Review of The Amazing Spider-Man, Directed by Marc Webb
By COYLE NEAL
I went into The Amazing Spider-Man with two things in mind: the question of whether or not Martin Sheen’s still got it (he does); and a sense of entitlement. And as an American I know the feeling of entitlement like the back of my hand. Frankly, after Spider-Man 3: Peter Parker pansy-walks to awful disco music, Marvel owed me a good Spiderman movie. Fortunately, they delivered. Not that it’s a great movie, mind you, but it’s a good solid superhero flick.
The challenge of making a Spider-Man movie is balancing expectations generated by previous media (the earlier movies and, to a lesser extent, the cartoon series), the comic books, and the appropriate amount of novelty to keep people interested and comfortable. In the past few years, this has been done well with Batman, poorly with Superman, and with mixed results with other superheros. (Yes, everyone knows the movies in the Avengers cycle were mostly decent, but remember that the Ghost Rider movies count as superhero films too…) This newest Marvel movie maintains this balance well, and contains just the right mix of elements to make a film that will be entertaining to the entire spectrum of viewers, from dedicated comic book fans to newbies in the genre.
Moreover, all the themes we’ve come to expect from Spider-Man are present, including the difficulties of coming-of-age, the responsibility that comes with power and knowledge, and the need to resist evil even when it seems to be unstoppable. New to this particular version is the additional theme that being weak and, um, incomplete (the lead villain is missing an arm) are no excuse for killing lots of people. [Spoiler alert] Or for turning them in to other giant lizards so you won’t be lonely. Which is perhaps where the theme becomes less relevant for the real world and a hundred times more relevant for a great action movie. [End Spoiler] Overall, this movie has great sci-fi action appeal; a villain respectable for his intelligence, strength, and moustache-twirling insanity; and a generally likeable hero. Moreover, it gives due respect to previous treatments (both movies and comic books), with the occasional nod to both the Sam Raimi movies and several different storylines from the comic books.
As with most versions of the Spider-Man story, the moving force behind the movie is the idea that “with great power comes great responsibility.” (A line which Uncle Ben does not deliver in this version, at least not verbatim.) The idea in the old comic books was one of coming-of-age. As you enter manhood, you have the responsibility to care well for others and for society (vis-à-vis Luke 12:48). The Amazing Spider-Man takes a slightly different approach, exploring the difference between using that power for revenge and personal gain, and using it to protect those who cannot protect themselves. This theme was used in the original Spider-Man movie, albeit in a much more heavy-handed manner. Instead of voice-overs and lengthy speeches by Willem Dafoe telling us about power and its proper use, there’s the much more subtle idea that actions done out of selfishness and actions done out of self-sacrifice both return a hundred fold. A selfish fight by Peter leads to personal tragedy (yes it’s a spoiler, but come on, you know Uncle Ben dies…), while a prideful intellect unleashes unparalleled horrors on countless people. On the other hand, self-sacrifice also brings a huge return, and inspires others to give of themselves as well.
So, long review short: The Amazing Spider-Man is worth seeing. And the special effects do make it worth seeing in theaters, though perhaps not necessarily IMAX or 3D. Also, Dennis Leary freaking rocks.