Spiderman is and always has been my greatest love in comics. While I mostly buy D.C. these days, I most admire the ladies of the X-Men and the best superhero movie still goes tied between Avengers and Dark Knight, I maintain that Spiderman is my favorite. Spiderman is still the most interesting, compelling and well, sexy of the superheroes—at least to me.
So I’m very, very picky about the movies. So much so that this review was 8 pages in the first draft; I’ve cut it to three. I was gnashing my teeth at fear of a complete screw up when the new Garfield flick was announced—especially since it was made primarily to protect franchise rights and not because someone who loves Spiderman thought now was a good time for a Spiderman film. I was terrified I’d walk out of the movie thinking this was just a bad corporate grab for power. Instead I walked out thinking “Damn, if only they’d never made the Toby Maguire films to begin with. Then they could have made this one practically perfect.”
This is because the major flaws of the film, with one exception, are all rooted out of a desire to keep the film different from the Raimi franchise. Had it never existed, I think this movie would have been perfection…well with one exception. Considering that Raimi did a bang up job with the first of his spidey flicks, this is no small compliment on my part. I could probably write a graduate thesis on this so I’m going to try to sum up as best as I can without losing your attention. Also keep in mind that I will be calling out spoilers and there are going to be two kinds of spoilers in my review: spoilers of the film and spoilers of the spiderman universe. If you saw the movie the second form will still spoil future stuff for you if you haven’t read the comics. Be warned.
Here’s what worked in this movie:
1) New but true – the origin story is a kind of mashup of the Ultimates Spiderman and the original. We still get the defining moments MOVIE SPOILER<spider bite, Uncle Ben, wrestling ring>END but they are done differently enough that it feels new while retaining the genuine spiderman origin. Spiderman gets two calls to action: first his role as a vigilante out for revenge and second as a superhero. It was just enough to make me feel happy as a fan but engaging and different.
2) Garfield: Garfield is far more of the cocky, bright Peter Parker I crushed on as a young girl. His Parker manages to be both adorably shy and a complete bad boy. There’s a line at the end of the movie…damn he was sexy delivering it. Also COMIC SPOILER<breaking his promise to stay away from Gwen manages to still be damn sexy even though I know it’s going to get her killed. He’s going to feel so guilty. Damn Damn Damn.>END
3) All the Casting: frankly it’s all perfect. Ben and May are adorable with great chemistry—Sally Field is heartbreaking and compelling as Aunt May. Ifans is perfect as Doc Connors hell even Flash Gordon is perfect. And Emma Stone could beat Kirstin Dunst any day of the week. Dunst either sucks as MJ or had bad direction, but she never portrayed Mary Jane Watson correctly and she’s an easier character to play than Gwen.
4) Doc Connors – a different villain from the earlier franchises and really the only choice left undone. Shockwave/Rhino/Scorpion/Mysterio…none of them would really work well to hold up a film and doing the whole sinister syndicate would fail in a film, especially an origin movie.
5) The Action: really well done. Spiderman is both hilarious and kind of creepy. The choreography was beautiful; the banter perfect and even the moment where a bored Spiderman is sitting around on his web playing with his phone is interesting. MOVIE SPOILER<Also Garfield plays the beat so well from making out with Gwen to focusing in on a crime in progress that I literally thought “I’ll see this again.” There isn’t a moment where he debates what to do, follow the girl or fight the crime, he literally gets tunnel vision and jumps off a building without looking back. It was a perfect moment.>END
So what didn’t work?
1) The Score: this is first thing you notice because it’s the first thing you get. The movie opens and because it really was still too soon from a timing standpoint, you get confused when the wrong music starts playing at the beginning. With the exception of one swelling, climactic scene, the score for this film just wasn’t as good.
2) Catch Phrase: MOVIE SPOILER<We never get the Great Power comes Great Responsibility line. It’s essential to spiderman and I kept waiting for it. Ben says something about morality and responsibility to act but he doesn’t give the line. I get it, they didn’t want to make the film feel repetitive but that line is so essential that leaving it out reminded me even more of the previous Raimi franchise’s existence. I kept waiting for it and then when it never came, and that voicemail at the end really seemed like the place where it was finally going to appear, all I could do was think of Raimi’s movie. If they’d just used it and gotten it over with, I would have felt like I could let out a breath. Instead I went the whole movie thinking “will they, won’t they” and it kept me disconnected and fair more cognoscente of the past movies than using it would have.>END
3) Too much unmasking!: Peter Parker is hugely defined by the privacy around his identity. They had him remove his mask/ run around with it off/ get unmasked way too much. This is the only big flaw that isn’t rooted in the existence of past movies. I get it; it’s more interesting to see Garfield’s face than a mask. The guy is a hottie, no denying that, but it’s wrong. Still I kind of think a perfect superhero movie would suck since we comic book fans love to complain and find fault more than anything else. Give me a perfectly crafted movie with NO edits or minor errors? I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. So fine, if this is the only major major flaw, I’m happy.
So now here’s my fear moving forward and it’s rooted in knowledge of the comics so be warned that for my sum up some big COMIC SPOILERS are peppered throughout. Norman Osborne becomes Green Goblin. This can’t be changed to another villain so the next movie is going to have to feature this. Why does he have to be Green Goblin in the next movie? Green Goblin leads to the death of Gwen Stacy at Spiderman’s hands and that has definitely been foreshadowed now. If they change that…well then it will piss off a lot of fans. So they have to do Green Goblin and thus have to really take on the Raimi franchise again. As I established, the major flaws for the movie stem from this need to distinguish itself as something fresh. I have more faith in the potential for this to be done well but I still can’t help but worry. I also wonder where the whole father storyline is going but that concerns me less because it hasn’t been done before.
In honor of this here are some Mint Brrrrrrrrownies I made. So good that you’ll eat the whole batch and while they certainly aren’t the traditional classic fudgy brownie, you’ll find that they are delicious and you might just decide you like them better. The mint almost acts like a palate cleanser…kind of like the new Spidey. I certainly enjoyed them and I know my family did too.
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