I haven’t had to date in a while; it’s hard to imagine someone tolerating me for a day, much less a lifetime. This apprehension to start new relationships oddly translates to my nerd-tastes. Wary at first, I court the next issue of Revival or the next edition of Dungeons and Dragons, reminded constantly of the wounds that I’ve received from the past. The nerd-relationship that has left the most sting has undoubtedly been the Spider-Man films, especially in the Toby Maguire/Sam Raimi universe. This potential match promised warm feelings and cutting-edge cinematics, but instead showed me the equivalent of ordering the lobster at dinner and becoming increasingly drunk at a Chuck E. Cheese’s. (I’ve...had some interesting dates.)
So when the films were rebooted and recast, of course I was wary. I didn’t expect much from the first film, and in the words of Reddit forums, it went okay. So when the sequel was announced, and the subsequent marketing kicked in, I tried my absolute best to not be swept in the hype. Going in with low expectations on our next “date”, I was pleasantly surprised but also somewhat vindicated when it was over.
I understand on a personal level how emotional a Spider-Man story can be. Like many comics fans, and by extension fans of the '90's cartoon, I looked to Spiderman for any pointers on emotional strength: he was a nerd, social outcast, and all-around punching bag, so naturally he was one of us. That being said, was it just me, or was there an awful lot of crying in this film? If not, there was an unusual amount of screen time spent on people on the verge of crying. This angst-ridden personal life juxtaposed with the comical quips of our Web Crawler was very abrupt at times, which led to taking the audience out of the immersion. Be ready for an emotional roller coaster, because the previews paint something very different in tone.
This is not to say that the use of sadness was completely ineffective. In fact, it lent extremely well to Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man and the nuances of Peter Parker's personality. The panic and pain in his voice carries throughout the movie, and while at times seemed out of place, for the most part it was an effective character progression. The sadness in his voice in the last scene was almost palpable; he understands on a logical level how he represents the hope of his city, but the weight on his shoulders is unbearable at every moment. This is how Spider-Man should be portrayed: a purely sympathetic character, barely finding the strength to live another day, yet constantly earnest and witty.
Typically (or I should say, stereotypically) of a Spider-Man movie, some plot points were rushed and created without any real explanation, suffering from the introduction of characters and tidying of unnecessary emotional drama. A prime example of this is the revelation of why Richard and Mary Parker had to leave Peter with Uncle Ben and Aunt May in the first place; as a fan, I appreciate that they wanted to explain why Peter’s powers worked for him and not for others, but as someone of the general audience, this could have been used to focus on the other strengths of the movie. At times, I found myself wondering how Electro received a specialized suit that could dissipate at-will when he traveled through power lines, while other times I was wondering why the Rhino was a necessary plot. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy Paul Giamatti’s portrayal: it was extremely apparent that he had a great time filming his scenes, and the interaction between him and Spider-Man were a great blend of combat and tomfoolery.
If there is any reason to view this film (other than the fact that my childhood dreams are now showing in theatres!), it is the chemistry between the characters. It felt as if Peter Parker spent a lot less time in the suit, and I was okay with that; what the movie lacked in grandiose superheroics, it definitely made up in personal interactions. Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy contains the perfect blend of brains, innocence, and old-school moxie, and Stone and Garfield’s interactions make the film a wholly accessible and worthwhile experience. Through their flirtations, quips, and care for each other, the film sets up the audience for a memorable on-screen pair, and the only other on-screen interaction that comes close to this is Garfield and Sally Field, who plays an adorably updated and frazzled Aunt May.
Sony produced an early summer blockbuster, something people will undoubtedly see and generally enjoy: it won’t be the hit that The Avengers or Episode VII will be, but they’ve set up a story with a few loose ends and potential for more films. Although I did not have high expectations coming into the experience, I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed the film, but I don’t expect the re-watch value to be very high on my priority list. With rumors like The Sinister Six receiving the green light, I have high hopes for the series to gain steam, but in the end it was nice connecting with something that I have such fond memories of. So, in terms of dating, this film felt like seeing an ex and remembering why I fell for her in the first place. Like all exes though, I’m just trying not to get my hopes up for what direction they take next, and pray that we’re never in a situation where there’s alcohol, bad decisions, and a mechanical bull involved. Seriously, I’ve had some interesting dates.