Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Flash and JJJ


Have you ever wondered why some superheroes endure despite being totally uncool? Captain America is a character that premiered in the 1940s, over 70 years ago, and he's a character that looks like he's from the the 40s. He is exactly as hokey as everything that came out back then. Hawkeye is another good example of a character that shoots a bow and arrow in a world where Tony Stark has a billion lasers shooting out of his hands. But these characters have stuck around because there's ideas behind them. Hawkeye was raised and subsequently orphaned by an alcoholic father before running away and training so much with a bow and arrow and with so much discipline that he became a goddamn superhero. Despite his name, Captain America stands for ideals over blind loyalty. These are the reasons that these superheroes endure in our culture -- It's not because bows are awesome (they are not) or that wearing the American flag as a suit is cool (it is not.)

This is of course open for interpretation. Maybe you look at Iron Man and think that he personifies the cocky playboy type. Or maybe you see someone struggling with addiction while attempting to maintain outward appearances. There is no answer that is fully right or wrong, but there are some answers that are righter than others. And that's why a Spider-Man movie without Flash Thompson and J Jonah Jameson is not really a Spider-Man movie, but more like, Spider-Themed-Guy.

Spider-Man, or more appropriately, Peter Parker, is a character defined by his relationships with his supporting cast. He is a superhero determined by the aunt that takes care of him, the uncle who died, the friends who are eternally patient with him. He represents heroism in the face of great personal adversity. It is one thing to want to be a hero when you think it might make you popular or get you laid; It is quite another when you know that doing so with consistently disappoint the ones you love and leave you alone and hated. And Peter Parker has enough problems as it is, he has two bullies who make his life miserable, often regardless of which persona he's using. I mean, the dude is not starving in Africa or anything, but his life certainly isn't any great thing. Regardless of the personal stress he has, or how much it may mess up his personal life, Spider-Man always puts on the red suit.

I'm blaming the script and not Andrew Garfield when I say that the Spider-Man seen in these rebooted movies is not very good at personifying this. The Spider-Man in the Amazing Spider-Man movies is this tall, good-looking guy who skateboards and seems to be cool and affable, without any sense of responsibility at all. Maguire's Peter Parker is genuinely very fucking concerned when his aunt is bankrupt. Garfield doesn't seem too worried about it. "Hey Aunt May, I could get a full-time job while going to school so you, being elderly as shit, won't have to learn a brand new skill at 900 years old."

Aunt May is barely a presence in this movie, as is Uncle Ben, who is mentioned only in passing and without any reference to being responsible for anything or attempting to be heroic. The main  forces in Peter Parker's life keeping him down -- the bully at school, the ruthless boss / relentless antagonizing PR nightmare -- don't even make an appearance in this movie. Peter Parker is handsome and cool, life is worry-free and grand.
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