Toby Maguire?" And, "why do they have to keep telling the Origin Story again?"
Just write a new story already, there's only 50 years of comic books to draw
from. (Spidey first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15, August
1962). Oh, and TV shows, and newspaper comics, BBC radio, and fan films, and a
random bit from, yes, Turkey. Here's the lineup from Wikipedia: "Spider-Man has
been adapted to TV many times, as a short-lived live-action television series, a Japanese
tokusatsu series, and several animated cartoon series. There were also the "Spidey Super
Stories" segments on the PBS educational series The Electric Company, which featured a Spider-Man (played by Danny Seagren) who did not speak out loud but instead used only word
I missed most of this. I grew up comics-impaired. My parents listened to the
radio for the "screamin' preachers" and the news. I read books, mostly
containing sagas about girls and horses. I did watch George Reeves' Superman,
(my cousins watched Batman, because they got that channel),Star Trek, read
faerie tales, and newspaper comics. That's where I think I first saw the
web-slinger. Or maybe it was on TV; but we only got one channel of NBC until I
was in high school, then we got that and a couple of channels of snow and
blizzard (if you stuck the tin foil on the antenna just right, you'd get
slightly lighter snow). As an adult, on the heels of movie releases, I caught up
on Batman, and X-Men and a few other random comics that caught my eye. Spidey is
kind of hard to miss, being Marvel's flagship character.
In 2002, Spidey hit the big screen, played by Toby Maguire. We loved it. We
loved part 2, and I mostly forget part 3, but I know I saw it.
Enter the Reboot.
WHAT?!?!?! Where the bleep is Toby Maguire?!?!?! And why are we retelling the
Origin Tale again? A friend once observed, of my own writing, that I had to keep
track of what was going on and not get on the Road to Inconsistencyville.
Oh, you mean like Marvel. Every time you turn around there's a new version of
the same superhero or team. A new origin story, a new reboot for this decade's
generation. There are so many storylines and versions of, say, Spiderman, that
there is no definitive story. He's become, actually, rather like King Arthur, or
the original Thor (of Norse Myth), an archetype of the collective unconcious, a
collection of tales with meaning for a very broad range of people in all times
and places. He is not at all like a character in a novel, or series of novels,
where all roads lead to Consistencyville.
Enter the Reboot.
A redhaired woman (only slightly older than Spidey himself, and somewhat
younger than Sally Field's Aunt May) walks into a theater... I opted for the
9:30 2D show, because I didn't want to wait, yawning, for an hour for the 3D
show. I work at night, so there are limited options for when to see films. I
sat, I waited... then a couple walked in pushing a baby stroller.
%*&^%*&^%!?!?!?!?! WHAT PART OF 9PM SHOWING OF SPIDERMAN DO YOU NOT
UNDERSTAND!?!?!? Really, this should be illegal. There should be baby-free zones
in theaters, either specific theaters, or specific times; like after 9, you need
to be old enough to understand that if you shriek, talk, burble or blather, I
will drop you off a cliff. If you have enough money to see a movie, you have
enough for a babysitter. Or you can shanghai a relative or friend, or trade
(cooking, laundry, shopping, driving, mowing) for sitting duties. I did not dish
out the Big Bucks to hear your kid's sound effects in my movie. And seriously,
on the kid's side of things; the kid may be sleeping now, the kid may not
actually watch the movie, but he/she will hear it, and that is way too scary for
anyone still in diapers. I walked out, smiled at the nice young men in charge in
the lobby and gave my ticket back, with the assurance I'd be back soon. I got as
far as the parking lot, and realized I'd be doing stuff like this blog the next
day, and doing battle with the privet hedge from hell, and scooping poop, and
Gawdknows what else, and i'd better just suck it up and go see the 10:30 3D. the
nice young men in the theater lobby were amused, I got a ticket, and sat
Andrew Garfield (Spidey) turns out to be nearly 30, which puts him in that
interesting place spoofed so well by the Scream sendup Scary Movie, in which
30-somethings play teenagers. I would never have guessed, I thought he was,
like, 18. Oh well, once you reach a certain point, they all look alike; 18, 27,
34... all the same to me. He's a Jewish-American-Brit who... oh, and a Whovian
(appeared in several Dr. Who episodes)... was a gymnast and swimmer (hence the
chops to play the gymnastic web-slinger), and has already been nominated for a
Golden Globe and a Tony.
