Superheroes are more than just entertainment or a few laughs. When an audience sits down for a film, they don’t always want to watch a movie to simply laugh. Many times, audiences want to relate to a character and feel somewhat safer than before. You can say that these are simply films, but in a world dominated by crime and hatred, a part of us wishes there was a superhero to make us feel safe. It’s also entirely possible to feel safe in the presence of a superhero that exists only in the world of movies. It’s the idea behind those superheroes that really matters. This idea was beautifully portrayed in Mark Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man franchise.
“You’re gonna make enemies. People will get hurt. Sometimes the people closest to you.”
Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man, is known for being borderline childish and a superhero we could relate to at all ages. He’s known to joke around while simultaneously protecting his city. After all, there is a reason why his nickname is the ‘Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’. The great thing about Spider-Man is that he sinter just limited to being a friendly neighborhood superhero. When pushed to his limits, the character has incredible potential on a universal scale. What if you want a superhero that would potentially make your world safer? Superheroes may not be real but it is to be noted that while we sit in front of a large screen stuffing ourselves with popcorn, laughing as a superhero jokes around, there are people who wish that their lives could have a superhero to save them from the horrors they see every day.
In the light of this revelation, why is it that we criticize films trying to portray reality. What if we could understand the need for films to portray that reality, maybe twenty percent of the time? But see, we can’t do that. It’s perhaps a reason why the Amazing Spider-Man did not capture the hearts of audiences the ways others have. Obviously it would be wrong to think that the films were flawless, but Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spider-Man wasn’t one of them.
When it comes to Garfield’s portrayal of Spider-Man, the difference between him and other Spider-Men was clearly visible. Garfield’s portrayal contained a lack of goofiness, but that didn’t mean that the humor wasn’t there. Sure, it seemed like Garfield portrayed an older Spider-Man with qualities that ranged beyond getting critical appraise and laughs. But, the inclusion of jokes and humor within his portrayal was perfectly timed and worthy of appraise. Garfield’s Spider-Man communicating with villains and incorporating humor into it was perhaps the highlight of the Amazing Spider-Man films. But if that was the highlight, his appearance isn’t far behind. Contributing to that appearance of Spider-Man was the incredibly designed suit. His movements were agile and he looked like Spider-Man and what made the suit more special was the fact that Peter Parker designed it himself.
“He believed that if you could do good things for other people, you had a moral obligation to do those things. That’s what’s at stake here. Not choice. Responsibility.”
But what makes Spider-Man truly incredible is the man behind that mask – Peter Parker. That is also the case with the Amazing Spider-Man. Therefore, the greatness of Garfield’s Spider-Man lied with his Peter Parker. The Amazing Spider-Man was not purposeless because Peter Parker had purpose and it is evident in his portrayal. His character was full of the empathy necessary for this version of Spider-Man and the character that instilled those necessary qualities in Peter Parker was Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Peter was left in their care and they did their absolute best in raising a true superhero.
The care and affection provided by Uncle Ben and Aunt May was perfectly evident when Peter saved a child from a falling car. “Put it on! The mask. It’s going to make you strong.” But it wasn’t just hinting to the strength the lack of identity provided Peter. If anything, it hinted to the strength provided by the identity that his aunt and uncle provided him with. It was the love for his family that made Peter Parker who he was and that was the strength he was talking about.
His bond with his family, even if they aren’t biological, aids to the greatness of Garfield’s Spider-Man and that bond made him stronger and it helped him grow as a person before he could become a superhero. His aunt and uncle inspired him to inspire others. This is evident when Peter hears the voicemail Uncle Ben left for him. “If anyone is destined for greatness, it’s you son, you owe the world your gifts. You just have to figure out how to use them, and know that wherever they take you, we’ll always be here.” He says before continuing, “You’re my hero, and I love you.” That is where Peter looks at the spider artwork on the wall and smiles.
“If anyone is destined for greatness, it’s you son”
Sure, the Amazing Spider-Man films got some things wrong, but character dynamic wasn’t one. Therefore, he became a hero for his family before he could become a hero for others and that is what provides these films a heart and soul.
With that heart and soul, Peter Parker and Spider-Man excelled, being a hero inside and out. Both Peter Parker and Spider-Man provided inspiration to those around him. However, as we saw Spider-Man rise with the Amazing Spider-Man, we saw him fall with the Amazing Spider-Man 2. But the rise and fall of a superhero requires consistency within the films and what can potentially provide that consistency is emotion. Peter’s emotions were tied with Gwen Stacy as he fell in love with her in the first film. He was told to stay away from her but he couldn’t and perhaps it was because he found a connection he hadn’t experienced since Aunt May and Uncle Ben took him in. Gwen understood him and as anyone with his level of intellect combined with his level of loneliness, he needed someone to understand him.
That fall of a superhero could be because of an emotional test that causes him to fall. And its understandable that Peter has his fears when it comes to his love for Gwen. He loves her so he fears losing her. And we see Peter losing Gwen in the second film of the franchise and this sequence is truly incredible. Firstly, the reflection of a falling Gwen is seen as Spider-Man’s eye is zoomed upon. After that, we see his web reaching out for Gwen shaped like a hand – indicating Peter’s hand, showing his desperation. And then we see Gwen close her eyes in acceptance of her fate. Peter probably took this action as Gwen accepting that Peter was unable to save her and this was what Peter feared. He lost Gwen and all of a sudden he began to doubt himself.
What made this sequence heartbreaking was Andrew Garfield’s incredible acting. The chemistry he had with Emma Stone throughout the franchise was visible even now that Stone’s character was dead. “Stay with me” Peter kept telling Gwen as he cried, unable to accept that he was facing his fears.
“We have to be greater than what we suffer.”
In conclusion, it’s time to reflect back on the question I had at the beginning. Why is that we are critical of the films that portray reality? Why is it that we want all laughs and nothing that helps us to truly find the superheroes we have been looking for? Maybe audiences are now looking for the purest form of escape, or maybe the entertainment aspect is taking precedence. Perhaps if we accept change and appraise someone trying to portray something differently, we can find the superheroes we were seeking. And if we accepted the Amazing Spider-Man films, maybe we could have realized that that portrayal of Spider-Man wasn’t the flaw we aim to fix in films today.