What Worked and What Didn’t in the New Spider-Man Movie

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Who doesn’t love a great superhero story? I’m a big fan, after all, the Forbidden Mind series, while a paranormal romance/thriller, can also be described as a super hero series with an X-Men flavor. So I was excited to see the new Spider-Man movie, and we made it a point to take our kids to it yesterday-the day after we got married!

If you’re looking for a good holiday or summer flick, The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb, is an excellent choice. For a remake, it had a few fresh takes on the classic Spider-man tale that I really enjoyed.

*spoiler alert*

For one, I’ve never been a big fan of the Mary Jane character, and I didn’t particularly like Kirsten Dunst in the role in the 2002 remake. Nothing against the actress, it’s probably more the character that I find mildly annoying and unlikable. She’s too passive and… blah… for my taste. So I was thrilled with the decision to go with a more interesting female lead who really filled the role of a protagonist in the movie. (If you’ve read any of my books, you probably already know I’m biased toward more active female leads.)

Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, a brilliant high school student who works as an intern with Dr. Curt Connors, a scientist who’s committed to discovering a way to use cross-species genetics to make the perfect human. He’s missing an arm, so the stakes are particularly high for him as he wants to regrow his own arm and lose the stigma of cripple in a society designed to reward the perfect.

Emma Stone is charming, smart and entirely adorable without being ridiculous. She’s a strong character and is a great match for Andrew Garfield, the new Peter Parker aka Spider-man.

Speaking of Garfield, I adore him in this role. He’s on the fringes and does get bullied at school, but he’s also not a pansy. He stands up for other students and has a quiet charm and strength, even before his transformation, that I really admire. Plus, he’s totally cute!

Garfiled also makes a somewhat awkward Spider-man, but in a perfect way. His ability to fly through the sky on his webs grows throughout the movie, and while he has impressive skill development early on, there’s still a sense that it’s new to him. It’s refreshing to see this learning curve throughout.

Stone’s character is pivotal in the plot in many ways, and she is a partner to her boyfriend early on. Parker reveals his identity to her, despite the fact that her father (Denis Leary-love!) is the chief of police and is hunting Spider-man. Their budding romance is sweet, romantic and a bit clumsy without being painful to watch. Again, it’s the perfect blend of newness and comfortable. I particularly enjoyed their first kiss, but I’ll save that reveal for you to see yourself. What can I say? I’m a newlywed, so of course this is the part I focus on!

For all you action fans, there was a really powerful scene towards the end when he’s Spider-manning his way through New York to save the city, but for the most part the action could have been better. This is according to my husband (I get to call him my husband now! Squee!), who pointed out that director Marc Webb debuted with a romantic comedy and this is his first action movie to date. I honestly didn’t notice any lack in the action scenes, but again… I was more interested in the kissing.:p

This movie did have a lot more backstory that we both loved (and not in an info dump way at all, but in a way that set up the motivations for the characters and the movie as a whole). There was a personal motivation for Dr. Connors’ choices. He’s not a bad guy, but he’s also under pressure to start testing his new serum on humans, so he starts with himself and creates Spider-man’s antagonist. Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Connor and does a wonderful job as mentor/villain. Connors was partner with Peter Parker’s dad, before something spooked his secretive parents and they left a young Peter with his aunt (Sally Field) and uncle and fled. Nothing is revealed about what happened to his parents, but there is a set-up that makes me wonder about more films to come.

Also, the spider that sets this whole thing in motion is given its own itsy bitsy (get it? itsy bitsy spider? ) back story as well. It’s not just some random genetically modified spider, it’s placed in a lab that is working on the cross-species genetics, and it’s actually a really cool scene visually.

This film did an excellent job of setting up the motivations for all the characters involved, which I really enjoyed.

However, the film dropped the ball in one big way for me. At the beginning, when Parker first undergoes his transformation (a really funny scene, by the way. There’s a lot of humor in this version) he sees an opportunity to put the school bully in his place.

Chris Zylka plays Flash Thompson, a basketball star and total jerk to everyone at school (also, this actor was in The Circle, which I couldn’t figure out for the whole movie but knew he looked familiar). He ruthlessly beats Peter Parker (I’m talking kicking and punching and serious beating… right in the middle of school! Where the hell are the teachers??) after Peter tries to defend another kid Flash is abusing.

If anyone deserves payback, it’s this guy, and Peter uses his new powers to humiliate the kid on the basketball court. When he gets sent to the principal’s office, his uncle is called. Martin Sheen plays Uncle Ben, and can I just say I love this man? He’s brilliant in everything, and this movie is no exception.

And here we have the setup for what could have been an awesome opportunity to add real depth to a superhero movie without sacrificing the action. Uncle Ben talks to Peter about what he did, and challenges him to consider whether it was right to humiliate Flash, even if he did deserve it.

After a fight with Uncle Ben, Peter leaves and his uncle follows. Peter ends up at a small market, where he’s given a hard time by the store owner who’s admittedly a real jerk. As he leaves, the store is robbed and when the store owner asks Peter for help, he ignores him. After all, the store owner doesn’t deserve his help after treating him that way.

In the next scene, the robber, in his escape, comes face to face with Uncle Ben, who does try to do the right thing, and is shot and killed.

Peter sets on his path as Spider-man in order to find his uncle’s killer and take revenge. This could have been such an awesome character arc, but it really falls short. Instead of using this to build on something real, the other plot lines take over and this is forgotten.

Toward the beginning of the third Act, Peter does sorta drop his hunt for the killer in order to stop the giant lizard man that’s trying to kill people and destroy New York, but it’s not connected to this early set up in a way that’s emotionally satisfying. There’s no moment where Peter has an opportunity to make a different choice-for example, to do the right thing even if a person doesn’t deserve it. Sure, he realizes he wants to help people, but he never confronts his own need for revenge, he just stops looking, and he really only saves kids and people who haven’t done him wrong in some way. I was disappointed in this, as it could have been much stronger with very little work. Perhaps it’s a set up for another movie, but if so, it wasn’t handled well.

Despite this, I’m very impressed with this new remake. It has more depth then past versions, and still plenty of action and super hero/villain conflict. The casting was truly brilliant and each actor played their part well. If they’d taken just a little more time to complete the character arc they set up, I’d have been happier, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film.

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