One industry insider of my acquaintance prognosticated that it is just too soon to begin another Spiderman series. He may well be right artistically, but the crowds at the multiplex outlets across the country (and the world for that matter) are willing to pay top dollar for Spiderman, and right now thank you.
Around the world and across the fruited plain, Spiderman fans plunked down a head-spinning $342 million to see the new incarnation. Even after spending $230 million on the making of the film, Stan Lee and the other producers stand to bank a fabulous sum. The PG-13, two hour 16 minute film was released to the public in 4,318 theaters in the U.S. alone.
This film, while repetitious and without any redeeming innovation that I noticed, works in several ways. Nearly every movie that I personally enjoy has a romantic side to it. At first I thought that The Amazing Emma Stone might be too old to play a high school girl. The awkward, tentative romantic beginnings between her and Andrew Garfield have her being noticeably more mature than her callow paramour. Bad casting I thought until I realized that girls are always well ahead of boys at that age. Then the casting became brilliant. Like in real life, if she wants you, you can kiss your heart goodbye because she is way ahead of you. It works as a romance.
It also has elements of classic horror films, like when Gwen (M.J. is given a new name, even though Peter Parker, Uncle Ben an Aunt Mary keep their names. Who knows why, maybe some focus group thing?) is trapped while the monster stalks her. Of course, for Peter Parker — well played by the excellent Andrew Garfield — it is a coming of age film. He must go from typically troubled teen to grown up all at once. Garfield recently played Facebook co-founder Edwardo Severin in “The Social Network.” Severin is now even more famous for fleeing U.S. taxes to muggy Singapore.
Martin Sheen and Sally Field take the roles of Uncle Ben and Aunt Mary, Peter Parker’s foster parents. Sheen is convincingly wise and protective, Field worn and haggard, both nicely played. Denis Leary is solid as Gwen’s policeman father.
A casting oddity has two players from the TV hit show “Royal Pains” in unrelated roles. Producer, actor, writer and director Campbell Scott has a brief appearance as Peter’s dad before his mysterious death. TV veteran Jill Flint has a tiny spot as a receptionist. I haven’t found out what is behind this coincidence.
Director Marc Webb (the wonderful indie film “500 Days of Summer”) puts in a few cool, unexpected and unnecessary elements. Thanks, Marc.
But all is not well. The writing counts as well as the good acting. It isn’t right to introduce characters and concepts and just let them slowly dissolve into nothingness. Irrfan Khan (from India) plays a mysterious, sinister, henchman for a moneyed person, unknown. The moneyed person pushes on the mad scientist for more and faster results in order to save the life of his patron. But when the mad science gets rolling, the plot doesn’t need him anymore, so he disappears. And from time to time, for no disclosed reason, cold blooded lizards pop up in good numbers in the much too chilly sewers of New York.
These and other avoidable flaws restrict this genuine blockbuster to a slightly above average three and a half saw blades. Strict maybe, but who cares? This is Spiderman, he is back and the public is eating him up. In my viewer role, I liked it more than the award of three and a half saw blades might suggest. Emma Stone can make a whole scene work with just the upturn of her lips.