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Monday, March 10, 2014

Movie Review - The Amazing Spiderman

Summer may be over, but the memory of great superhero movies still linger in the mind—even though I’m far from being a kid. Recently, my son chastised me for not agreeing that the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, is the greatest movie ever made. Batman may be cool, but I’m going to stick with The Amazing Spiderman as a much better superhero flick. I like Spiderman as a character and find him to be a more agreeable masked vigilante than the caped crusader of Gotham. He isn’t dark and demonic and besides, he can fly (not float) through the streets of New York City and has a really nifty suit—much better than Superman, in my opinion.

I especially liked this characterization of the Marvel hero, played by Andrew Garfield of The Social Network fame—a very talented actor who sizzles on screen. I liked the Tobey Maguire versions, but this rendition was different and much more memorable. It helped that Garfield’s love interest is Emma Stone, one of my favorite young actresses. The night of their romantic interlude is very well done, combining tenderness and passion with impending doom lurking in the background. Garfield does an amazing job with this scene, relaying a boyish innocence with masculine assuredness. I believe we will be seeing a lot more of this actor in the coming years.

Likewise, Stone is fabulous as Gwen Stacey, who is smart, funny, adorable, and clues in quickly to Spider-man’s true identity, making her very believable. Remember those old Superman movies where it took Lois Lane the longest time to figure out that Clark Kent looked exactly like Superman, sans the black glasses? For a sharp news reporter, she was certainly lacking in the common sense department. Not so with this Gwen Stacey.

Besides all of the fun action and tender romance, this story of Peter Parker discovering his true identity and calling in life is another one of those Christ-like tales that intrigue me. My children roll their eyes when I relay all the spiritual elements I see in Hollywood films, thinking I read God and Jesus into everything. Well, the Bible does say that He holds everything together by His powerful word! (Hebrews 1:3). And so as I watched this film, I immediately thought of David, the young shepherd boy who was tucked away into obscurity tending his sheep, and then is suddenly anointed King of Israel, destined to fight the evil Goliath using God’s supernatural power. No one can convince me the Bible isn’t the blueprint for all of these superhero stories, which explains why they garner such interest and intrigue, generation after generation. God is the originator of everything—even exciting, superhero action stories.

What is special about this movie is the plot and how the story fills in some holes regarding Spiderman’s evolution from a young, teenage boy who is nothing other than a nerd suffering at the hands of tough, school-yard bullies, to the savior of the world. We witness Peter haphazardly learning about his father’s discoveries in the area of genetic modification, along with his connection with Oscorp, a highly sophisticated pharmaceutical and research laboratory led by Dr. Curtis Conner, one of his father’s old colleagues. Intrigued, Peter poses as an intern and sneaks into Oscorp, where he is accidentally bitten by a genetically-modified spider.

The fun begins when Peter heads home and discovers an amazing, super-human strength and agility that defy logic. The filmmakers do a very good job of combining jaw-dropping special effects, along with humor woven into the dramatic moments. We learn about the genesis of the unusual spandex suit (an amusing scene) and his reasoning for fighting crime. It didn’t start out for altruistic reasons, as I originally thought. Instead, it was just plain ole guilt over his Uncle Ben’s murder that propelled Peter to use his newfound strength to hunt down the criminal. As a result, the city of New York ends up with a few less bad guys roaming the streets, which doesn’t please the police department in the least. Captain George Stacy (Denis Leary), who happens to be Gwen’s father, issues a department-wide manhunt for this masked man who flies around the city at night rounding up murders and thieves.

** Spoiler Alert **

Peter finally meets up with Dr. Conner at his home and learns of Oscorp’s mission to use cross-species genetics to re-grow lost limbs. Missing his own right arm has made Dr. Conner extremely motivated to complete the research, but pressure from his superior threatens the fulfillment of these plans. In desperation, the well-meaning Dr. Conner tests his limb-growing research on himself, and mayhem ensues. He morphs into a horrible, destructive monster, with Spiderman becoming his number one target. The story propels into high gear, as Peter is forced to turn away from avenging his uncle’s death and concentrate solely on saving the people of New York—especially Gwen, with whom he has fallen in love.

The final showdown with Dr. Conner is spectacular and exciting, as with any superhero movie. Gwen is rescued from what would normally be certain death, but her father, Captain Stacey, sacrifices himself and is mortally wounded. In his dying breath, he has Peter promise to stay away from Gwen forever—ugh!  My heart sunk when Peter/Spiderman agreed. Why can’t our superheroes be with the women they love? Why must they be lonely and mysterious, hidden away and unapproachable?

The spiritual side of me would explain something about sin separating man from God until Jesus, the ultimate savior came, or something along those lines that would bring another roll of the eyes from my sweet kids. But then again, maybe elusive heroes simply make a story more interesting and compelling, because we, the viewer, want the opportunity to get behind the mask and see who the real man is—to see what makes his heart tick. Again, the spiritual side of me would say the real man is Jesus and His heart is driven with love for all mankind. Another roll of the eyes. 

Maybe elusive superheroes make for big, lucrative, blockbuster movie sequels that make everyone happy, including me. It is no surprise that The Amazing Spiderman 2 is being scripted at this very moment, with a tentative release date of 2014. 

Now that should bring a smile.

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