So, every Spider-Man boils down to Uncle Ben and Auntie May. How well do they represent their age group? Are they warm and convincing or a tad American-Evangelist-country-singer. Well, old Jack here – at Steve’s insistence, what with a meta-verse mash-up possibly happening at the cinema – took a stab at The Amazing Spider-Man (2021), and…
And… they’re just fine. Martin Sheen is the fated Uncle Ben. He shed President Bartlett in a moment and is as warm, funny and nearly-stern-but-ooh-there’s-a-pretty-girl sweet as any of us. As ever, Ben exits early in a guilt-birthing moment of wretchedness for the youthful hero, leaving Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker in the care of the other oldster, Aunty May – Sally Field in full domestic form whilst being impressively present amidst no characterful dialogue. At all. She’s quietly perfect.
The crumblies give the film a frame the kids won’t notice, but those of us who got the comics imported in the ancient times certainly should. There isn’t much for them to do, but to be the domestic ballast of young Parker’s teenage metaphors. The warmth of their parental exhaustion takes me back to the first times the grand spawn were left with me and old Mrs Jack for a week. You get old dealing with small monsters. Kids change in front of you, shifting from prone, to cute, to messily adorable, to hideous teen bastards with super powers and locked doors. Trust me, grand children of the world, we want those doors locked as well. Your generation disgusts us. We know what you’re doing in there.
But what of the rest of the film, you say? Does the gruel thicken?
This was the unnecessary reboot within the decade of the Tobey Maguire trilogy. So, essentially pointless and with a waft of exploitation, it also got a few things solidly wrong. First off, the central relationship between Garfield’s Parker and the 17-year-old-my-arse Gwen (Emma Stone). It’s off. They’re clearly too old to act tweeishly with one another. And she appears to have been smoking since 5. Secondly, Garfield disappears into himself in a way that traps the affection he should be displaying. All grown up and anguished, but – meh. Also, Gwen’s life is weird: sweet school kid, daughter of police chief (Denis Leary giving angry New Yorker and 9-11 echo), and sort-of-scientist at the bad guy’s labs where she knows enough to give tours. Huh? And, then, the bad guy, Rhys Ifans dabbles with wildlife DNA to grow a new limb… which goes badly. Especially in the CGI choices. Wholly competent on the acting front, The Amazing Spider-Man is set up to annoy just about everyone.
The story: aah, don’t worry. You should be able to work out every beat of it from the previous paragraph. And that’s the other problem. Save a noble swing through a set of cranes (which another character does 30 seconds slower by car…), the whole enterprise is obvious from the start – and a bit pat with it. A moment of emotional heft, when uncle Ben carks it, is lost as the young Parker’s self-obsession relegates Aunt May to bit-part player, Gwen to a poor challenger, and the rest of Spidey’s day to juggling clichés.
So – yeah. Sorry. Old Jack was annoyed by this at the cinema, and slightly bored by it on the rewatch. The film is too earnest, too obvious, and too known. I get the adult-issues and realism thing they were going for with Parker, Gwen and even the demands of her Dad. But you can’t sell that with a silly lizard story. Go full silly, like they do in the next reboot. Or don’t try to cash in so fast.
By dint of the restful talent of their players, Ben and May are amazing. The film is not.