Written by David Holland
It’s been a while, but Spider-Man is back. Last time we saw him he was… dancing? But now we’ve got a new cast and a new villain, you know what that means: ORIGIN STORY, BABY! Peter Parker is an outcast high school student who is going to become Spider-Man – but how on Earth will it happen?
I’ve been famously ambivalent about origin stories, especially when we have seen them before relatively recently. That has not changed, but I liked “Amazing Spider-Man” better than I remembered once I got into it. This version adds the mystery of Peter’s parents into the mix, rather than inexplicably leaving them out entirely like in Sam Raimi’s version. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker is not so nerdy, but a bit more of a skater punk and a bit more moody. He emphasizes the mocking tone that Spider-Man is famous for in the comics when he fights his enemies.
I also like the choice to go with Gwen Stacy. She plays a huge role in Spider-Man lore and was almost entirely left out in both the Raimi version and the MCU version (at least to date). In most comic book stories, the hero’s “will-they-or-won’t-they” love interest wears an indestructible layer of plot armor, but, SPOILER, Spider-Man’s ultimate failure to protect Gwen (in the next movie) represents his greatest failure, a burden he must always carry. Gwen Stacy is a classmate, an intellectual match for Parker, and the tension of father’s job as police captain adds another layer of drama.
Finally, in one scene Spider-Man creates a literal web in the sewers and waits to detect vibrations in it like a real spider, which is pretty awesome. There’s no larger theme or motif to that. I just thought it was cool.
This is the sort of nitpicking that only comes from a teacher, but seriously where are the adults at Midtown Science? At one point, Flash is holding a kid upside down, smashing his face into his lunch while a mob of students chants gleefully. No adult intervenes during the confrontation between Peter and Flash in the gym or to stop the two kids in the hall who are rounding first base and rapidly approaching second in one of the early scenes. Having worked in a high school for some time now, I can say with confidence: this is not the sort of thing we are cool with.
If you love the Spider-Man origin story, here it is again. I think the decision of “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and other movies like “The Incredible Hulk” to jump into the action instead of retelling the origin, really helps move the story along. We spend a lot of time in this film looking at new versions of stuff we have seen before: touring Oscorp, superpowered climbing montages, high schoolers being high schoolers, and a mad scientist experimenting on himself and then slowly going crazy (except this time it’s Curt Connors instead of Norman Osborn). If I had to guess, I think Osborn would have had some advice Connors before he stabbed those dangerous chemicals into himself.
I liked it a lot more than I remembered, and I am looking forward to rewatching the second one again. If it’s been a while, give it another watch.