Some time back, I reviewed Spider-Man, the Sam Raimi helmed adaptations of the comics. Since then, the movie series has been rebooted, turning the new movie, The Amazing Spider-Man into an adaptation and a reboot at the same time.
The history of Spider-Man was covered in the previous review, but a brief recap of Amazing Fantasy #15 wouldn’t hurt. Nebbish, nerdy Peter Parker, a high school student, was bitten by a radioactive spider during a field trip. The venom interacted with Peter’s blood, giving him the proportional strength and agility of a spider and a preternatural sense for pending danger. As he learns how to handle his powers, he uses his knowledge and skills to create web-shooters; wrist-mounted devices that shoot out artificial webs. Peter then patrols the streets of New York as the Amazing Spider-Man.
For the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, the writers returned to the classic stories instead of using Marvel’s Ultimate universe. The difference, beyond the source of Spider-Man’s powers*, is the love interest. The Raimi film used Mary Jane Watson, who, prior to One More Day, was Peter’s wife in the main line comic. However, early Spider-Man stories had Peter paired with Gwen Stacy, a fellow geek. The new movie explores their relationship, especially in light of the job Gwen’s father has, a police captain looking for the new spider-themed vigilante terrorizing New York. And, as in the comics, Spider-Man’s foe is someone that Peter has gotten close to; this time, the classic villain, The Lizard who is Gwen and Peter’s mentor, Dr. Curt Connors.
As mentioned previously in Lost in Translation, superhero comics tend to intertwine, making it hard to adapt everything the character has been involved in. Thus, the concept of various related-but-separate universes, such as the DC Animated Dini-verse and the Marvel Cinematic Universe of The Avengers. While Marvel Studios was busy with The Avengers Initiative, it had to work with Sony, owner of Columbia Pictures, to get the Daily Bugle into a shot in The Avengers**. Right now, Sony has the rights to Spider-Man and related characters, so cameos by other characters other than Ghost Rider is unlikely.***
The Amazing Spider-Man/ holds up on its own as a movie, without needing prior knowledge. All the characters are introduced, Spidey’s origin is shown again. This time around, the writers remembered that Spider-Man doesn’t just fight; he talks at his opponents. The comic version of Spider-Man always maintained snappy patter, in part to psych himself up and in part to keep his opponents off-balance. The rebooted version also had the patter, the insults, the taunts. The nature of the threat kept with the theme of runaway science that appeared in the comic; the Lizard looked to change the residents of the city into his subjects.
The movie does represent the core of Spider-Man well; the responsibility, the dangers of misusing science and radiation, and the heart of the character. Allowing the movie to create a new cinematic Spider-verse, separate from the prior Raimi films and from the Avengers-verse, allowed the filmmakers to explore what placing the duties of a superhero does to a teen.
Next week, the October adaptational news round out.
* Genetically altered spider versus radioactive spider. Both reflect the fears of the era the comics were created in.
** Ultimately, the shot wasn’t used.
*** Ironically, Spider-Man made guest appearances in every new Marvel title to establish that the book belonged to the overall universe and to bring attention to the title.