By returning to the original name and reclaiming some features of the original story, Marc Webb crafts a more convincing Spiderman universe filled with complex and believable characters.
The opening scenes are of a young Peter Parker playing hide and seek with his yet to be estranged father, before coming across a smashed window and study full of scattered papers covered with complex equations featuring the infamous spider sigil. Fearing for their child’s safety Peter’s parents decide to entrust him to the care of his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen). It is clear that his parents are running from something and having this extra dimension of mystery surrounding his parents definitely adds to the development of both Peter’s character and the plot in general.
Anyone who was or knew a “geek” in high school know that the Hollywood caricature is ridiculously inaccurate and the latest incarnation of debate-team Parker acknowledges this. Andrew Garfield portrays a Peter Parker who’s still shy and awkward around girls but not to the extent where he’s socially isolated. Unlike the previous version of himself, the new Peter Parker is proud of his geeky outsider image and embraces and enhances it when he transforms physically rather than changing it.
The physical transformation takes place after Peter finds some of his dad’s old files and decides to snoop around the lab of his old partner Dr Connors (Rhys Ifans) by pretending to be an intern. To his surprise the tour is being led by none other than Mary Jane v2.0 (Emily Mortimer) known as Gwen this time, who first assumes he’s stalking her and then warns him to stay out of trouble. Driven by his curiosity Peter disobeys and ends up stumbling across a lab full of genetically enhanced spiders and you can guess how that turns out.
The transition phase from Peter Parker to Spiderman is my favourite part of the film because it’s well thought out and hilarious in equal measure. Performing every day tasks like turning off your alarm clock or closing a door becomes surprisingly difficult when you’ve just developed super strength over night and it’s understandable that a few household appliances get obliterated before he learns to control it. I also liked that true to his former self, one of the first things Peter does with his new found abilities is go skating, popping fantastically high ollies and back-flipping off a half-pipe. To me it was just another way in which this film kept a certain level of realism without losing the humorous comic book feel.
Another way in which this film is true to its history is in the creation of the web-cannons, rather than have Spiderman randomly start shooting it from his wrists, you see him reading an article on his computer about Oscorp’s latest technology for cables with incredible tensile strength and then see Parker tweaking the device he’s built with a screw driver. There are also no “sky hooks” in this film, at one point cranes are lined up above the streets by his supporters to give Spiderman swing points.
The relationship between Parker and Gwen makes a lot more sense this time round. They share a passion for science and technology and she’s attracted to his edgy, rebellious outsider streak, partly due to her authoritarian father who just so happens to be New York chief of police. This conflict is only exasperated when Peter becomes the controversial masked vigilante and her father issues a warrant for his arrest.
Instead of a villain who randomly goes crazy, Dr Connors represents a chillingly rationally individual who is driven to experimenting on himself in an attempt to re-grow his missing limb. The fact that he becomes more beast than man due to his DNA treatment allows the villain to keep some audience empathy while still being a truly terrifying adversary for Spiderman.
At one point Dr Connors shows his latest research to an Oscorp representative who is enthralled. “This is a miracle!” he exclaims, and Connors replies “No, this is hard work and progress”. Metaphysical meaning aside, that’s how I felt watching this film. It was certainly progress from the previous trilogy and the hard work in attention to detail and making the film as realistic and consistent as possible while maintaining the premise of a world containing superheroes made this film close to the miraculous.
Have you seen the movie? How did it compare to it’s predecessors? Did Andrew Garfield capture the Spidey we know and love? Let us know in the comments!