The Amazing Spiderman starts with awe-inspiring visuals and keeps going. You
sort of know when it's CG, but only because you know no stunt guy could do
Or did he?
There's a lot of nifty Spidey-cam viewpoint as he's diving through the aerial
spaces of NY. There's stuff you can't do in the comics, because comics don't
move. There's stuff that works terrifically in 3D, without being really in your
face or obvious. There are background characters that are absolutely believable.
And I never realized till I read the credits that Martin Sheen and Sally Field
were Uncle Ben and Aunt May. They were that good.
This artist has seen just enough of the comics to be aware that each Marvel
character has a distinct visual style, a distinct way of moving, distinct poses
captured in comic panels. Spidey may be one of the most unique. Even the
web-impaired will note that the film captures these iconic moments as he swings
through the canyons of New York. And the end shot is the best comic book cover
ever, summing up the character on one terrific image. Andrew Garfield is nothing
like Garfield the cat... sort of the opposite actually; lean, lithe, wiry, a
gaunt gangly teenager Spidey in not-Spandex, a crouching spider chasing a hidden
mutant dragon through a fantasy framework of tunnels and skyscrapers and
bridges. In high school halls he's twitchy, quirky, unsure of himself. My first
thought about Andrew was "he's too pretty"... "he lacks the quirky, plain (but
appealing) quality of Toby Maguire". Then he started moving, talking, slouching,
hiding in his hoodie, shifting his feet trying to make words come out of his
mouth when confronted by The Girl.
Perfect. The post-bitten by genetically altered spider moment when he's
crashed on a subway seat and awakened by a joker who's balanced a cold bottle of
beer on his forehead... let's just say a drop of water wreaks havoc... through
which Peter keeps being wildly apologetic... while wreaking more havoc...
because he doesn't yet realize who he is.
Yes, we cover the ground of the robber, Uncle Ben's demise, and Peter
wrestling with his responsibilities. But it's done from a fresh viewpoint, and
while not brushed off, we don't dwell on a story point we already know. We also
have a nod to the wrestling scene in the first Spidey film, though this Spidey
doesn't take a detour through lucha libre land. There is a funny bit where
Spidey draws his inspiration for the mask from a lucha libre wrestling poster. I
wonder how many of them were inspired by Spiderman? Certainly the variety of
winter Olympics spandexes containing spiderweb designs were inspired by
Which leads us to the scene in the film where Peter Parker is perusing the
web (yes, the web) searching for costuming... "Spandex... spandex... it's all
spandex!" I guess teen boys aren't too keen on spandex. What he ultimately comes
up with is the latest in a long line of superhero costuming: a sort of highly
textured stretchy Not-Spandex that looks like it might actually survive an
encounter with the Villain From Hell, and still shows off those muscles. The
original point of the Spandex Superhero, as I heard it, was that drawing anatomy
is easier than drawing the endless array of wrinkles in clothing. It also shows
off your superheroe's superness. Hence everyone in comics looking like they are
dressed for snorkelling in the Bahamas. (The diveskin is a full suit of spandex
which is very useful for snorkellers and kayakers who do not want to keep
applying sunscreen to wet skin every five minutes. I do not look as cool as
Spidey in mine).
