He Does Anything a Spider Can, Obviously

You may have noticed that The Amazing Spiderman is now in theaters. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe you thought, “Huh. People are talking about Spiderman again. But I just saw that movie and so who could possible care?”

At least, that’s what I’m thinking.

And that’s why I have so little interest in seeing this new version of Spiderman. A reboot that plays with Stan Lee’s creation myth, swaps out young (but not young enough) actors for other equally not young enough actors, and certainly tells me what I already know: with great power comes great responsibility.

Because if you change that central theme, you’ve lost Spiderman. Which, frankly, would be a good direction to go in. Make up your own damn superhero. Make his/her life story interesting. Make people love your character so much that they buy underoos for their infant children with his/her face on the crotch.

Spidey in the Sewer

Here you want me to pose? Seems like a bad idea.

Now. I haven’t seen The Amazing Spiderman, so this isn’t a review of the film. It isn’t film criticism. It’s filmmaker criticism.

I’m thinking about my reactions to the release of The Amazing Spiderman in light of my recent post on remakes. The question being: What do I think director Marc Webb and his harem of screenwriters have added to the Spidey story to make this version relevant?

Honestly: nothing.

Do I think this film will be better or worse than Sam Raimi’s recent version, which had some charm? No. No I don’t. Why would I expect that? Have the members of the studio marketing department suggested any reason why this version of Spiderman is substantively different—thematically, intellectually—from any other? Or is it just, you know, different. A reboot. So you can see it again for the first time and it’s new and spangly and look over there! A CGI thing! Now go buy a vat of popcorn.

I expect that the only people who could be excited about this new version of Spiderman are either:

  1. Too young to remember a film that came out TEN YEARS AGO
  2. Serious Spiderman fans
  3. Stalkers of Emma Stone

I am neither.

You want to remake Spiderman? Then tell me why—outside of “you want my money.” Show me how your retelling is relevant to me in a fresh, innovative way. Like, say, Christopher Nolan did with Batman. Beyond the obvious stylistic differences between Nolan’s take and Tim Burton’s version, there’s also something deeper lurking in this latest series of Batman films—something scraping against who we are as a society today. More so in The Dark Knight than Batman Begins, but Nolan has something to say and something to sell. Not just something to sell.

Now, I’m not claiming Nolan’s Batman Begins is a deep treatise on international poverty, but I do feel like he brought something new to the table. I feel like he gave me a reason to revisit a story I know and had seen in recent memory. That’s why I will go see The Dark Knight Rises (and expect some posts in that regard coming shortly).

And it’s why I have no plans to see The Amazing Spiderman.

12 responses on “He Does Anything a Spider Can, Obviously

  1. I feel I should chime in here, because oh, my god, I actually *saw* this movie!

    Like pretty much everyone, I didn’t understand why it was now suddenly time to reboot this franchise after only ten years, but you know what? Fine, they did. And I’m a big fan of Spider-Man, so let’s see, maybe it’s not bad. I suggest everyone do what I did and make yourself re-watch Spider-Man 3 first, and you will be begging for someone to reboot this franchise. That movie is a mess, much worse than I remembered, and what’s really striking is how badly it was dated, even in its own time, which is only 5 years ago. But while I do love Spider-Man 2, and have some affection for the first movie, they are really, really campy. I love Sam Raimi, and I love good camp, but Post-9/11 world, blah, blah, blah, after Batman Begins, and especially The Dark Knight, you really can’t make a superhero movie and have us accept very much that isn’t rooted in some kind of reality. That’s clearly what the filmmakers were doing with this Spider-Man, it is very much like Batman Begins in that way. Not just that it’s dark and gritty, but in the way Spider-Man’s powers and whole persona actually develop organically out of real problems.

    So how did it turn out? I have to say, for all the talk of them messing with the origin story, I think this might be a more faithful origin story than the first Spider-Man. I really liked that this Peter Parker is a science nerd who invents his own web-slinging apparatus. I like that he does so after discovering in practice that he might need such a thing. So many moments in the development of this Spider-Man character make me think of the original film and think about how campy and cartoony that was. Hulk is dead-right that this Uncle Ben is a vast improvement, and I think the Aunt May is as well. All of the characterizations are given a lot more time to develop and are quirkier and more real and yes, grittier. The major departure from the comic book origin story is the sub-plot of the mystery surrounding Peter Parker’s father, which seems to be inserted as a sub-plot that drives much of this story and will continue to drive the series. The other basic touchstones are there, Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider, he fails to stop the man who then kills his uncle, which drives him to find that man, and in doing so, he learns to fight crime, and learns that he has a responsibility to do so. The words “with great power, blah, blah, blah” are never explicitly spoken, which frankly, I’m thankful for. That’s the kind of comic book dialogue that the original series covered just fine. There is no pro-wrestling scene, which was straight out of the comic book, and was already covered, but there is a nod to it here. This Peter Parker may ride a skateboard, because this is a contemporary movie, but for me, Andrew Garfield got the essence of Peter Parker right, British or not. He’s likeable, nerdy, a bit ambitious, but faithful to his family and his friends.

