By Jay Sizemore
Spoiler alert: Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. I suppose, growing up as a lanky kid who was always picked on, I related to the trials and tribulations of Peter Parker more than those of the other heroes’ alter-egos. When I went through my comic book collecting phase, I read more Spider-Man comics than any other book. I still have most of them. So, knowing this, one must take my reaction to this film with a grain of salt.
In short, I loved it. Unlike the Sam Raimi versions, which felt too goofy and altered from the source material for my taste (although I still liked them), the Marc Webb incarnation truly feels like the comic book brought to life. The characters are vivid and have an authentic chemistry, and the dialogue always feels natural. The casting is perfect. This version of Spider-Man is the version that fans of the comic have dreamed of for years. In the first one we finally witnessed Peter Parker learning how to make his web shooters. In this one we see what happens when those get damaged in a fight, and we get to see the penultimate story arc of Spider-Man lore: the classic tragic battle between Spidey and the Green Goblin. It’s all marvellously executed.
There are a few hiccups here and there as the film does cover a lot of ground in its generous run-time. Those hiccups are where the tone of the film seems to teeter over the edge of campy fun into cheese territory, and moments when the foreshadowing seems a little overbearing or perhaps just unnecessary, as if the director thinks he has to set the audience up for what is coming to lessen the impact, rather than just letting the story progress naturally. But, for the most part, the tonal shifts of the film work to its advantage. The humorous side of Spider-Man is one of the most enjoyable elements of the character, and in this film we really get to see that side of him, especially in the opening sequence where he has to juggle several canisters of lethal uranium. Because of the timeline of the film, which can leap through months in a span of minutes, some character arc developments feel a little rushed, but if you think of it purely in terms of story, it works out. I was only really annoyed by the transition toward the end of the movie when Peter seems to move past yet another milestone in his life at an accelerated rate, and it is only implied a long time has passed. One could almost say it works as an experiment for how much screen time an audience needs to adjust to something that happens, rather than how much actual time it takes the character.
Three villains were introduced in this film, and one might think this is too many, as three villains in previous comic adaptations (see Batman and Robin) have proven to be fatal. But I thought a sufficient amount of screen time was devoted to each — especially with Rhino being introduced more as a teaser for a future sequel — so that no character felt under-developed. We got to understand each villain’s motivations and their origins. Jamie Foxx was wonderful as Electro, while there couldn’t have been a better choice than Dane DeHaan to play Harry Osbourne, and I loved the interesting take on his costume. He looked truly demented, though I wish someone could explain to me how his hereditary disease spread so much faster in him than in his father.
At any rate, this movie runs full steam ahead, and doesn’t give the audience much time to stop and catch their breath along the way. It was well worth the price of admission, and an excellent set-up for the future sequels, which promise to have Spider-Man facing off against the Sinister Six — something long time fans will know right away as epic, even though the translation to the screen is sure to be challenging. When three villains can make a movie feel inflated, what will six do? I guess we will find out in a couple of years. I for one can’t wait.
Jay Sizemore is a film critic for the magazine.