I’m about as Marvel-illiterate as an American baby boomer can get. Comic books never crossed my radar as a child, and nearly everything I know of comic book characters comes from covering Comicon events from Phoenix to NYC.
I first encountered the origin stories of great comic book heroes at an exhibit inside the gallery of my local public library, so my big screen encounter with the imagined early life of Spider-Man came without the baggage that seems to have bogged down so many others.
“The Amazing Spider-Man” reads like a simple love story to those not yet initiated into all things Marvel, and it’s plenty entertaining as such. Once bitten by a spider, a teen smitten with the police chief’s daughter develops super-human powers that set the dad versus date dynamic in motion.
But he’s got his own daddy issues too. Both parents disappeared after leaving their boy with the relatives who go on to raise him. Seems they’d forgotten all about a briefcase left behind until it’s rescued after a plumbing mishap. Its contents set the adventures of Spider-Man in motion.
The teen twice discovers that using his newfound powers for revenge yields bitter results, and manages instead to yield them for good — waging a fierce battle with a scientist who once worked with is father but nowadays seeks a cross-species solution for his own partial limb.
I’d have been frightened out of my wits had I witnessed this story arc as a child. Sleeping after my first run in with “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was tough enough. And there’s little reason for kids to see the film’s many slugfests infused with a heavy dose of shoot ’em up, bang bang. “The Amazing Spider-Man” is rated PG-13.
It’s a fun two-hour romp through Marvel world for teens and up who appreciate fast-paced action sequences and familiar NYC settings like subways and streets lined with towering office buildings. Andrew Garfield (Spider-man/Peter Parker) rocks the acting vibe but Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) gets too few chances to really shine. Enough with the long legs and go-go boots already.
The cast also includes Rhys Ifans (The Lizard/Dr. Curt Connors), known to folks who saw the Shakespeare authorship flick “Anonymous” as the Earl of Oxford. Plus Denis Leary (Captain Stacy), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben) and Sally Field (Aunt May). Max Charles is the young Peter Parker.
Messages abound, but they’re blissfully brief. Think responsibility, rather than choice. Secrets have a cost, and they’re not free. If you break it, fix it. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Beware the perils of seeking perfection. Never be a bystander.
Lizabeth came home from a father/daughter outing last night armed with two black t-shirts sporting Batman logos. Looks like there’s more homework on my horizon, since the next “Dark Knight” film lands in theaters later this month. So many super-heros, so little time.
Coming up: Art meets frontier life