There’s a lot to be said for expectation management.
Years ago, while working at a job where there were “clients,” I fell in love with that phrase and all it represented. If you get so excited about a project that you let your imagination run away with you and start expecting it to be a mind-blowing, life-changing, pants-filling experience, you are all but guaranteed to be disappointed. On the other hand, if you go in expecting a 6 and you get an 8, it’s much more satisfying than saying, “Where’s my 10?” with your arms crossed throughout your life.
This may be pessimism. This may be realism. This is definitely why I ended up liking The Amazing Spider-Man as much as I did. Before it came out, America said, “Why are they doing this, again?” After it came out, America said, largely, nothing. I don’t think I’ve seen people flock to a movie on opening weekend and then act like it never happened this thoroughly since Iron Man 2. My expectations were so managed, I didn’t even bother to see it until yesterday. And then it was great.
People are not giving this movie its due. Spidey does not deserve to come in second to Ice Age 4: The Child Gouging in its second weekend. (Man, Ice Age was a fun idea for a movie. For a single movie. Talk about retelling the same story over and over; Marvel’s got nothin’ on those highway robbers. Has it become evident yet that I have small children?)
We often say that your favorite version of a character is the one that was on the racks when you were a kid. Sam Raimi’s childhood Spider-Man was the Stan Lee version, the mostly humorless Charlie Brown in a unitard. In three movies, I think Raimi allowed Spidey a single quip, while the Angst truck was backing up for another delivery.
The Spider-Man of my childhood, and probably yours, was a different breed of bug. He still couldn’t catch a break, but he was used to it by now, and was much more happy-go-lucky and likely to use humor as a defense mechanism. (I maintain that the quippy chatterbox we all know and love today is single-handedly the result of Peter David writing the character in the mid-eighties, but I can’t prove it until one of you provides me with that grant I’m always asking for.) In other words, “my” Spider-Man is a lot more like the one in the latest movie.
I like watching him build his costume instead of having it fall out of the sky into his lap at some point offscreen. I like seeing him fiddling with his web doohickeys. Oh, and the part where he builds a web and then finds his prey by feeling vibrations on the web like a real spider? How have I lived almost forty years and never seen anyone use that before now?
This was the first time seeing Uncle Ben die (and I feel like I have seen that happen roughly 7,000 times) actually made me start to cry. Then, when Gwen sees Peter at school the next day and hugs him, I started to cry again. At a Spider-Man movie.
So, why is this one not having the impact of its predecessors culturally? Is it just because it had predecessors in the first place? Is Joe Moviegoer actually befuddled by the reboot? I doubt it, personally, judging by how readily everyone moved on from Neon & Nipples Batman to Christopher Nolan’s version.
Is it that Marvel’s The Avengers by Marvel scratched this itch for everybody already? Does The Dark Knight Rises have anything to worry about? Again, I doubt it: people seem to regard Nolan’s Batman movies as something set apart from your Marvel fare and your Green Lanterns. People seemed to treat the last one like it was its own genre.
Is it just a case of people saying, “Who’s the Lizard? Who’s Rhys Ifans? Who’s Andrew Garfield? Who cares about any of this?” It’s not like Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth were big superstars. The character is the star of a movie like this.
I don’t know. I cannot solve this Rubik’s Cube. Although I guess the fact that I don’t understand how many of my fellow Americans think is not a surprise.
I don’t think The People are burnt out on superhero movies, but between you and me I think I might be. I feel like I used to see interesting movies about realistic people in the real world, but now it doesn’t even seem like those movies are getting made. I’m sitting here trying to think of the last time I saw a movie where nobody had magic powers or came from another planet, and I think it may have been Bridesmaids. Before that…?
As long as superheroes are saturating the marketplace, at least they’re in the hands of talented people who are taking them seriously rather than people who put a skull on Dolph Lundgren’s knife and call him the Punisher. If you can remember a time when your favorite comics were not represented anywhere in the culture at large, what’s amazing about the times we’re living in isn’t that so many of these movies have been made, it’s how many of these movies have been good. I can remember reading a magazine article in the eighties about how a Spider-Man movie was never going to happen because of all the rights issues and technical challenges. Now we’re on our second set. My expectations have been blown out of the water.
Jim Mroczkowski would dearly love to unravel the mystery of what Uncle Ben’s job is.