It’s been a good long while since I’ve delved into my blog here to post my own musings, so I’ve decided to keep my writing skills sharp this weekend by providing another entry. Whereas most of my discussions and articles talk about wrestling and games, here I’m going to delve into a subject that falls into the “many things” category of the headline on the top of this blog’s page.
Just four hours ago, I emerged from a movie theater having watched Amazing Spider-Man 2. Going in, I was full of worry and doubt despite my appreciation and satisfaction with the first installment of this rebooted wall crawler film saga. Critics were trashing it for issues such as villain clutter and the dichotomy between Spider-Man and Peter Parker. What I should have realized then, and do now having watched the film firsthand, is that these complaints were mostly either unfounded or the critics just don’t seem to fully grasp the history and essence of Spider-Man.
Quite contrary to these critics, I found the film to be a perfect representation of both Peter Parker himself and the world in which he lives and has lived in throughout his long comic book run. I’ll break down exactly what I enjoyed about it and why below. But be warned, you are entering spoiler territory from here on out.
Spider-Man is Peter Parker’s Release
One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen is that Peter Parker is too mopey while Spider-Man is all willy nilly, cracking jokes and enjoying life. I simply don’t understand these complaints because at his core, this is who Peter Parker is.
As will be discussed later and is featured prominently in these Marc Webb films, Peter Parker is one of the most most tragic super heroes of all time. Early on in his career, Parker has to deal with fatal consequences to his actions. Normal people wouldn’t be able to hold it together much if they lost one person close to them due to decisions they themselves made, and poor Peter has this happen to him on three occasions. The amount of stress, guilt and sense of responsibility weighing down on him is going to take its toll on the real Peter Parker, and this is without modern problems such as rent, paying tuition for college, helping his poor old aunt stay afloat and scrapping by with a total prick of a boss for any kind of income.
That’s why when Parker dons the mask and becomes Spider-Man, he completely flips the switch on his emotions. Being Spidey is Peter’s coping mechanism. It allows him to escape his personal troubles and just let go by beating up and making wisecracks at criminals. It’s a therapeutic, though perhaps not altogether healthy, way of dealing with his issues. And it’s also where he feels he can both do the most good and atone for his prior sins.
Andrew Garfield should be commended for being able to perfectly get both of these attitudes across in the film. He is the perfect wise-ass as Spidey and equally on point as the emotional and burdened Peter Parker.
After all, this is what it means to have an alter-ego, something so commonplace among super heroes yet lost on those who look at this film in a negative light. In a way it shows how everyone, in some way or another, needs to find an outlet to let themselves go and not constantly dwell on things that could very well put them on the path of suicidal depression.
Besides, I never saw anyone complain about this kind of complete difference in personalities with Bruce Wayne and Batman; and in my humble opinion, Spider-Man handles it much better. I mean, look at what happened to those who ended up doing it in a destructive manner, which brings me to my next point …
Not Every Villain Needs a Highly Compelling Drive to Become a Evil
Yes, Electro isn’t the most developed or sympathetic of super hero villains. He’s a creepy, social outcast who idolizes Spidey in an incredibly unhealthy way and seems to turn bad on a dime. Many people can’t understand why he wasn’t made very compelling. To be put simply: it’s because this story isn’t really about the villains.
Spider-Man is far more a tale of Peter Parker fighting to keep his loved ones safe and doing the most good he can while living with a pretty terribly dealt hand and fighting off psychos and crooks. The focus is far more on the hero. Besides, having been a social outcast in my youth, people don’t really seem to understand how easy it can be for someone in Max Dillon’s place to snap when you’ve been ignored and taken advantage of for a good chunk of your life, then are suddenly gifted god-like powers.
Dillon served his purpose as a slightly sympathetic character who had perfectly justifiable motivations to want to tear Spidey limb-from-limb. And in a film that was meant to showcase Peter Parker fighting his personal demons, which I had just mentioned is the real point of Spider-Man, that’s all we really need.
Especially when in the end …
The Villain Wins
Let’s just take a moment and let that sink in. For the first time in a Spider-Man movie — and Marvel-based hero movies — the villain actually wins. Harry Osborn, having gone full-on Green Goblin psycho in the end, rips the hope out of Peter Parker by succeeding in killing Gwen Stacey. Sure, after months of incredible guilt and mourning Spidey returns to the city that needs him, but the ghost of Gwen’s death and inability to live up to the promise he made to her father because of Harry will forever haunt Peter.
And the film doesn’t shy away from this fact, either. You see the hope slowly but surely evaporate from Parker in that painfully long scene where he is in complete denial that he had failed to save Gwen. You watch him in complete hopelessness at Gwen’s grave as the seasons turn. You see the pure pleasure in Osborn’s eyes when he states how long Spider-Man has been absent and discusses his plans for the future. This is something that most super hero films shy away from because everyone hates to see the hero fail, but Webb didn’t because …
It Stayed True to the Source Material
As I stated before, Peter Parker is an incredibly tragic hero, at least in his early years. He faces more loss than most of the entire Marvel cavalcade of heroes combined in his first couple of years behind the mask.
In the comics, Green Goblin wins. Yes, it was Norman and yes, Peter does eventually kill him, but think about it. Norman is the root cause of the death of Gwen Stacy in the comics just as Harry is in the film. He, like Harry, gives Peter a wound from which he never truly recovers. One that Parker carries as a harsh lesson about the risks he must take to lead the life he lives.
Marc Webb knows how crucial this moment was for Pater Parker’s development as a character, how devastating this is to him. It’s what makes Spidey’s ability to continue carrying on so much more enduring and admirable than so many of his contemporaries. It couldn’t be glossed over or ignored like Sam Raimi’s films. Not a second time. Mainstream film goers needed to see this moment to fully empathize with and respect the wall crawler.
And, just like the comics, the film ends with Peter ending his mourning period by realizing that the city needs him. That no matter how terrible things get, he must keep moving on. He will never forget what has happened, but as Uncle Ben told him: With great power there must also come great responsibility. By the end of the film Peter comes to terms with this — despite the words not yet being uttered to him — once again perfectly echoing the themes and soul of Spider-Man.
And perhaps that’s the biggest reason of why I enjoyed this film so much. It’s a wonderful encapsulation of everything that has made Spider-Man one of the most beloved and identifiable super heroes of all time. What it all comes down to is that Marc Webb, Andrew Garfield and the rest of the cast and crew that worked on this film just get Spider-Man.
I thank them for that.