Film Review - The Amazing Spider-Man
By Rob Horsley | Monday, July 23, 2012
Photo by doctorserone via Flickr
Going into this one, the big question on everyone's mind seems to be: why? It's only been five years since Spider-Man 3; do we really need another comic book series reboot?
And to some degree, it's a valid question. Despite all the things that Spidey-fans disliked about the way the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire trilogy ended, it did wrap things up (I don't think that's a spider-pun) on a pretty resolved note. All loose ends were tied up, so to speak.
With that in mind, The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Mark Webb (that's his real name) is faced with the task of justifying its mere existence. Does the world really need another Spider-Man movie?
Disclaimers: some frightening scenes for young children, some blood and violence, but nothing overly sexual and no real issues with language.
As a movie, The Amazing Spider-Man has a few issues getting out of the gate. It takes a really long time getting through the origin story, which probably feels longer due to the fact that we watched Tobey Maguire do it just ten years ago. A few goofy, out-of-place moments as well, and I have some problems taking Andrew Garfield seriously as Peter Parker/Spider-Man.
Despite some nitpicking, there are actually a lot of good things going on here as well. Movies based on Marvel titles tend to have a strong cast, and The Amazing Spider-Man is no exception. In addition to Garfield and Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, the film features Rhys Ifans as Curt Connors/The Lizard, Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy (Gwen's father), and most impressively, Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May respectively.
The Amazing Spider-Man explores some parts of the Spider-Man mythology that were relatively untouched by the previous series. The character of Gwen Stacy is fleshed out in more detail, and there are some hints as to why Peter lives with his aunt and uncle (actually a pretty interesting plot point in the comics). It's also nice to see some reimagining of some familiar characters. Sally Field looks a little young to be married to Martin Sheen, but she looks like an aunt for once, instead of a grandmother, a more realistic touch.
Most importantly, The Amazing Spider-Man corrects the death of Uncle Ben, an aspect that was handled poorly by the third installment of the Raimi series. In Spider-Man 3, it was revealed that Peter was ultimately not responsible for the death of his uncle, calling into question how obligated he really was to exercise the great responsibility that accompanied his great power. There's all sorts of points that could be made about the responsibility we have as Christians (especially ones in a privileged society) to care for the downtrodden among us, among other themes touched on in the film.
But at the end of the day, it's just another Spider-Man movie. Who cares?
For those of us who have read the Bible from cover to cover, I wonder what it might look like if we adopted this sort of mindset. "I've already read this story, what else could I possibly get out of it?" I don't know about you, but I read the Bible a lot differently at age 18 than I do now, and that wasn't all that long ago. I'm pretty glad I haven't stopped reading it.
Sometimes we'll read a Bible passage, maybe a favourite verse from when we were kids. And something new will jump out at us that never did 10, 20, 50 years before. Sometimes we'll be in a Bible study and the same sorts of things happen. Seeing things in a new context can shape the old story into something new, fresh, and just as meaningful.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a new look into a classic story, and it reminded me that it's arrogant to think we've imagined all there is to imagine when it comes to classic stories like this, and like the Bible. It reminded me of the value in re-reading things to see what new things can be learned from an old story. It also reminded me that there may be value in approaching these stories from a perspective other than our own. Mark Webb's Amazing Spider-Man is quite a bit different from that of his predecessor, but it's a story that still seems to stick.