From time to time a really terrific film comes along, whose characters present an important message through an exciting story. Audiences remember those films.
Apparently Colombia and Sony are hoping our memories don’t span more than a decade. Just 10 years after the release of “Spider-Man” (Columbia) they released “The Amazing Spider-Man” (Colombia) — same characters, same premise, same major plot points… different villain.
The original “Spider-Man” film was terrific, and “The Amazing Spider-Man” is also great. The acting is nuanced, the story is entertaining, the effects are spectacular — but the remake came too soon.
It is impossible to watch “The Amazing Spider-Man” without remembering how the first film presented the same issue, relationship or character trait.
That said, “The Amazing Spider-Man” is an interesting take. It does plenty of things better than the original — portraying high school romance and adolescent irresponsibility, spectacular special effects that not only include watching Spider-Man leap from building to building, but also flying through the air from Spider-Man’s perspective.
The characters at the heart of the Spider-Man comic, Peter Parker, played by Andrew Garfield, and in this version of the film, Gwen Stacey — instead of Mary Jane — played by Emma Stone, are in high school. The film lets the leads be high school students.
This is what a typical high school student would do if he suddenly gained these superpowers. The best scenes involved Garfield, as Parker, interacting with Stone, as Stacey, in a way that feels authentic.
Garfield in particular does a wonderful job being an anti-superhero. He uses his powers to torment a bully, shows off for his girlfriend and eventually discovers why he should be a hero. He is more selfish than selfless for most of the film — which pulls the audience in more deeply.
The film comes up a bit short in terms of a clear moral message. There are several attempts — particularly since the “Spider-Man” quote “With great power comes great responsibility” has been a mantra since 2002 — but nothing sticks.
A scientific discovery is hidden from the general public for fear of immoral use. This is the heart of the battle with the villain — a mild-mannered scientist, Dr. Curt Connors, played by Rhys Ifans. Dr. Connors is taken over by his scientific discovery and turned into a lizard that is not mild-mannered at all.
The message here is the priority of human life and wellbeing over scientific discovery. The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this issue saying, “Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits” (2293).
The limits of scientific inquiry, particularly when such discoveries could be used to harm or improve lives, requires serious consideration. “The Amazing Spider-Man” presents the problem, but does not explore it.
“The Amazing Spider-man” is a great film, with more than a handful of wonderful vignette-like scenes. It felt like a more authentic take on the Spider-Man series — a little less superhero and a little more amateur. In 10 more years, it could have been “amazing,” but at least for this critic, it was a little too soon to move on.
Media critic Rebecca Bostic is a regular contributor to The Catholic Sun. Comments are welcome. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.