Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Feminist Review: The Amazing Spiderman

**Spoiler Alert

Poor Tobey Maguire: it’s been barely ten years and already he’s been replaced by an inevitably younger and hipper (is that a word?) star, Andrew Garfield. It’s seems not that long ago that I was in high school, geeking out over how great the new Spiderman movie was (though admittedly, last time I saw that version, I was all, “Meh”); and perhaps I should also add that I do share some affinity for the earlier version because when my hair was longer and redder, I was told at least once a week that I looked like Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) from Spiderman—A fact that I’m not sure I always took as a compliment.

So what did I think of the new one and how did it compare to the old one? Since this is a feminist review, let’s start with Emma Stone’s character, Gwen, first. I liked her. Much more than the Kirsten Dunst character. Gwen is incredibly smart, ambitious, with a quirky sense of humor that creates a more likeable and human character. She also has a bit more spunk and plays a greater role in the rescue of New York City (which faces yet another evil mutant monster attack).

She was also a very self-aware character: I liked her self-confidence and her realizations about what having a superhero boyfriend would mean. The chemistry between the two characters was pretty good (except for the first kiss scene, which was about as cheesy as they come) and I liked the equality in their relationship; even though Spiderman can crawl on walls, his girlfriend doesn’t feel the need to take any crap, or let herself become a glorified, screaming backdrop to his adventures.

However, the film is no paragon of feminist filmmaking, the presence of female characters is still pretty negligible, since only Emma Stone and Sally Field (as the loving Aunt May), actually have any real lines and they never talk to each other (epic fail on the Bechdel test). Though I suppose that Emma Stone’s character still has more complexity and personality than Dunst’s tepid Mary Jane, so at least there is progress on that field.

Spiderman himself as a character was quirky and a bit twitchy, and the director (Marc Webb) really spent a lot of time on the development of the story. In fact, the first hour and a half of this two-hour movie was spent mostly on Parker discovering his past, gaining his “powers” and then a substantial time spent on his revenge seeking and the emotional effects of his Uncle’s death. The story development in this version was much more substantial, and I thought did a much better job of showcasing the guilt and anger that often comes from the loss of a close family member; in this way, the director did a great job in really bringing out Spiderman’s youth and some of the troubles of teen life, instead of catapulting him into a college-aged punk.

However, I have to say that the cheesy, quippy lines that Spiderman kept throwing out as he strung through the street of New York City, were unnecessary and more than a little annoying.


There was an unexpected moment that I did really enjoy when all of the crane operators in the city decided to help Spiderman by lowering various cranes and wrecking balls over the streets, to act as anchors for his spider web thing.  If often seems to me that superhero characters and action stars must always save the day alone, they don’t need any help; however this was a good example of everyone rising to help out and a nice nod to working men heroes and the bravery and courage that anyone can possess (though why the helicopter that was following him and cheering him on didn’t just offer him a ride, is a plot hole of monumental proportions).

Overall though, the movie was standard, superhero fare, enjoyable enough, but certainly not groundbreaking.

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