GEEK SQUAD: Arachnophilia


BY RICHARD SUPLEE At the risk of sounding like an employee of the Department of Redundancy, The Amazing Spider-Man is amazing — so amazing, in fact, that Andrew Garfield, the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man, will make you forget all about Toby Maguire. Still, haters will probably call the new movie a rip-off of the Maguire films, but most of the shared elements are essential to who Peter Parker is so similarities were inevitable. As resident geek here at Phawker, it falls to me to compare and contrast the new The Amazing Spider-Man, which opens here on Tuesday, to both its film predecessor and the comic books.

Unlike the Maguire films, Peter Parker is a pure nerd in the new film. He has the second highest grades in his class and he is deeply disappointed by that fact. He is socially awkward verging on creepy (he has a picture of a girl he’s barely talked to as his screen saver), but his cleverness redeems him. Just like in the comic books, he invents mechanical web shooters for each wrist that are so well-designed they never accidentally go off despite wearing them all day, even in school. Being an amateur scientist was crucial to beating many of Spider-Man’s villains. He created cures for the horribly disfigured and mutated, miniature tracers that can be attached unwittingly to villains and track their every move, a specialized suit that enables him to withstand high voltage bolts of electricity that would kill ordinary men.

In the comic books, Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man at the age of 16 and the new movie stays true to this timeline. Unlike the Maguire films, Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and his cohorts are clearly high schoolers. Maguire spent maybe two days in high school before they had him graduate and for the few scenes that he still was in school everyone looked too old for senior high. This time around Peter, Flash Thompson, and Gwen Stacy all look like teenagers.

Spider-Man is also portrayed differently in the new version. While the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man clearly demonstrated Peter Parker’s personality, Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is a smart-ass hero who runs his mouth to both authority and criminals. Peter Parker is too awkward and lacking in confidence t to say the things Spider-Man does but the mask emboldens him. The new Spider-Man as a wisecracking, fun-loving guy is lifted straight out of the comics.

Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is a character that only made a cameo in the Spider-Man 3 to make Mary Jane Watson (Kristen Dunst) jealous. Really, comparing the two Gwen Stacys is pointless. A fairer comparison is between the two love interests. Mary Jane Watson is the more well known Spider-Man girlfriend but Gwen Stacy was actually the first. Spoiler alert: Mary Jane only becomes Peter Parker’s main love interest after Gwen dies. I was pleased that Gwen Stacy was not just a blonde Mary Jane, she was Peter’s equal when it comes to brains (she was first in their class). The inclusion of Gwen also allows the use of her father, police Captain George Stacy, in a role similar to J. Jonah Jameson, i.e. a hardened Spider-Man skeptic.

The Parker family (Uncle Ben, Aunt May, Mary and Richard Parker) are back, too. Uncle Ben is the hard-working, good-natured man who tries to teach Peter Parker about responsibility (although they avoid the misquoted “With great power comes great responsibility” line that is attributed to Ben but was originally said by the narrator.) Of course it isn’t until Uncle Ben dies that Peter Parker vows to become a superhero. Aunt May is the strong-willed woman that can handle Peter Parker after Uncle Ben’s death. The only difference is that Aunt May apparently knows (or suspects) that Peter is Spider-Man at the end of the film.