    Whatever Hulk thinks, I found this movie to have a story and move along from one thing to another logically, and to have some real stakes. There is plenty of great web-slinging and action, and that brings me to the effects of this movie. I realize that story is all-important to a good movie, but I venture to say (again, after watching the craptastic Spider-Man 3, which is filled with digital Spider-Man, who looks like an action figure) that the ability to portray action sequences with better and better effects is a perfectly good reason to make more Spider-Man movies, especially if the action is going to look so damn good. This is a comic book movie, ergo it is an action movie, and having great effects is very important, I’m not afraid to say it. Special effects can’t save a bad movie, but they can certainly tank an otherwise good superhero movie, in my opinion. The effects here are tremendous, at times breath-taking. And with the current onslaught of 3D movies in theaters, very few really have a good reason to be presented in 3D. Unlike a lot of people, I enjoy 3D, and I will go see it for the fun of it, but there really wasn’t any good reason Thor needed to be in 3D, or even The Avengers, as good as that looked. But think about what Spider-Man does for a minute, how he moves through the city and how he fights crime. This is a case where the 3D is absolutely warranted, if not essential. And it was done correctly here, shot entirely in 3D and with new digital 5K cameras that can really move around (unlike any other 3D cameras, apparently), and, much more importantly, with a great deal of practical camerawork using wires and stuntmen, rather than a bunch of little CGI men, which always looks terrible. I don’t ever remember thinking of this Spider-Man, “oh, that looks shitty,” whereas in Spider-Man 3, with the height of digital effects that series achieved, I thought that every single time I saw Spider-Man move.

    So I had a great time at this film, and so did the friend I went with, and I will go see it again while it’s in theaters. I totally get that it’s too soon to reboot this franchise, and now that I’ve seen it, I’m very glad they did, because I love Spider-Man. So go ahead and make more.

  2. well said, Tano. i’m glad you liked it. and, honestly, when i get around to seeing it, i hope i like it, too.

    Raimi’s Spiderman films were a bit corny and the third was a major clusterfuck. I don’t have a problem picturing this reboot being as good or better. I do still have a problem with choosing to reboot this franchise at this time. It’s pandering, even if it’s successful pandering.

    you say if you watch Spiderman 3 again you’ll see why they made this one, but I doubt it. that movie was bad, but it didn’t leave me wanting someone to make another one. there wasn’t a wrong that needed righting. there was just a turd of a film. Nolan didn’t make Batman Begins because he saw Batman Forever or Batman & Robin and thought they sucked (they did). He had something to say. He likely still does, and we’ll find out next weekend.

    Sure, Spidey is a good character; one of the best. But—good or not—no one involved in this production woke up one morning and thought: I’ve got something new I’ve got to tell the world via the Spiderman story. Someone woke up and said: we can sell this, find (competent and even talented) people to make it. And those people did what they could to take a familiar story and mix it up some.

    But how can there be anything rich in the film’s core when it wasn’t created from love? I suppose it’s possible; art can be made from odd circumstances. I’m not hearing you say the film moved you, though. I’m hearing that the film did a good job of rebooting Spidey. And my point was: I don’t care. Spiderman didn’t need a reboot and certainly not yet.

    If Marc Webb did a good job on this, imagine what he would have done with a story that was driving him personally. And I like these actors, too, more than Raimi’s cast. Garfield can be really compelling and I’ll take Emma Stone over Kirsten Dunst any day. And I believe you about the effects. It just still seem crass to me because it is crass.

    I want the talent in Hollywood to make films that move them, like Blomkamp did with District 9. I want Edgar Wright to make Ant Man—something he’s driving, not a producer. I don’t want Battleship or Monopoly. I don’t want another Spiderman movie unless someone’s got a story they need to tell.

  3. I went because my 10 year old son wanted to see it. Seeing movies with kids have changed my movie watching habits somewhat. I really enjoyed the first 2 acts of of this one. And I felt like a dirty old man mentally stalking Emma Stone. Garfield is a drastic improvement over that other guy. And I’m just not a fan of Sam Raimi. I think he’s clumsy. But I’m odd. My most memorable movie-going experience was taking that same 10 year old to see Three Stooges. It was glorious.

