lectures Peter until he feels alienated and falsely accused. Petulant Peter then fails to stop a robber at a convenience store and the free robber ultimately ends up shooting Uncle Ben. Focused on revenge, Peter anonymizes himself as Spider-man and becomes the city's vigilante, hunting down criminals.

It is Gwen's father, the police chief who makes Peter realize that in focusing on hurting the criminal, rather than helping the innocent, Super-man could, arguably, be causing more harm than good. Once his knowledge hits him, it's easy for Peter to choose saving a life over torturing the bad guy. But this is something that Peter already practicing in school with Flash, before he became part spider. Uncle Ben only wrongly accused him of doing less.

From there, Peter's attention turns to fighting a giant lizard, created by the man turned mad scientist who had once mentored both Peter and Gwen. In the end, with PG-13 rated ease, graditude, loyalty and a communal sense of good do as much to save the day as Spider-man. "Poor Peter Parker, all alone. No father, no mother, no uncle" the Lizard villain taunts. "He's not alone," Gwen's father responds, helping the ailing Peter to victory, before losing his own life.

Predictably, Gwen's father makes Peter promise to stay away from Gwen, for her safety, with his dying breath. Peter agrees and duly avoids the heart broken Gwen, who must face her father's funeral without him. However, sitting in a class room together, Peter murmurs to a wooden Gwen that the best promises are meant to be broken and we know the two won't stay apart for long.

So, the first chapter in this Spider-man reboot ends with our hero still in school, still learning, but with a promising future of sequels ahead of him. Hopefully, that promise is one that won't be broken.

Musings: I can't believe the director's name is truly Marc Webb? Tell me he changed it just for this movie!

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