Spiderman begins ... again
When Sam Raimi, the mastermind behind the first three Spiderman films, fell out with Sony and took star Toby Maguire with him, many wondered whether it was a knockout punch for the webslinger franchise. However if there’s one lesson we should take away from The Amazing Spiderman, it’s never underestimate Hollywood’s ability to reinvent itself.
Of course the problems were obvious. Unlike the reboot of the Batman franchise, there was only five years between Maguire’s spandex alter ego and new Spidey Andrew Garfield – which is within living memory for most teenagers. What’s more, Maguire’s upside-down kiss with Kirsten Dunst earned the film icon status, on ‘Top Kisses Of All Time’ lists across the planet. So how does relative newcomer Marc Webb (500 Days Of Summer) hope to direct his way into our hearts? Not with anything terribly new, but by relying on more of what we’ve already come to love.
The Amazing Spiderman starts the Peter Parker story all over again, though with a little less nerd factor for the awkward teen. Parker struggles to fit in at school, but also rides a skateboard and loves to take photos, long before he discovers his vantage points provided by high buildings. Webb also plays on the tragedy of his orphaned upbringing, but injects more mystery into the deaths of Peter’s parents. This time, his father is a genetic scientist who was determined to keep his discoveries out of the wrong hands. A chance encounter with dad’s old briefcase puts Peter on a collision course with the crippled genius Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). While visiting his lab, Parker is bitten by a genetic spider with predictable effects. Meantime, Connors uses information he acquires from the young teen to inject himself with a serum that will restore his missing arm. However, the doctor’s super DNA is determined to do more than improve his juggling. Suddenly New York has an evil, ten-foot reptile called 'The Lizard' on its hands, and only Spiderman to turn to.
There's nothing new under the sun
Yes, it does feel a bit like you could slot The Goblin / Willem Dafoe into this story without too many problems, but for all the repetition, The Amazing Spiderman proves to be a solid, if predictable, reboot of the franchise. Webb adds a note of interest by making Parker invent his ability to fire webs, a nod to devices from the original comics. However, the moral of the film remains as strong as ever, even if Peter’s goofiness gets some toning down.
Martin Sheen brings presidential gravity to the role of Peter’s Uncle Ben, as he develops his role as the film’s conscience. Dr Connors tells his students, “I want to create a world without weakness”, but Uncle Ben informs his nephew that it’s our struggles that make us strong. As it turns out, Dr Connor’s attempts to remove his weaknesses results in him eliminating his humanity as well. But The Amazing Spiderman is satisfied with leaving weakness unchallenged.
Uncle Ben warns Peter, the strong aren’t supposed to prey on the helpless. Instead, weakness represents an opportunity to display grace:
“Your father lived by a simple philosophy. If you have the ability to do good things then you have a moral obligation to do those things. Not a choice, a responsibility.”
Uncle Ben might have thought he was quoting Richard Parker but he was actually channeling Jesus. Two millennia before Steve Ditko sketched his first web-head, Jesus summarized the ‘golden rule’ as,
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
This is not Gen Y’s social conscience surfacing, it’s Christian morality making the same sense it always has. And if Jesus has got a handle on the best way to treat each other, then maybe his take on the rest of life is just as worthy of our attention.
Watching The Amazing Spiderman with your kids:
The Amazing Spiderman is good clean web-slinging fun for older primary and high school students, the only problem being a couple of temper tantrums and prolonged kisses. But like most comic book films it raises strong moral questions:
- Why did Peter get in trouble from Uncle Ben for humiliating the school bully?
- Why did Peter think it was his job to save the city?
- What problem has God put in front of your nose, and given you the ability to do something about?