Meet the New Spider-Man, Same As The Old Spider-Man. Mostly.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 8.442% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So they rebooted Spider-Man.  Some people think this is stupid, having a new Spider-Man this soon after the last movie.  To which I say, “Did you see the last movie?”  No offense, man, but better to leave that in the wreckage and start over than trying to venture into IV territory.
There has never been a really good fourth movie in a series.  Ever.  Burn it to the ground.
Anyway, so this new Spider-Man is pretty much the same as the old Spider-Man – young boy learns about responsibility through a gunshot wound, fights crime, does not get the girl.  And it’s satisfying.  It’s not quite as good as Spider-Man 2 – what could be? – but it’s better than the first first Spider-Man.  Should you go see it?  Do you like people swinging from rooftops, beating up muggers?
Well then.  Your answer’s clear.
The difference is really all about nuances, and the nuance here is that Toby Macguire was a nerdy-looking kid who became smooth when the time came.  His upside-down kiss with Mary Jane?  Smokin’.  When he put on the suit, he became someone who was actually kinda cool.
Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is never cool.  He moves like a spastic bug – no, seriously, he’s trying to move like a spider, all gawky.  When he kisses Gwen Stacey, it’s almost wince-inducing, because he’s not quite sure where his mouth goes, and neither is she, and though he later proclaims her a good kisser, one senses a bit of rightful hesitation before she returns the favor.  He has the haircut of a modern emo star, but if there’s an opposite to “Moves like Jagger,” well, Andrew nails it.
However, Garfield’s Spider-Man makes up for it by being clever.  Toby’s Spidey lucked into things, evincing no particular brightness, whereas this new Spider-Man knows science!  He reads books!  He uses tricks in combat, bouncing all sorts of things with his webbing to dazzle his enemy!  Which, in a way, makes him more of a hero.  You had problems buying Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man as being someone hated by the crowd, but Garfield’s Spider-Man?  He moves like an untrained kid with super-speed flailing about.  You believe he could hurt someone by accident.  He looks a little out-of-control.
Which is kind of nice.  Both Gwen Stacey (Spidey’s TRUE love, he says sneeringly) and Peter are incoherent, trailing off in Seinfeld-ish riffs as they’re both a little too flustered to finish their thoughts.  Neither of them are cool.  You wind up rooting for them because, hell, who else would they date?
Obvious plot is obvious, but this is a comic book movie and we know that President Josiah Bartlett must die.  Unfortunately, the stunt casting of Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May is distracting, because I kept going, “Why is Forrest Gump’s Mom raising Peter Parker?”  And Martin Sheen is trying a little too hard to give big speeches, and not quite hard enough to connect with Peter on a human level.  Ben’s death, however, is exceptionally painful because it’s not the usual comics death where he gets to gasp out the classic speech about “With great power comes great responsibility” before he dies – no, he just gets shot.  And his legacy is a voicemail Peter can’t quite bear to listen to.
The weakest part of this Spider-Man is, sadly, the villain.  The Green Goblin was possessed of all of Willem Dafoe’s inherent looniness, and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock was the warm, supportive uncle you’d always wanted to have.  Curt Connors, however, is pretty much a vacant space on screen.  He stares longingly at his missing arm, as though it’s where his screen presence used to be.  When he becomes the Lizard, the initial scene is very compelling as he’s trying to be the hero, but then he degenerates into monologuing as he starts wanting to CHANGE TEH WORLD in a way that’s not really driven by his character all that much.
And Denis Leary does a fine job playing Denis Leary.  If you’ve always wanted to see Denis Leary in a Spider-Man film, well, here he is.  If you expect to see him act as Captain Stacey, well, let us just say that his last major scene in the film is perhaps the most laid-back approach to tragedy one will ever witness.  In a moment of what must be personal anguish, he looks as though he’s about to eat a sandwich.
Still, hey, it’s Spider-Man.  It’s a good riff on an old favorite.  Well worth seeing, if not nearly as exciting as the first time you saw Spidey bouncing around.  They do a good job with the 3-D, but there’s only so many ways you can make a web-slinger crawl.  Still, it made my birthday celebrations grand.

1 Comment

  1. John Foley
    Jul 3, 2012

    I didn’t see too many complaints when Batman Begins came out, effectively erasing the travesty that was Batman and Robin from our collective consciousnesses.
    I’m just psyched that they brought back the mechanical webshooters. That’s the way it was always meant to be.
    I just feel bad for poor Dylan Baker. The guy slogged through the other three Spidey movies with his arm behind his back, hoping against hope he’d get to play the Lizard someday. Then they finally do use the Lizard, and it’s another guy.

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