Hank’s Recommendations 11/06/12

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN — It’s not often you’re going to see me positively reviewing a superhero movie. I did like the original SUPERMAN (Christopher Reeves), the original BATMAN (Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson), IRON MAN (Robert Downey, Jr.), CAPTAIN AMERICA and CHRONICLE, the latter a more realistic dystopian correction to the superhero myth. The original SPIDER-MAN (Toby Maguire) almost made the list. This re-telling of that archetypal story does.

The first thing I liked was that the new Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), who reprises the admittedly charming Toby Maguire of the original film ten years ago, reminds one of a post-adolescent Tony Perkins: intelligent and vulnerable, his handsome face bifurcated with the uncertainty and guilt of hidden secrets.

It doesn’t hurt that the uncle who years ago adopted him after his parents mysteriously disappeared is played by Martin Sheen (though his adoptive aunt is played by Sally Field, who these days seems only to veer toward the annoying).

There is a lot of visual fun in this movie, not least because it is never overdone to the detraction of the narrative, which is both efficient and involving. The special effects, while cleverly fulfilling state-of-the-art CGI expectations, go down rather easily instead of rushing at you and overwhelming your senses. The film leaves plenty of room for amiably witty dialogue. When Peter returns from his first superhero experience he is physically depleted and famished. In front of his concerned and astonished parents, he superhumanly wolf’s down everything in the family refrigerator, including his mother’s meat loaf.

Peter (suddenly seeing his parents): “This beats all other meat loafs!”

Uncle: “Something is very wrong.”

Aunt: “Yeah.”

Uncle: “Nobody likes your meat loaf.”

There is even a curious and perhaps unintended relevance in this film. Prior to the renegade scientist (Campbell Scott) turning himself into Spider-Man’s nemesis as a giant lizard, he spouts these words: “I spent my life as a scientist trying to create a world without weakness, without outcasts.” It’s Spider-Man against a Republican agenda! And in a climactic sequence involving cranes over New York City, there is a scene where the crane operators become heroes! And the police chief (Denis Leary) who, despite initial skepticism of Spider-Man, becomes instrumental in saving the day, looks exactly like Richard Blumenthal.

Trying to discover his mission in life, resolving his guilt along with past issues, all while, under the most trying circumstances, negotiating a full-blossom high school romance (with a character played by Emma Stone), this is an oddly up-to-the-minute film.

Of course, I may be reading into it. But even Mrs. Video liked it. And that’s the ultimate test.

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