A LARGE part of my love for reading when I was growing up was instilled in me by reading Marvel comics in the 60s and 70s, and especially by reading Spiderman comics. Here was an awkward, geeky, and yet lovable young super hero that kids could both identify with and admire. Many of them could also identify with growing up without a father or even both parents.
There was something tragic about this hero, as is true of most all great heroes (Jesus included). So it was a good 4th of July day indeed when my sister and I went and visited the Spiderman exhibit at Universal Studios in Orlando, got Spiderman’s autograph, got a picture with Spiderman, rode the Spiderman ride, and then capped it off by seeing the latest reboot of the Spiderman movies.
I’m happy to say that Spidey is now one of my BFFs and we have already appeared together on Facebook.
Ah, you say, but what about the new movie? It is right to be wary of reboots. Definition reboot— to boot again. Now some reboots involve just replacing the heel of the boot, so to speak, or the laces, but in this case we have a thorough-going reboot. The only hold over character in this movie from previous ones is Stan Lee himself (who hilariously is playing the librarian at Peter Parker’s school this time).
While it might seem unlikely that a reboot movie that lasts 2 hours and 17 minutes could hold the full attention of a large crowd who A. has an attention span the length of a gnat’s, and B. has heard this story before, and yet, in fact Stan Lee and a wonderful score by James Horner (reminiscent of the Beautiful Minds score) have done it once more. The sequel is without equal, and puts the previous boots back in the closet and in the dark, banishing them to the past. This is perhaps the finest of all the Marvel films, with the exception of Iron Man 1.
Why was this movie successful where other super hero movies fail? Firstly because the acting is superb. Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter’s Uncle and Aunt are terrific, as is Denis Leary as Police Chief Stacy, the father of Peter’s girl— Gwen Stacy (played by the fetching Emma Stone). Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker is terrific, striking the right balance between sleek and geek, awkward and agile, brooding and brilliant. I didn’t even mind that technically speaking it should have been Mary Jane (who was Peter’s first girl before Gwen came along) but the movie chose to leave her out.
But what really makes this movie stand out from its predecessors is the careful, deliberate development of character and plot. It is not rushed. It is not short-circuited. We do not race from one explosion to the next, one special effect to the next. The story is allowed to develop at its own pace, and we come to understand the plight of poor Peter Parker and are given time to ruminate on his fate. At the same time the back story becomes front story and we can see where things might go wrong in advance of their happening. When Spidey does finally become the web-slinger in this movie it is believable and spectacular. And so is his costume. I want one of those please! Not to mention that the humorous scenes in this film are excellent and immediately draw you into the story.
The tensions between Peter and his adoptive parents and Gwen and hers are played to good effect with the young romantics having much to empathize about as things turn out. And for the first time in these movies we are introduced to a genuine mad scientist….. who turns into the Lizard and threatens to wrack the arachnid. Hold on to your hats as the action sequences in this film (never forced) are more exciting than the Spidey ride at the theme park.
In short I do recommend this film as good summer fun, which could perhaps even spark some discussion about the ever present dilemma of parents hopelessly out of touch and out of tune with their teens, but striving mightily to help. I’m looking forward to the next episode in this new franchise. Long live Spiderman, may he bite and infect your imagination like he did mine, so many years ago.