  4. I agree w Tano – I enjoyed the movie immensely. Although not quite as dark, this definitely was a more gritty/”Nolan-esque” treatment, but I think you nailed the real appeal: both the director and Andrew Garfield really captured the tone of the skinny, neurotic, frenetic, wisecracking, nerdy Spiderman that I/we grew up with.
    I did find myself a little annoyed by the denouement when it felt like they veered too far into “tune in next week” territory but, naturally, everything Marvel does is intended to be a serial (kinda like a comic book) so I suppose it can’t be helped.
    Four out of five stars, will go again.

    PS: I most definitely would qualify as both a) a serious Spiderman fan and b) a stalker of Emma Stone. ;)

  5. nice Dave. it does seem that people are liking this film—which is a good thing if it’s good. i’m less pleased to hear you say, “so I suppose it can’t be helped.”

    it can be helped. filmmaking is a business. smart businesses respond to the market. we are the market. if no one went to see this Spiderman, they wouldn’t make more. if everyone complained about the (so I hear) dangling plot threads, they’d take that into consideration, too.

    people want to like things that are familiar, like Spiderman. that’s why companies make films based on established products. that doesn’t mean people are WRONG to like those things, but I argue that we need to be as demanding of these films as we would be for original works. “They did a good job of telling the story we know” isn’t a very high benchmark. And if you’re starting with a story that’s already known and popular, your product should have a leg-up in re: developing story.

    Someone making a Spiderman film now should be making one that’s MUCH BETTER than what’s been done before, or at least be trying something daring. Otherwise it’s leftovers made into meatloaf and sold as the special of the day.

    People like meatloaf? Fine. I’m not one of them.

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  8. So. Yeah. I finally saw this movie. Granted, it was on an airplane, which is never a good place to see a film. So I will not comment on how the film looked or on the quality of the effects.

    I will say I thought it was complete garbage. Complete. Garbage.

    Andrew Garfield is a good actor. I’ve seen him perform roles well, particularly in the Red Riding Hood trilogy (which is not for the faint of heart). Here? He’s supposed to be in HIGH SCHOOL? No. That is as patently unbelievable as Emma Stone wearing a short skirt with thigh highs to her prestigious internship position in which she trains other interns in a high security lab even though she’s in high school. Not that I’m complaining about Emma Stone’s thighs; they were they only things in this film I liked.

    The story was so inane and farcically unbelievable it made me pine for George Lucas. This film wasn’t “gritty like The Dark Knight.” It was gritty like an episode of Manimal. Nothing made sense. The science was idiotic, even for a comic book film. There was not a single original thing in it. CGI villains should be banned. Sheen and Field were fine, but mostly wasted.

    I could go on, but really: why bother. It’s a comic book movie of little merit. It is exactly the sort of film no one will remember in two years. I saw it last week and I can barely remember it.

  9. Went back and re-read some of these comments after Spidey 2, which was admittedly lame.

    If you saw a movie on an airplane, you should not comment on any part of it. You did not see the movie.

    I imagine the response is, “a good movie should shine through even if I’m watching it on my phone,” to which I would say, bullshit.

    It’s a goddamn tent pole action movie, of course it’s meant to be seen in a theater, in the dark, with an audience.

    If you watched it on a plane or on your iPad, any movie, I reject your assessment.

    • I do not like it in a box.
      I do not like it with a fox.
      I do not like on a plane.
      I do not like it in my brain.
      I do not like the Spider-Man.
      I do not like it, Zack I am.

      The only thing I retract about my comments with the benefit of time is the bit about being an Emma Stone stalker.

      And you’re wrong. This is movie is meant to be seen everywhere and anywhere by everyone. I think qualifying comments by saying I saw it on an airplane is all that is required. If I was likely to be won over by the big screen effects of The Amazing Spider-Man, I would have said so and done my best to watch it in other circumstances. I didn’t. Because it’s a summer tent pole action movie and the best way to watch it is either in the drive-in or with your head in a bag full of mealworms.

      A good movie shouldn’t shine through no matter the circumstances, but a good movie should be apparently good no matter the circumstances — which is why I frequently turn movies off on the plane to watch them under better circumstances. Which reminds me, I still need to finish watching Animal Kingdom.

      But if you want to take me out to the cinema to see The Amazing Spider-Man, I’ll go; you’ll just have to take the abuse afterwards when I still think it’s a waste of time.

Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

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