The Amazing Spider-Man: Still Going Strong

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures

The summer 2012 movie season has brought many, many remakes, reboots, and sequels to the big screen including: The Dark Knight Rises, The Bourne Supremacy, and Total Recall. While school is still out, and countless buckets of popcorn are yet to be eaten, one summer reboot has had continued box office success long after its release date. In the one month The Amazing Spider-man has been released, the film has grossed over $244 million domestically, and accrued a staggering $412 million abroad. And although the newest vision of a very old superhero has not managed to outperform the third installment of the original Spider-man series just yet, the impressive International box office revenue The Amazing Spider-man has been able to accumulate acts as a glimmer of hope to a domestically beaten film. With that being said, The Amazing Spider-man has just barely grossed enough domestically to surpass its production budget of $230 million. The iconic boy superhero has been captivating children and terrorizing bedtimes since the early ‘60s. He is an American icon, and a role model for pretty much everyone born during the second half of this past century.  So why is The Amazing Spider-man underperforming compared to past versions, yet still managing to succeed at the box office this summer? The Amazing Spider-Man is clearly catered to a new generation of aspiring fanboys. These fanbabies may not have their parent’s support for a Spider-man so different from the one they grew up with, but the newest installment of the Spider-Man franchise successfully spins, or rather web-slings, a new story that has the opportunity to be just as successful as the original version. Because there has been a dearth of quality cinematic releases during the time Spider-man has been released, the captivating nature of the film has been able to continue drawing crowds. Besides The Dark Knight Rises, no other film has been able to out gross the newest Spider-man movie in the one month The Amazing Spider-man has been in theaters, but does the new Spider-man have what it takes to overtake its predecessor at the box office? With its combination of talent and vision, let’s hope so.

There is no Spider-Man without Peter Parker, and of all the major characters who are featured in both the new and old Spidey films, he has been altered the most. And rightly so, he is the protagonist after all. The audience first meets Peter as a 7-year-old boy, still under the care of his mother and father.  By starting Peter’s origin story this far back, the character is given more human characteristics. We see him play hide-and-seek with his Dad. We see him hug his mom when he’s scared. And we also see his family get ripped apart after a mysterious burglar steals Peter’s Dad’s work, forcing him to drop his son off at his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May’s (Sally Field) New York City apartment. Fast-forwarding ten years, the new face of one of the most popular American high school losers of all time turns out to be…A Brit. Andrew Garfield is an English actor who earned a BAFTA for his work in John Crowley’s 2008 film Boy A. Yet despite his lack of American upbringing, Garfield glides seamlessly into the role. He is both shy and sure-footed in his role as Peter Parker, and provides a more believable transformation from Teenager to Superhero than Tobey Maguire back in 2002.

But what about the new girl? What’s she all about? Yes, no longer does Spider-Man yearn to web-sling his way to Mary Jane’s windowsill for a late night, high school hormone throbbing kiss. Parker’s newest love interest, Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) isn’t actually so new. She first appeared in a 1965 issue of the comic, and was Peter’s first love interest before being killed off by the Green Goblin. Stacy was around even before Mary Jane, so to say that it is blasphemous to take Peter’s most popular love interest out of the newest movie is either not fully cognizant of Spider-man’s comic book history or is Kirsten Dunst.

Unlike the original films, Marc Webb’s remake brings a certain RomCom vibe to the Peter Parker origin story. Instead of glossing over the teenage superhero’s back-story, the same director as 500 Days of Summer decides to delve very much into Parker’s high school life in order to humanize the character. This directorial decision can best been seen through Parker’s relationship with his high school crush Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone). Garfield and Stone’s awkward, charming onscreen relationship separates the remake from its predecessors and proves to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the film.  A perfect example of this onscreen chemistry occurs when Parker decides to break into the Oscorp Manhattan High-rise building, following accidently discovering that his father used to work for the company. After Parker swipes an intern badge from the help desk, he pokes his way through the Oscorp lab until bumping into Stacy, who is head intern at the laboratory. Stacy and Parker share a tender scene moments before Parker peaks his head into the wrong room, accidently releases a swarm of genetically altered arachnids all over his body, and changes his life forever. 

Webb’s supporting production teammates also help The Amazing Spider-Man outshine its predecessors. The biggest addition to this reboot is the introduction of first-person web-slinging shots. Cinematographer John Schwartzman (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor) allows the audience to come as close as they ever will to zipping from skyscraper and skyscraper. Jerome Chen (Godzilla) provides great visual effects support for such scenes, and helps the film make the jump from 2D to 3D distribution. Yet the biggest addition to the behind the camera crew, besides Webb of course, is costume designer Kym Barrett. Just to name a few of her past credits, Barrett has worked on all thee Matrix films, Speed Racer, and The Green Hornet. In redesigning the Spider-man costume, she decided to change one of the character’s most well known attributes: his web-slinging ability. Yes, no longer can Peter Parker shoot super strong webs directly out of his arms. It is now a product of his suit, and is just one more way Parker has been significantly more humanized and is perfect for today’s technology savvy culture.

Yes, Spiderman is original in both story and directorial directions. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg’s best friend from The Social Network makes a fine Peter Parker and even better Spider-man. Yes, the newest Spiderman is overall an enjoyable experience. According to critics, The Amazing Spider-man has a certified fresh ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also debuted at the top of the box office charts and grossed $65 million its opening weekend. So why hasn’t this reboot been as successful as initially planned? In a word: fanboys. Once all of those old, umm to put it nicely—wizened, Spider-man fans realize that all of the requisite elements that makes their favorite web-slinging superhero so special are still present in this very new film, future installment of the franchise will debut to bigger box office numbers. The Amazing Spider-Man still broadcasts a great love story, expertly choreographed fight scenes created by brothers Vic and Andy Armstrong (Thor), and a satisfying amount of explosions to make veteran and aspiring Spider-man lovers happy until the opening weekend for the sequel.

By David Morris

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