Movies are among my few recreations. I’m not particularly into action movies, but I do admit to a certain fondness for traditional Superhero movies – that is, movies about traditional superheroes (really traditional superheroes like Superman). Having appreciated Andrew Garfield’s superb performance in The Social Network, and having enjoyed the earlier Spiderman movie, I figured it was worth giving the newest incarnation of the Spiderman genre, The Amazing Spiderman a try. I was not disappointed.
Of course, like all films aimed at contemporary audiences, it had as little too much action and too many special effects for my more old-fashioned story-line tastes. But the film rose above the endless action sequences and de rigeur massively destructive urban violence to tell a great Spiderman story, that actually almost made much of the special-effects stuff somewhat redundant. It was aided in this by some superb casting – most notably Martin Sheen and Sally Field as uncle Ben and Aunt May, and, of course, Andrew Garfield himself as Peter Parker/Spiderman. Garfield effectively captures the peculiar pathos of adolescence in painful institution which is the American high school – his pre-spider experience of being bullied and his initial awkwardness in connecting with his eventual girlfriend – as well as his emotionally fraught relationship memory of the father who abandoned him and with his resultingly complex relationship loving aunt and uncle.
Suddenly endowed with surprising and unique abilities and transformed by real-life tragedy into a good-guy vigilante, Peter always remains an awkward adolescent at heart – a characteristic constantly on display in his inability to communicate his core struggle, an inability overcome very gradually and only with his girlfriend. The other characters all retain their humanity and complexity – even Parker’s father’s former partner, who could easily have been reduced to a stereotypical mad/bad scientist, something which never really happens.
Finally, there is the happy, post-modern ending. A classic, solitary hero would be expected to keep his promise and go on alone. Peter is a post-modern contemporary, who feels in his heart that it just isn’t worth it to do that – and acts accordingly!