With Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man hitting theaters this week, most Spidey talk has focused on the main problem with the new Spiderman flick: Timing. The last decade saw a hugely popular Spiderman franchise hit theaters; the last film was in cinemas just four years ago. In short, Spiderman has been done nearly to death. I won’t get into that, but I will offer my take on why this Spidey film is different than Sam Raimi’s films — and why it’s worth checking out.
1. Renegade Spidey
Though he’s not my favorite actor in general, Tobey Maguire is the quintessential Spidey to me: all wide eyes and earnestness, even when circumstances like bunged-up pizza deliveries and comically unfair ushers try to beat him down.
By contrast, Marc Webb’s film is much more about teen angst. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is more aggressive, pulling a rebellious attitude where Maguire reveled in innocence. He has words with Uncle Ben, is awkward but sort of proactive in pursuing Gwen Stacey and spars over dinner with the girlfriend’s dad (for a reason, of course). In short, Garfield offers a more exciting alternative to Maguire’s Spidey, though not necessarily a superior one.
2. Emma Stone Owns (As Usual)
Emma Stone’s turn as Gwen Stacey is totally entertaining and quirky. Stone somehow manages to make Gwen Stacey nerdy, posh and exciting all at once — vastly different than the way Gwen Stacey waltzed around in the Raimi films. And really, this Spidey flick feels best is when it goes quiet, especially during the soft scenes between Parker and Gwen.
3. Darker (More Traditional?) Style
What I adored about the Sam Raimi Spiderman films was the way they captured the look and feel of a comic book. Everything from the camera angles to the jokes made the film feel like you’d waltzed into a more colorful world.
Really, my favorite scenes in the new Spidey film remind me of Raimi’s. And one memorable scene in Webb’s new movie did capture the comic book feel — the fight scene in the library, with the oblivious, smiling librarian in the foreground — but otherwise The Amazing Spider-Man has a humor all its own.
The other memorable scenes for me were those in which Peter Parker is discovering his new strength — terrifying subway travelers and destroying door knobs in the process. This kind of comedy is perfectly suited to films based on comic books, which is why I love it. But in later scenes, when Spidey taunts criminals to comic effect, I found myself shrugging off annoyance more than laughing. (In the film’s defense, everyone else in the theater was laughing.)
In general, the style of Webb’s film feels traditional to me. It’s greatest strength is its intimacy. Sure, it’s an action movie, but it has many more hushed, character-focused scenes than most action flicks — and in this case, they add much-appreciated heart and interest to the movie.
Bottom Line… Would I recommend The Amazing Spider-Man? Absolutely. I never once looked at my watch, and the packed theater jumped and cheered (and even gave a classic, “Oh shit!”) at every turn.
Even if you ate up the last Spidey franchise like I did, The Amazing Spider-Man dishes out some novelty worth seeing with the teenaged Peter Parker, Gwen Stacey romance and scary-mouthed villain (Lizard). The film digs deeper in Peter Parker’s parentage, which gives his character an edge and explains his new, proactive version of Spidey.
But in all honesty, when I have a yen for Spidey in the future, I’ll most likely bust out my beat-up, beloved Raimi DVDs to watch Maguire and the gang.