This Sunday, during the Super Bowl, we’re told to expect a continuation of the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 trailer released today (January 31, 2014). Like the first two longer trailers, it shows us just how epic this movie is trying to be, and as someone for whom Spider-Man might be the only Marvel character I truly like through-and-through, I am usually down for that. Still, the more I watch the previews, the more I notice something missing. What is that? Well, unless I’m just terribly mistaken, it’s the whole point behind Stan Lee’s original creation.
If you’re reading this, then you probably already know Stan Lee’s feelings on his own beloved web-head – how the concept was initially rejected by publishers only to first be embraced as a piece stuck in the final issue of Amazing Fantasy. When the Raimi movies first came out, I went back to the beginning to catch up on the basics of the comics. What was obvious to me was what Lee has said all along, which is that in many respects, the science fiction and action elements of Spider-Man stories are really just obstacles that Peter Parker has to overcome in order to do what he really wants to do, and that is to take care of Aunt May and find some semblance of love and a normal life. In almost every issue, the major threats that Spider-Man faces don’t just pop up while he’s sitting around the den, brooding like Bruce Wayne. They pop up while he’s out and about, on a deadline to pick up Aunt May’s prescription or groceries or something.
Despite the fact that Raimi’s films took a few liberties that continue to annoy some of the fans, he always kept Peter Parker and his personal life front and center – even in the trailers, especially for SPIDER-MAN 2 and SPIDER-MAN 3. Like the comics, both the trailers and the movies began with some bit of Peter Parker talking about the more personal context within which all the other stuff does or will take place. While Webb’s take has not completely forsaken that element, I don’t feel that it’s front and center anymore and, frankly, I miss it. To the extent that it is there, though, it feels… off to me. Don’t get me wrong. Andrew Garfield does a great job with this slightly more believable, if underplayed version of Peter Parker and Spider-Man, but for my tastes, he’s far too selfish as depicted in the films.
In the first film, he only becomes Spider-Man through impersonation of an Oscorp intern in order to break in and find something – anything, I suppose – related to his late father’s work. It has nothing to do with anything or anyone else, not even Gwen Stacey, who mistakenly thinks he’s there for her. He’s not – not yet, anyway. Then, he only starts using his powers out of guilt and anger once Uncle Ben is killed, and for an undetermined amount of time, everything he does as the evolving Spider-Man persona is in search of Ben’s killer - nothing else. Yes, this was in the comics too, but in the comics, Peter learns a lesson about the price of vengeance, that so far, the new films’ Peter Parker seems not to have learned yet.
Only when he again feels guilty for helping to create the Lizard do his actions start to take on slightly more heroic proportions as he is basically forced into saving others in order to mitigate his own feelings of remorse. In the first film’s final showdown, it is really Connors that tries to save Spider-Man from falling off of the Oscorp Tower after the antidote brings him to his senses - an antidote meant mostly to help the rest of the city. Although technically true to the comics and probably believable for a modern teenager, the movie ends with Peter being unable and ultimately unwilling to honour Captain Stacy’s final wish to keep Gwen out of his business for her own protection. The movie begins with a selfish Peter Parker and, for all intents and purposes, it ends with one too.
Now, I can accept that the conventions and rules of the films preclude Parker from keeping that promise, but for him not to try just a little harder or to feel any worse about it than he seems to feel? I don’t know…
This time, we have a sequel co-written by TRANSFORMERS and STAR TREK alumni Orci and Kurtzman. So far, I feel as if I’m seeing Spider-Kid, not Spider-Man – which is really saying something since Garfield is almost 30 years old now. Then again, I’m speaking behaviourally, not physically. I know I’m making WAY too much of this. In honesty, I’m doing that intentionally in the hopes that I can more effectively make my point, even if others don’t quite feel it to be as strong or correct as I do. I know Spider-Man is a sci-fi/action movie. That’s great! And I welcome more villains IF they are handled properly and not just there to chew scenery. There are potential issues there as well though, like the fact that so far, the Rhino seems only to exist for comic relief while Harry Osborn’s arc seems like it should be a movie unto itself. Yet, the main villain is allegedly Jamie Fox’s Electro and from the trailers so far, we barely know more about him than we do the others.
Ultimately, I think I’ll like AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, if only for the sheer scale of it all and the fact that I’m seeing new and reinvented Spidey villains on the big screen. So far, I think Goblin’s new look is kind of cool, and though a bit clunky, I can understand and appreciate why the Rhino might really just be a hi-tech, heavy-duty, metal exoskeleton. Though I’m not really familiar with the Ultimate version of Electro, I like most of what I see of Fox’s take on the character so far. Actually, it would be more honest for me to say that I appreciate the fact that Fox is creating a character like this to go with what, up to now and to my limited knowledge, has mostly just been a visual gimmick rather than a fully fleshed-out antagonist. Still, I wish I could see this fairly new, flesh and blood Spider-Man as more of the overt hero that he was in most of the Raimi films. That doesn't seem to be something that works a lot of the time with modern superheroes, or any heroes for that matter, but it's a quality that I really think Spider-Man needs and, in this case, needs more of.
What do you think? Are any of my concerns legitimate or am I just an obstinate and unappreciative a$$?