Swinging Success: Spider-Man reboot weaves intriguing story

Kira Walker/Staff

Related Posts

It’s been 10 years since Tobey Maguire donned the red and blue spandex and battled the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man.” Including the two sequels, Raimi and company held a five-year grip on the franchise, weaving various strands of the web crawler’s intricate story arcs. After becoming familiar with Maguire’s take on the character and the direction Raimi was leading the films, mixed feelings arose when the reboot was announced.Many — myself included — had doubts that the new series could fill the shoes of the first two Raimi-directed Spider-Man movies (We’ll overlook the emo-tripped “Spider-Man 3” for now.). Could director Marc Webb, with only “(500) Days of Summer” under his belt, pull off a superhero movie? Similar to how Matthew Vaughn rejuvenated the X-Men franchise after the abysmal third movie, Webb has woven together a fresh take on the Spidey films that adheres more closely to the comic origins. The audience is given a more personal look at Peter Parker’s transition from awkward teen to masked hero of the Big Apple.While the thought of anyone but Maguire playing the web-swinging hero was discomforting at first, the unease was due merely to the familiarity of the actor playing the role over the years. Andrew Garfield’s scrawny, socially awkward Parker feels grounded and surprisingly well-versed for his first time in the role, revealing just how bland and forced Maguire sometimes felt in the original trilogy. Everything about Garfield feels natural and geeky: His smart-ass wisecracks as Spider-Man even have a tinge of nerdiness to them. His inability to speak to girls, such as love interest Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), combined with his shut-in, hoodie-up attitude balances his brave, brass demeanor when he trades his skateboard for webs.

Even if Garfield were as uninspiring as Brandon Routh’s Superman, the design of the hero himself feels more true to the comics, adding an additional layer of nostalgia to the film. Parker’s costume and lanky looks are more akin to the “Ultimate Spider-Man” comics rather than the original series.  In addition, the film finally got it right with the webs being devices made by Parker and not actual powers. The way Spider-Man crawls and swings through the city feels less powerful, but more fluid and acrobatic; more insect than human, as proper comic book lore depicted the hero. The webs themselves even felt more spider-like, with Garfield firing off rapid machine-gun level onslaughts of the synthetic fibers as he slid and leaped around in head-spinning acrobatics.

Although she still isn’t Spider-Man’s first real love interest — one day, Betty Brant, one day — Emma Stone’s strong, smart, nerdy-sexy Stacy is much more appealing than Kirsten Dunst’s constant damsel in distress Mary Jane Watson. Her sprightly quips and ordinary-girl heroism create a more likeable character, who proves that she can hold her own — at least until a giant reptile is inches from her face. Stone isn’t overly ballsy though, as the character is balanced with a soft, daddy’s girl side as she playfully interacts with her father, Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary).

The overall tone of the film feels more mature, even somewhat darker, than the Raimi series. Although Webb stays true to certain aspects of the comic, others are forgone for a modern twist to the series — although it pains my comic-geek side that the famous “With great power, comes great responsibility” line is rephrased. The initial vendetta Parker goes on to find his uncle’s killer, combined with his gradual, cosmetic transformation into the familiar red and blue highlights the character’s emotional growth as he becomes more than just a vigilante and into a hero to whom the city can look up.

Unfortunately, the movie is not without a few broken strands in the otherwise stellar, tightly-knit spiderweb. While Rhys Ifans himself plays a decent Dr. Curt Connors, the Lizard himself lacked the animalistic terror that the comics conveyed. Webb’s point of making the villain appear more humanoid ended up making the character less terrifying, as a human face on a lizard body lacks the conviction of the razor-blade toothed snout from the comics.

However, that’s getting nitpicky, as the Lizard still comes out on top as one of the better Spider-Man movie villains (It’s hard to beat Alfred Molina’s spot-on Doc Ock performance.). Nuances aside, “The Amazing Spider-Man” proves that it can spin a web of any size and catch thieves just like flies, holding its own as a step in the right direction for the web-head’s movie career.