On a recent Sunday I took YaYa and Smiley to see "The Amazing Spider-Man" at the budget cinema. I wasn't keen on seeing it, despite being a Spidey fan all my life. Why bother, I thought, when it was a reboot of a franchise that ran its course within the last decade? How many times do you need to see a guy bitten by a radioactie/mutated spider? Pass, I thought.
Man, was I wrong. It was great. Much better, in my opinion, than the Tobey Mcguire version. Why?
a. They kept the timeframe compact, starting and ending with Peter a high school student (presumably in the same school year). So instead of the mandatory regurgetation of the origin story, followed by what feels like a seperate good vs evil story a year or two down the road, it felt like a single, cohesive storyline.
b. Gwen Stacey. I can't tell you how peeved I was that the Tobey movie retconned her away.
c. The script was more mature. Not 'mature' in a 'violent/sexual/brooding' way, but fleshed out beyond the basic respect due the mythology. Uncle Ben dies, yes, and he dies in a roundabout way because of Peter's inaction (although no indication is given that the guy is armed or violent at the time, which I thought should have been foreshadowed ). But unlike the prior filmed version Peter's inaction seems well, natural, and Ben isn't killed as a bystander, but as a man living and dying by the code of responsiblity he instilled in his nephew. Likewise, I liked that Ben called him out on his revenge against Flash; later that insight comes back to shake him out of his narrow pursuit of Ben's killer and gives birth to the true Spider-Man.
d. Sally Field. Martin Sheen.
e . Somehow the script manages to bring in Peter's parents and their (presumed?) deaths, hint that Flash may become a friend, leaves Ben's killer still on the loose, and has Norman Osborn in the background yet still controlling all the bad karma of the film, and yet I never got the sense that they were setting the table for sequels. Of course that's what they were doing, but it was integrated well enough where this one stands as a legitimate one-off.
f. Spidey is sarcastic and talkative in a fight. Man I missed that.
g. I never bought Tobey as Spidey. Yes, he played the geek well, but remember, Peter was a geek only in high school. By his mid-twenties he was a confident man (barely) making a living in the city and dating a model. I could never see that transformation taking place with Tobey. But Garfield? Brother I buy that hook, line and sinker.
h. SPOILER: At the end of the film Peter has promised Gwen's dying father that he will no longer see her. The two are now estranged. Peter arrives late for class and takes a seat behind her, and the teacher chastises him for being late. He promises it will never happen again, and the teacher says he shouldn't make promises he can't keep. Peter replies, just loud enough for Gwen to hear: "But those are the best kind," signifying that he will break his word and resume their relationship. Without turning around Gwen breaks into a small but lovely smile, and I just about said "awwww". What a wonderful, subtle, heartwarming scene.