Amazing Spiderman: A re-boot of a re-bootJuly 4, 2012 @ 6:07 am (Updated: 9:19 am - 7/4/12 )
July 4th weekend is always a huge weekend for Hollywood and this year it's marking Independence Day with the blockbuster release of The Amazing Spider-man.
Amazing-ly, this Amazing Spiderman is a re-boot of a re-boot.
It was just ten years ago, the Spiderman franchise was re- booted to much fanfare with the boy-ish Tobey Maguire. A trilogy of Maguire Spiderman films went on to gross almost $2.5 billion, the last one coming out a mere five years ago. But when negotiations broke down over a Spiderman 4 and 5, Sony went ahead and decided to re-boot the reboot with a complete new cast and new director.
This new version, starring Andrew Garfiled and Emma Stone, is called The Amazing Spiderman and basically covers the same ground as the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman. It's an origin story about how high-school student Peter Parker came to be Spiderman, being bit by some kind of mutated spider, and how he learns how to cope with his new-found powers, all the while dealing with the normal pressures of being in high school, first love, bullies, etc.
Many reviews of this latest version say it suffers from a bad case of deja-vu. Haven't we just seen all this just a few years back?
But I actually think The Amazing Spiderman benefits from being so close in time to its predecessor, not because it's better than the first go-round (it's not) but because it helps audiences recognize the differences in approach.
It's that compare and contrast aspect that actually enriches the experience of The Amazing Spiderman. For instance, the theme of the Tobey Maguire films is all about the repression of one's personal wants or desires for the greater good. "With great power comes great responsibility."
Maguire's Parker is tortured by conflicting needs - his yearning for his girlfriend versus his need not to tell her how he's feeling (in order to protect her.) Denying his romantic feelings is intricately wrapped up with another necessary denial, that of his true identity as Spiderman. His reserve is admirable and poignant.
Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is much less tortured by his secret identity. It's amazing how quickly he spills the beans about his romantic interest in Emma Stone, his eventual girlfriend. No angst-y repression on that score. And as for keeping his identity a secret, it's amazing (again that word) how often his mask literally comes off first to his girlfriend, then to the girlfriend's father, to the cops and the bad guys, and even to a little kid he saves from a burning car.
This Peter Parker has a more devil-may-care attitude, a sense of true self that is much less fraught with doubt and anxiety than Maguire's was. Sure, he still is emotionally troubled by the loss of his parents (a la Harry Potter) and the death of his beloved grandfather guardian, and he holds himself indirectly responsible for the imminent destruction of New York City, but he doesn't add to those burdens by repressing his emotions. No stiff upper lip here, despite Garfield's British upbringing. In fact, in one of the last lines of the movie, he even makes a joke about it with Emma Stone. That gives this Spiderman a very different feel, a distinction that validates its existence, despite the obvious similarities in story.
The Amazing Spiderman is not going to blot out anyone's fond memories of the first Tobey Maguire Spiderman. It's not quite the revelation that that film was, and it's nowhere near the re-imagining that say Christopher Nolan's Batman films are, but as reboots go, it's still a kick.
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