Are there Spider-Man fans like me? As in young 20-somethings who were introduced to the character through the Sam Raimi films? Fans who look at those first two films in particular as their induction into film fandom in general? Their Back to the Future? Their Star Wars? I hope so, because I do hold the 2002 and 2004 films in high regard, albeit it is nostalgia driven, but I can’t deny the effect they had on me. I remember it very well is the thing: going back 15 years ago I was in the 3rd grade and my mom took me and my best friend at the time to one of the first opening weekend shows, probably that Friday after school. It was the movie to see, and while I can’t remember anything specific about the notion, it was kind of just implied that superheroes were for boys. Here I was, a shy little girl with a boy’s haircut covering her ears every time Green Goblin came on, terrified at the scene where he’s “turned”. But then there were those moments where Spider-Man was web-slinging across New York City and I believed it.
All of it, crappy CGI and all the cheese. It was so impressive to me and I knew that it was a movie that I had to study. Not just the material it was based on (which I did and frankly, it was nice to watch a MCU movie for once where I know who the hell everyone is, thank you Spider-Man Encyclopedia) but how it was made. It was one of those movies that I coveted the DVD of, watching all the outtakes, the behind the scenes, the cast interviews, the effects, the costumes, even the audio commentary; I ingested this. To say it didn’t affect how I watched movies would be a bold faced lie.
And the thing is, this was the beginning of a massive era. We were a few years into the “Silver Age” of the comic book movie boom, but Spider–Man 2002 was the catalyst for the next 15 years of blockbuster movies. I don’t know if people really realize this now the influence of those movies, it’s hard when the past decade and a half has been saturated with the entire spectrum of quality films. When the Spider-Man style was edging out by 2007, we had Christopher Nolan and the brand new MCU to come mix up the formula. I am honestly quite grateful to have been able to grow up and mature with the subgenre alongside of it; this was arguably one of the best times to be a kid growing up with superheroes.
So here I am, looking back as a movie fan, a comic book fan, a Spidey fan, and a writer, back to when I was a kid and what Spider-Man meant to me as opposed to what it means now. Spider-Man the Film Character has been through the redundancy ringer, basically rebooting every 5 years. My how time has changed.
15 years ag0, I was just an elementary kid, in awe of the movie I had just seen and need to learn absolutely everything about Spider-Man.
10 years ago I threw my hands up in frustration when it turned out the Sandman had killed Uncle Ben and had to admit that this new Spider-Man movie really wanged chung.
5 years ago I walked out of Amazing Spider-Man, baffled as to why I had just spent money on a movie I saw 10 years ago and why did we even watch this when The Avengers is still in theaters–what’s that? There’s a showing in an hour? Fuck yeah we’re going.
And we come to now. What does the Jon Watts/Tom Holland version of Spider-Man do differently? Complete honesty: I can’t say this movie made me giddy with childlike awe that the first Avengers movie invoked in me, a feeling I thought was nigh impossible for me as an adult. But man, it was so great to go get to have fun watching another Spider-Man movie again. It was so refreshing to see a character constantly failing while trying to always do the right thing*. That’s the takeaway from Spider-Man 2, a movie we’ll likely never see again in this genre, that just because you have superpowers doesn’t mean you aren’t going to mess everything up. This Peter Parker has to take a lot of hits and make a lot of mistakes just to do what he believes is right. But he’s funny, he’s humble, he’s true to his hometown, he’s cares about his friends and family even if he can’t let them in (which he does because he’s also a teenager who makes dumb teenager mistakes).
The component of Peter’s wit here really displays the importance of it and why fans complain that Maguire!Spidey wasn’t “quippy” enough: it’s a facade to hide how terrified he actually is. There’s a moment late in the film where Peter is confronted and no amount of wit or humor can get him out of this first on a verbal level and then on a physical level. He’s shooken and he’s terrified and in his weakest moment he’s in tears over his inability to save himself. After all he is just a kid and he is still figuring himself out as an individual and as a superhero. Making him this age, where he can barely fucking drive a car, it brings a new viewpoint to the adults club that liters the MCU. But it’s important to see Peter’s vulnerability and insecurities, those are the traits that people connect to the most. It’s the constant state of exhaustion he has that resonated with me as a kid.
I’m going to see it again tomorrow, because I haven’t gotten to enjoy Spider-Man as a movie character in so long and I had so much fun watching it. It’s not cinematic like the Raimi films; his camera work alone help define how to bring a comic book character to life and here there’s not much to be said about the cinematography it’s pretty standard for the Marvel films, but the character work here is absolutely solid. This is what I keep coming back for, even if it’s taken a few tries to get it back on track, and I hope this is the Spider-Man film everyone can agree on.
Don’t want to go too much into the movie but I’ll post more specific random thoughts down below. Although…Deadpool had the funnier Ferris Bueller riff, sorry to ruin that for everyone.
Next up is Infinity Wars for Holland!Spidey and hopefully he stays around for as long as possible. I freaking adore him.
*Yeah, yeah Wonder Woman too, shut up. Let’s agree it’s been a terrific year for comic book movies? (It’s true).