To take advantage of their flagship character’s popularity Marvel Comics used to put out four different titles featuring Spider-Man. There was one called Web of Spider-Man. Another was Amazing Spider-Man. There was also Spectacular Spider-Man and then there was one just called Spider-Man. In hindsight that was flawed marketing. Discerning readers could pick a comic that was amazing or spectacular or you could go for the one where they couldn’t bother to come up with an adjective. They might as well have called it Mediocre Spider-Man, unless their target audience was Taoists.
The bigshots in Hollywood are much savvier. To differentiate the new Spider-Man movie from the Tobey Maguire incarnation which was titled simply Spider-Man, they call the new movie, The Amazing Spider-Man. While I would go so far as to say The Amazing Spider-Man earns its adjective, if you’re going to force comparisons the 2002 version was better.
But still The Amazing Spider-Man put a wide smile on my face throughout its two hour plus running time. They tell an entertaining story while introducing likable characters with truly dynamic action scenes. It is strange they chose to recount how Spider-Man came to be when they told the same story ten years ago. When they made a sequel to the Hulk called The Incredible Hulk with an all different cast, they didn’t bother to retell how Bruce Banner became a green monster, they just showed glimpses of his beginnings during the opening credits and jumped into a fast paced adventure.
Spider-Man’s origin of an orpahaned nerd getting bitten by a radioactive spider and learning the hard way that with his new great powers come great responsibilities is archetypal enough so it never grows old, but Sam Raimi adapted it so perfectly in 2002, that the new version’s attempts to differentiate itself feels wrong (like making Peter Parker an emo skater rather than a case closed nerd and having a too young Sally Field play Aunt May). But once Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man the 2012 movie proves itself to be a worthy successor. The fight scenes and the aerial sequences of Spider-Man swinging surpass the previous movies. The filmmakers studied the comic books to got Spider-Man to move in a way that will get the funny book fans nostalgic.
I could nit-pick about certain plot points (like Spider-Man being too open about his secret identity and the fact that there was no J. Jonah Jameson), but the minds behind this movie remedied all the complaints I posted two months ago about The Avengers. They brought us an entertaining plot, gave us a villain we hadn’t seen before, and even cast Stan Lee in a clever cameo. I’m already excited for the inevitable sequel where they won’t be hampered by covering old ground.