IN the world of comics a lot of work goes in making the amazing look normal in order for that normal to look exceptional. In just a decade we have seen four Spiderman films. We lived with Peter Parker as he got bit by a radioactive spider and became a savior only to get lost in the darkest corners of his weakness to finally emerge a hero once again. It's not like we had forgotten how the series started in 2002 that we needed a brand new re-imagination of Spidey in just five years after what seemed like a natural end of the series. But here we are with an amazing new Spiderman who, surprisingly, seems to be a wee bit more real than a comic book hero is supposed to be.
THE thing that separates Spiderman from most superheroes is that he's just a kid. He chances upon something that transforms him into something cooler but like young-and-somewhat-geeky teenagers he's more interested in bettering his life as Peter Parker than save the world as Spiderman. He doesn't care about his powers beyond a point and that's what The Amazing Spiderman (2012) infuses into the series. If you were to make a superhero film in the 21st century you can't expect the audiences to buy a concept that seems to belong in the previous but you can't trade that trait beyond a point for that is what makes a superhero standout. So, much like how Spiderman consoled himself with 'his gift being his curse' this is the tightrope superhero films tread. Everything in The Amazing Spiderman tries to suggest that the Spiderman doesn't make too much of his powers; in this one he has to scientifically modify his web slinging abilities and he has no qualms showing his face when it comes to that. This rather refreshing element of believability might alienate a majority of the audience.
I'M a huge Spiderman fan but truth be told I got a little tired of Tobey Maguire's goody two shoes Spiderman. His Peter Parker was plausible but Sam Raimi concentrated more on humanizing the costumed freak rather than celebrating the human in the suit. In stark contrast Marc Webb's Spiderman is amazed by the sudden powers he's gifted with but more than anything else he's interested in how to be cooler than Flash, the school bully. Unlike the first three films Peter Parker/ Spiderman here is an average everyday guy but he doesn't mope about like a lovelorn pup. He's normal enough to forget that he could have saved his Uncle Ben from dying and carries on in spite of the dead Uncle's power-responsibility-do-good speech. It's only when he saves a kid that he see's the impact he's had on someone and starts believing in doing his bit to try set things right.
One of things that make this possible is Andrew Garfield's portrayal of Spiderman. Garfield is a rare new breed of actors who bring their persona to character rather than discovering something about the character within the pages of the script. Just go back to The Social Network (2010) to understand something about Garfield. Most actors would play Mark Zuckerberg more or less the same as Jesse Eisenberg as there's a lot in the written word to get the character right after a few attempts but every actor who would have attempted Eduardo Saverin would have interpreted him differently because the script doesn't bother about him beyond a point for he's not the thrust of the film. Garfield's affability is what makes Saverin a hero like Spiderman and Spidey into a regular guy like Saverin. Going forward he may suffer from traces of sameness that three of big films- Never Let Me Go (2010), The Social Network (2010) and The Amazing Spiderman (2012) display but that's a curse of possessing the star like quality.
THE deal with superheroes is that they need to suffer their gift for us to like them. It's only with Superman who is somehow excused from this notion but if The Hulk or Batman were to stop intellectualizing their existence we won't take them seriously enough. Being normal with being amazing is something that has happened only with the recent Iron Man (2008) and The Amazing Spiderman. This Spidey parks himself and plays a game on his cellphone while on a stakeout, now isn't that what a superhero should do?
Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
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