Well, to celebrate our anniversary and to catch up with our fast-disappearing summer, my wife and I constructed a “double feature” (anyone remember those?) by seeing BOTH Spiderman and Batman: The Dark Knight Rises on a single Saturday, with a late lunch in between. We had a good time despite the Batman movie.
The Dark Knight Rises is pretentious, ponderous, ludicrous, and lugubrious. It makes me miss what I thought I was tired of–namely, irony. The movie was so serious, so full of itself, even while its main characters were putting on silly costumes. A super-hero movie can be philosophical or angst-ridden, but it needs to have at least some element of fun.
As the Spiderman movie shows. (Normally, one waits several weeks or months between superhero movies, so seeing them side-by-side makes the comparisons stand out.) The best part of that movie was the part I didn’t expect to like, yet another version of the origin story. But this time the origin made much more sense even than in the comic book (I write and criticize as a fan), picking up on the motif of interspecies genetic engineering. What the movie did especially well was in showing high school nerd Peter Parker gradually learning about his new superpowers. What science fiction and fantasy can do at their best is give us a sense of wonder. Juxtaposing the spidey powers (super strength, agility, ability to climb and hang upside down and swing on webs, sticky hands and feet) with the ordinary routines of school and family life was an effective way to stimulate the imagination. Later we get to the obligatory and conventional friend-turned-monster, but that’s all right, given the genre.
(That’s not why I disliked the movie. That’s a perfectly defensible position and appropriate in many cases. I disliked the movie for the reasons given in the second paragraph.)