Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (2012): What Makes This One Different?

I'll be honest. I like the earlier Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, so I guess I'll just have to say that I really like The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
 "Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy, and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents' disappearance - leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr Curt Connors, his father's former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors' alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero." (Written by  Nicky Mitchell  at IMDb)
In the earlier Spider-Man movies, the action and teen drama are balanced to create that special Spider-Man ambiance of teen versus them. I think Spider-Man 2012 captures it better. The earlier Spider-Man movies viewed teens from an adult perspective, where The Amazing Spider-Man sculpts dialogue and action more from a teen perspective.
  • The pace of teen confrontation moves quickly; in fact, all the high school scenes capture that sudden, emotion-infused moment.
  • The dialogue is believable with a great deal being said with a few words, some muttered, facial expression and body language: an entire world-view expressed with a shrug, a sneer, or a handful of words.
  • Adult-teenage interactions involve as much walking away as heart-to-hearts. It's difficult for Peter Parker to express what he's feeling.
  • The teenagers are more unpredictable, more mercurial in the 2012 movie--personalities in transition, out-pacing the understanding of the teens themselves.
  • Technology is a part of the landscape. Even while suited up, Spider-Man's got to answer his cellphone. Science and technology seem to fit more seamlessly into the new movie's plot, too.
Another strength of the movie was character motivation. The fact pace of the movie provided an understanding of character action without scenes becoming maudlin. I thought at first that actress Emma Stone as the girlfriend was too old for the Andrew Garfield Spider-Man. However, we then meet the girlfriend's dad (Denis Leary)--and that explains a lot. The antagonist Dr. Curt Connors is a haunted man with a need, and that character is nailed by actor Rhys Ifans. Uncle Ben and Aunt May, played by Martin Sheen and Sally Fields, provide credibility, and Fields makes excellent use of her greater screen time to say volumes with facial expression.

A lot has to be given to director Marc Webb and screenwriters James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves. The teen years are a tangled web, and this movie delightfully snares us, heart and soul.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


  1. Hey Tom, thanks for an upbeat critique for a change! Movie critics always seem to hate super-hero flicks. I was feeling trepidation about this SM feature, but will certainly see it at some point and remember this encouraging analysis.
    The dialogue, the banter of Peter Parker as Spider-Man is so crucial- there were moments in 1 and 2 where it shone through. But 3 was all-melodrama-all-victims-no-villains, and so much got drowned in the psychoanalysis. You point out correctly, I think, that he HAS problems of course, but doesn't take a politically-correct route. He just fights on, he never says quit. That's what I'm hoping to see when I take in the new chapter.

    1. Rather than an adult look at the teen hero, keeping a supercilious perspective, this movie honors the humanity of teens--that lack-of-life experience doesn't diminish the dignity of the struggle.