CGI Friday [ed. note: since The Amazing Spiderman was released a week and a half ago, it’s okay that today’s not Friday (I mean, it’s not okay, but you know what I mean)] is an exploration of the contemporary meaning of the passive mass experience as exemplified by the digitally tricked-out Summer Hollywood Blockbuster (SHB). To heighten the impact of the bright lights, loud noises, and pathos-mongery characteristic of the SHB, the reviewer will watch the production while intoxicated. To capture the shell-shocked delirium resultant thereto, the reviewer will capture his reaction before up-sobering. Enjoy.
I love superheroes. It feels funny putting the ‘e’ in ‘superheroes,’ but that’s neither here nor there. Given this love, I’ve been decidedly stoked to catch a glimpse of The Amazing Spiderman in a three dimensional, special-spectacle-enabled transfer. No director worth his blockbusting salt would shy away from buckets of first person gyroscopic Spidey-motion as he hurtles himself down the Big Apple’s skyscraping avenues like the turbo-charged Tarzan that he is. Marc Webb (teehee) answers the bell here, and so with gusto, but more on that later. To prepare myself, I thought it best to try to meet Mr. Parker on his level by cracking open a bottle of purportedly curative Laotian Snake Whisky (sic). Snake Whisky is a hopefully-not-noxious spirit that is infused with the entire intact body of a baby cobra and some twiggy plant material. The plant matter could itself be curative in nature or maybe it’s there in the way of habitat-mimicking interior design, intended to make the cobra or the spirit of the cobra more comfortable in the bottle. The label claims that “rheumatism, lumbago, (and) sweat of limbs” can be treated if a dosage regimen of “twice a day, eacha small cup before meal” is followed. The image on the label suggests, furthermore, that a brawny, snake-fighting physique will also be obtained. As Peter Parker acquires his spiderness through the bite of a superspider (super because radioactive in the Maguire editions, super because specially bred – somehow – to transfer ‘cross-species genetic’ material by means of a bite, or not meant to, but somehow able to do so (or something) in the current Andrew Garfield presentation), so I would become a dry-limbed, serpentine, superstrong Snakeman by consumption of Snake Whisky(!), “Real Speciality of Done Sao Iceland Laos,” and thus rival my hero for mutated excellence.
Four hours later, the verdict is still out regarding the efficacy of Snake Whisky to induce superhumanity in adult white males. What I can say is that my fear of liquor blindness, jake leg, or some other such prohibition-era malady put me off my popcorn. I can also say that The Amazing Spiderman is ‘awesome’ in just the way that my generation has meant that word since we learned its slang usage in elementary school, which is to say, not actually awe-inspiring, but merely satisfying in a more-or-less visceral way. [At this point, the bell for the Snake Whisky began to seriously toll, because, well, I kept drinking it when I got home to write the piece. My attempt to write a grown-up review began to flag at this point and ultimately failed. See below for that aborted attempt under appendix A. -Edit.] By which I mean: lizard army, Emma Stone’s legs, Emma Stone’s eyes, gyroscopic Spidey motion, Spiderman as skateboarder, the as-yet awesomest Stan Lee cameo (fuuuuuuck), Denis Leary, an actual Spiderman web, all three dimensions, stylistic allusions to Alien, stylistic allusions to the Japanese artist who painted the birds-eye-view umbrellas on the bridge, the power of make-believe, Denis Leary’s Godzilla jokes, the New York crane rally, Emma Stone, crane-play in general. . . . I stop here, but I could go on writing a list of the ‘awesome’ thangs in this movie for a longer duration of time than the movie itself lasted. I think.
The familiar tropes of the Spiderman saga are well-handled. The acquisition of superpowers by a brilliant but awkward teen is adequately deployed as an allegory for the beginning and end of the pubescent horror of the uncool highschool experience. The problem of teen dislocation, a.k.a., bratty self-centeredness, is addressed in the classic Spidey dyad of the clowning of the school bully and the death of Uncle Ben. In the case of the tyrant of the quad, a newly spideyfied Peter begins his confrontation with ‘Flash’ in defense of a meekly innocent girl, but ends it with a crowd-pleasingly ‘cool’ but cruelly humiliating clowning. The moral of this narrative thread is that defending the weak is good, but only if it’s undertaken for its own sake, unclouded by personal grievances or vendettas. The same moral development is expressed in the intensified and protracted thread of Uncle Ben’s death, which, in every telling of the Spiderman story, is a direct result of Peter’s irresponsibility and selfishness. Peter’s assumption of responsibility for that death occurs in two stages. First, he masks up to find the man who shot Uncle Ben, targeting only criminals who fit the profile of the killer. Only later, and due to