Friday, August 17, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man (Rhoades)

“The Amazing Spider-Man”
Gets a Big Reboot

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

re·boot  (rēˈboot) verb. To turn (a computer or operating system) off and then on again; restart.
That’s the technical definition of reboot. But in the comic book world it means starting a series over again, a retelling. At Marvel Comics, we did it all the time. A cagey way to sell fanboys the same story (albeit with a few tweaks) over and over again.
What Shakespeare called “a twice-told tale.”
So now the movies – especially movies based on comic book characters –have learned the trick. After three Spider-Man films starring Tobey Maguire, Columbia Pictures is rebooting the series, retelling the story, this time around with Andrew Garfield as the ol’ webslinger.
Will you buy a ticket to see this same story over again? You bet.
We love our iconic superheroes … and like a tribe of Neanderthals hulking around a campfire we retell our legends over and over and over.
We used to call such movies “remakes.”
“The Amazing Spider-Man” swung into the Carper Theater at the Tropic Cinema this week in eye-popping 3D.
Directed by Marc Webb (Sam Raimi did the last three), we again get the story of high school nerd Peter Parker getting bit by a spider and developing super abilities.
Yes, it still puts forth that memorable mantra from Stan Lee: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
While the plot is familiar, this time there’s more emphasis on Peter trying to discover the truth behind his missing parents while finding himself in the process. Coming across a briefcase that belonged to his father, he’s led to Richard Parker’s former research partner – a guy who turns out to be the arch villain known as The Lizard.
Andrew Garfield (you saw him in “The Social Network”) was tapped to play Peter Parker and his alter ego Spider-Man. Although born in Los Angeles, Garfield was raised in England. The acting bug (not a spider) bit him at 16. His early prowess as a gymnast and swimmer gave him the wiry physicality for the Spider-Man role. The way he moved while eating a cheeseburger is what sold director Marc Webb on him.
“I’ve loved these comics, I’ve loved the movies, I’ve loved the cartoon series,” says Andrew. “This character has meant so much to me since I was two years old. So it’s very surreal to be stepping into the symbol.”
He looks the part, the kid the comic book described as a “professional wallflower.”
Hollywood It Girl Emma Stone (“The Help”) goes blonde as Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s first love. Stone describes her as “more sassy and sarcastic” than the comic book Gwen. “I hope fans will accept that,” she smiles cautiously.
Martin Sheen (TV’s “The West Wing”) and Sally Field (a two-time Oscar-winner for “Norma Rae” and “Places in the Heart”) take on the roles of Peter’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May. And a more-serious Denis Leary is cast as Gwen’s dad, a police captain hunting the illusive Spider-Man.
At Marvel Comics, we had an axiom that a superhero was only as good as the villain he faces. Rhys Ifans (“Anonymous,” “Exit Through the Gift Shop”) fulfills that role as Dr. Curt Connors a/k/a The Lizard.
“A compelling theme in this film is about loss and finding something again,” says Ifans. His character poses “a deep moral question, an ethical puzzle.” A conflicted baddie.
It’s a good script. Screenwriter James Platten Vanderbilt (yes, he’s one of those Vanderbilts) went to school in New Canaan, CT, near where I lived when I was publisher of Marvel Comics. Having grown up reading comics, Jamie went off to the University of Southern California, and stayed on working at a Starbucks until he made it as a Hollywood screenwriter. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is his sixth movie assignment. And now he’s busily scribbling a script for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.”
Stan Lee, who along with reclusive artist Steve Ditko, is credited with creating Spider-Man, has his obligatory cameo in “The Amazing Spider-Man.” It’s his best one yet, he claims.
“I guarantee the Spider-Man one is the funniest one you will ever see ... There’s a big battle going on with Spider-Man and the Lizard in the library. I’m the librarian. And I’m stamping books. And I have earphones on, and I’m listening to music. So while I’m stamping the books, this life and death battle is going on behind me, but I don’t know it, I don’t hear them. And it looks so funny and I look so dumb.”
So far the earlier three Spider-Man movies have grossed nearly $2.5 billion dollars. The worldwide box office on this reboot (in 3D) is expected to be equally impressive.
Not bad for a crudely drawn character who first appeared in a comic book that sold for 12-cents.
I donated my No. 1 “Amazing Spider-Man” comic book to the Savannah College of Art and Design as part of a reference library for its Sequential Art Department. One like it recently sold for $90,000 at auction. That’s pretty amazing! 

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