The Amazing Spiderman had some great things going for it. The acting was sound. The writing was clever (though not necessarily clear). There were some fine comedy moments that knocked that loud, from-the-belly laughter out of us. At the end, Spiderman battled a giant, menacing lizard on top of a tall building. Good eventually prevailed over evil, like we knew it would. And I cried like a girl. Not once. Twice.
So don’t get me wrong. It was a well-spent $9.50.
But as my brother and I drove home, we could not put our finger on why we didn't find Spiderman as compelling or convincing as other heroes. I think I may have it figured out now.
If you ask someone who has seen the film, they will probably tell you that PP was satisfactorily developed. Our Spidey is an inquisitive and clever teenager, though frustrated by the disappearance of his parents. He’s an eccentric loner, testing the limits of his new “super strength.” He’s a tangle of head, heart and hormone — goofy and tongue-tied in front of a girl, smart-mouthed and sassy toward his family. When he’s feeling particularly cocky, he likes to beat up robbers and school bullies and occasionally solve impossible math problems.
I get it. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s a fantastic premise and I love it.
In spite of all this, something felt off.
What I think happened was this: The writers wanted Spiderman to be a bunch of different things – a scholar, a loner, a romantic, a loyal family man, an impulsive rebel, a hero who is loved by the masses, a “man of sorrows” who is rejected by the masses, and so on – but they couldn’t decide which.
And so, instead of committing to one or two archetypes, the writers wrote a patchwork Spiderman who represented pieces of each type, but they never fully committed to one or two. For this reason, no matter how well Andrew Garfield acted (and he did act marvelously), PP would seem disjointed and inaccessible.
Now wait a second, says the reader of this blog. That’s not fair. You can’t just limit Spiderman to one hat. I mean, look at me – I wear several hats and I’m a unified person. Plus, PP is a teenager, and teenagers are still in the process of trying on different hats to figure out who they are and what they want to be.
Yes, okay. You have a good point, and I’ll concede it. Any film where a character “comes of age” will have an “experiment with identity” component. But the great “coming of age” film is the one where the character finds an identity and resolves to stand by it. One reason Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne feels more unified and cohesive than PP is because we meet BW as an adult, as a person who has already resolved his grief and committed to his role as Gotham’s dark knight.
But that isn’t the only reason BW seems more unified. Could it be that Bruce Wayne seems more consistent, compelling and believable because he’s had to sacrifice one hat for another? He’s discovered that if he wants to be a super hero, he has to forfeit romance and isolate himself. If he wants to protect Gotham, he will have to become a menace and a terror to the people. And if he wants to live and be loved, he will have to quit. What Christopher Nolan et all understand is that, eventually, one or two hats win out. We cannot have everything. That’s reality, and to suggest otherwise is a lie.
In The Amazing Spider Man, the filmmakers suggest that Peter Parker can have his cake and eat it too. He can be a Harvard caliber scholar on weekdays and kick bad guy butt on week nights and weekends. Gwen Stacy can be his girlfriend, confidant and sidekick all-in-one, because she is one totally trustworthy babe without limitations or obligations. Spiderman can maintain his secret identity without sacrificing his relationship with his aunt, because she understands she can’t protect or restrain him — and besides, he remembered to bring home the eggs.
He can do all these things and more, because he’s Spiderman.
But is it real?
Of course not.
Is it a good story if it’s not real?
And Jesus said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his [accomplishments]." And he told them a parable, saying, "The [mind] of a rich [wo]man produced plentifully, and [s]he thought to [her]self, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my [thoughts]?' And [s]he said, 'I will do this: I will tear down my [blog] and build [a more accomplished one], and there I will store all my [thoughts] and my [writings]. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample [publications and a great reputation]; relax, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to [her], 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."