The films necessarily are different from the comics in their continuity... or
again, I say, what continuity? The films must speak to not only the comics-savy
but to the comics impaired who just want to see a great flick. (By the way, did
you know you couldn't use the word flick in comics? the L and the I are too
close together and might form another word.) A bit of diversion here is NYCP
Detective Captain George Stacy, involved in a fight with the Lizard of Doom in
this film, he actually dies in a fight with Doc Oc in the comics. And I kept
going, "where's Mary Jane?" Seems Gwen Stacy is an early Peter Parker
girlfriend. Seems the reason we don't hear more of her is because heroes can't
always save the day: In issue #121 (June 1973), the Green Goblin throws Gwen
Stacy from a tower of either theBrooklyn Bridge (as depicted in the art) or the
George Washington Bridge (as given in the text). She dies during Spider-Man's
rescue attempt; a note on the letters page of issue #125 states: "It saddens us
to say that the whiplash effect she underwent when Spidey's webbing stopped her
so suddenly was, in fact, what killed her." An interesting nod to reality,
after all those moments when Aunt May is hanging by her cane from a ledge
(Spiderman 2, the film), or Peter Parker falls from the top of a 20 story
building (same film)(it's OK, he bounced off several clotheslines and one car
In the history of the comic, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko get credit. It is also
noted that Spiderman owes his existence to an army of writers and artists. In
the end, he is quite different from a character in one writer's novel, or one
director's film. Because he is shaped by so many, he becomes an archetype, a
character we all recognize some part of in ourselves. Our most iconic heroes are
archetypes: Superman is the Golden Hero, the Skygod, the Cowboy in the White
Hat, the Knight on the White Horse... Batman is the Dark Hero, Bagheera the cat
who walks by himself, the one striding the fine line between light and shadow,
the Hero who is always one misstep away from becoming the Villain... Spiderman
is the Trickster Hero (there is actually an ancient trickster hero in Plains,
Southwestern and Western myth called Iktomi the Spiderman, his costuming,
though, runs to buckskins and racoon). The Trickster can be dark; see Batman's
nemesis Joker, or positive; in many Native American myths Raven is a Creator's
helper, see also: Zorro (the Fox) and Robin Hood (in Norse lands, the word for
raven sounds much like robin). Spidey wears a hoodie in this film... Spidey
Hood, Spidey in the hood, Spidey in da' Hood.
About that ancient Spiderman: from
Iktomi comes to us from the Plains, Southwestern and Western Native American
groups. Iktomi has sider-like characteristics and features. From Lakota legend,
Iktomi is "firstborn son of Inyan, the Rock, who was originally named Ksa. He
was born full grown from an egg and was the size of an ordinary human. He has a
big round body like a spider, with slender arms and legs, and powerful hands and
feet. He dresses in clothes made of bucksin and racoon." As a trickster, Iktomi
occupies the audiences of the Santee Dakota and other Dakots groups, and the
Arapaho know the Spider trickster as Nihansan. The Spider figure has many roles,
and even changes gender in tales throughout different cultures. The Navajo have
Spider Man and Spider Woman, Holy People who taught humans how to weave. They
also established the four warnings of death. The Spider appears as creator to
the Pima and Sia Pueblo Indians, and as a heplful elderly woman to the Pueblo.
The White Mountain Apache know Black Spider Woman, and the Spider Man of Taos is
a well-known and respected good medicine man. In Zitkala-Sa's tale, Iktomi meets
Coyote in her retelling of a Sioux legend. The Spider character also encounters
Coyote in another tale from the Plateau tribe known as the Coeur d'Alene. In
this tale "Spider Women are again beneficial beings; they live in the sky and
help Coyote's son drop back to earth in a box."
From Wiki's page on Spidey: A 1965 Esquire poll of college campuses
found that college students ranked Spider-Man and fellow Marvel hero the Hulk
alongside Bob Dylan and Che Guevara as their favorite revolutionary icons. One
interviewee selected Spider-Man because he was "beset by woes, money problems,
and the question of existence. In short, he is one of us."
This Spidey has the eternal Spiderman issues we can relate to. This film
gives us a fresh view of those issues, a different angle on the problems that
Toby Maguire so elegantly evoked. Andrew Garfield is a younger, geekier, even
more gymnastic, awkward, incredibly graceful Spidey. I can't wait for more.
Near the end, there is a moment in a classroom when a teacher says there is
only one plot in fiction: "who am I?" This film explores that... amazingly.
Oh... and then there's SpiderDan. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Goodwin) On November 21,
1980, Dan Goodwin witnessed the MGMGrand fire in Paradise, Nevada United States,
including the inability of the Clark County Fire Department and the supporting
fire departments to rescue scores of hotel guests trapped inside. His ideas
for rescue rejected by the fire depts, he donned a Spidey suit and scaled some
buildings, just to prove a point. You can learn more by googling Dan Goodwin, or
checking this: http://www.skyscraperdefense.com/building_climbs.html