The New Spider-Man
The trailer for Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man landed today, set for release on July 3, 2012. I’m not sure if I’m entirely sold, but it’s certainly intriguing. I’m curious to see how, to what extent, and why Peter’s parents are incorporated, not to mention the particulars of the central narrative (of which the trailer gives us very little), presumably involving Rhys Ifan’s villainous The Lizard. The creative team is clearly going for a darker tone than the previous franchise, in everything from color to acting style to atmosphere. But this is still a story about a nerd who transforms into a spider and becomes an overnight crime fighter; I’m not sure where the line of self-seriousness should be drawn, but there should be one. Gone are the giddy, pubescent shots of Tobey Maguire, the scenery-chewing camp of Willem Dafoe, the obligatory love triangle involving the not even half-way convincing James Franco and Kirsten Dunst. Gone also, curiously, are the impressive action-packed scenes (especially for 2002) of the original trailer. For a full-length trailer, this one gives us precious little (no real concept of the plot, no real dramatic line readings, etc.), aside from the kind of cool but not exactly breathtaking POV shots. In any case, if they pull this off with the same kind of somber earnestness which the trailer exudes, it will be a real feat and a memorable experience, I’m sure. I liked Spider-Man (2002) and Spider-Man 2 (2004) well enough (I never saw the 3rd one, of which I hear unanimously abysmal things). They invoke youthful, cartoonish fun without ever coming across as laughably silly. But my allegiance will always lie with the dark side, so we’ll see how this film fares on its own terms.
One thing is for sure: those responsible couldn’t have picked a better pair for their young protagonists. Andrew Garfield (soon to be 28) and Emma Stone (only 22 years-old until November) have much more to offer than their formidable good looks and charismatic screen presences; they have undeniable talent and a grounded intelligence, two strengths which separate the wheat from the chaff in the long run. Stone enjoyed a star-making turn last year in Easy A, giving it much more than the paper-thin material required. She’s also wonderful in the mostly unsuccessful Paper Man. Stone needs a project worthy of her skill; perhaps this is it. I’ve been meaning to write a post on Andrew Garfield for quite some time, but, as in the case with the one on Tom Hardy, these things tend to take up much more time and space than I plan for them to. Like Hardy, Garfield will soon be a star and a name known among the common moviegoer. These two have very different styles, but I am equally excited to watch them on screen for years to come.
In only a handful of films, Garfield has shown he can pretty much do it all. He’s stunning in Boy A (2007), bringing an unforced vulnerability and innocence which seem to come naturally with his face. In Lions for Lambs (2007), he channels the slacker intellectual we’ve all met with uncanny ease. His quick-talking, too-cool-for-school egotism is perfectly realized in a subplot that could have easily come across as stilted. He’s heartbreaking in Never Let Me Go (2010), as he is in The Social Network (2010). In the latter, he shows that he can portray everything from charm to intelligence to nerdiness with equal believability (something that I’m sure we will see in Spider-Man). But it’s in Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 (2009) that he really announces himself as a force to be reckoned with. He burns through the screen as a ready-made star for the first time, exuding an aspect of himself not previously revealed: masculine intensity. Okay, it’s not exactly There Will Be Blood or Bronson, but Garfield is a far cry from the wide-eyed wonderment of Boy A. In most of his roles, he utilizes an inherent boyhood quality; in Red Riding, he is a man. Our best actors have always balanced masculine fearlessness with vulnerability, cynicism with innocence (Brando in On the Waterfront being a prime example). With only a few major films, Garfield shows that he can do this in spades (again, I think it’s something that fits Peter Parker very well). I’d love to say more, but I’ll leave it at that. Garfield is a joy to watch and I can’t wait to see what he does with each subsequent role.
Next year, we’ll see Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man once again on the big screen. With talent like Tom Hardy, Christian Bale, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Andrew Garfield, and Emma Stone joining the surprisingly ripe dramatic field of the comic book world, it looks like we’re in for a treat.