The non-amazing Spider-Man

Went and saw the Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Did not like it.

It was a stupid action movie; this alone isn’t enough to make me dislike it.

No, its problem was with the main character, Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man himself.

In my distant childhood, in the Eighties and Nineties, I read the comic books. I know who Peter Parker is, or who he ideally, in my imperfect and partial recall, should be.

He’s not this arrogant, mopey jock.

He’s an awkward nerd, a proto-scientist, a bespectacled, bullied loner. Just getting superpowers doesn’t change who he has been all his life so far.

This is the greatest insult this awful movie contained: it said that Peter Parker is this sleek jock-hipster, not awkward but stupid, and this awkward nerd scientist, this bespectacled, bullied loner — he’s Electro, the villain; why don’t you laugh at him? Why don’t you see what power does to a nerd?

It may be the script, it may be the actor, but every single instance of this Peter Parker felt like he was the bully, not the bullied. (Maybe it was me, but I kept thinking, “This is a future serial killer, manipulating the people around him. He’s finding emotions hard because he doesn’t have any. Don’t believe his bullshit, Gwen! Keep away!”) I don’t remember who the actor was; unless he’s as omnipresent as these (several pages of expletives deleted) Orci and Kurtzman, he’s a part of this wave of Generic Mopey Action Movie Young Male Protagonists. (Did he play Kirk in those awful new Star Trek movies? It’s so difficult when the guys look the same and play the same mopey emotion-is-hard violence-is-easy roles.)

This Peter Parker needs a screaming parody of a Youtube scientist to explain him the basics of electricity. This Peter Parker doesn’t do science; instead there’s a soundbite of nerds pontificating on the radio over his suit’s hypotheticals because hey, nerds, point and laugh.This Peter Parker thrashes his room not by accident but because hitting things seems to be his natural outlet of frustrations, instead of, like, science and problem-solving. This Peter Parker knows how to get money — take a few photos and if that doesn’t help hit up an old bro, talk shit about girls, emotions are hard amirite, hope for a handout. This Peter Parker knows you can’t give your blood to scientists, because scientists are evil and dumb. (see footnote) This Peter Parker claims he’s Gwen Stacy’s second in science — well, I suppose if you read “second” as “less than”. This Peter Parker is so arrogantly suave it’s clear he has never been bullied, never has stumbled and fallen, never has been the underdog. And all that was missing from his brief web-and-electricity-experimentation montage was a can of beer and a few classmates in jerseys and baseball caps. The classic sort of Peter Parker wouldn’t need Youtube, he would have been awake during class!

As for Electro — well, after showing us an extreme but vastly preferable Peter Parker he gets into an accident and spends the rest of the movie roaring and lashing out. (Remember, the police shot first.) He just decides to be evil because, hey, what else, much like Harry Osborn about an hour later. Probably because trauma makes you insane and evil, and everything that makes you different makes you evil, doubly so if it makes you more powerful. (Except if you’re a protagonist. Then everybody hates you except for all the people you meet.)

But. The scene where Electro “comes out” and meets the Spider-Man. He finds an electric cable and snacks on it. Nobody is getting hurt yet, though a lot of people are scared. A policeman approaches, gun out, yelling at Electro to put the cable down. (Because if you see some poor unfortunate casting off sparks and clinging to an electric cable, that’s what you do — if they’re black and in a hoodie.) Electro puts the cable down, is almost overrun by a car, and flips it over him, because if you have a power of not getting killed you tend to use it. In response the police shoot and shoot at him, and continue shooting until he loses his mind and starts killing everybody. Because that’s what happens, I feel the movie telling me, if you give a nerd power.

But ah, if you have a properly mopey guy who looks like he can kick a ball and score with them chicks, right, he’s going to turn out all right. He can kick down scrawny smart-guy nerds like Electro and Harry left and right.

The only threat to him is a stupid girl who tries to keep away from him the hero. (But what can the hero do? He’s so tragic! He made a promise to a man! You can’t break man-to-man promises! The girl who the promise was about has got no say in it! Dead males over live females!)

(Later in the movie: What? The girl broke up with me? Better stalk her daily; that’s like super romantic. And, what, the girl’s going to England? Oh no you aren’t… okay if you are, I’m gonna follow you. I’m gonna follow you no matter where you go, girl, I’m gonna stand in the rain outside your window in a spandex costume because that’s how super romantic I am!)

(Also: There’s one thing about Gwen Stacy that the movie got right. Though, since we didn’t see a coffin, I’m not putting it past the movie-makers to introduce a mysterious pen-pal in England in the next movie. I’m still mad at Orci and Kurtzman for Kirk and the fake-out at end of Star Trek Into Dorkness. It’s no fun watching movies when a suggestion of death is so ludicrous as to destroy your suspension of disbelief!)

I think that when Spider-Man shoots out his jokes, we were supposed to consider him an underdog, joking because he was scared, because what else would a scrawny nerd like him be, fighting these super-powered popular bros and jocks? With this new Spider-Man, ehh, not so much. I can better see him appreciating the comedic potential of “Hey, you dropped your stuff! Why don’t you pick ’em up?” and “Stop hitting yourself, nerd!”

*

Footnote: If I recall correctly, a recording of Peter’s father says, in that stupid train hideout, that the spider-serum won’t work on people unrelated to him because his blood went into it. Which is to say, take your stupid coincidence plotting and mmmph mphhh, and good job on keeping your work from foreign arms dealers, daddy, but did you use too big words for Peter to realize there was a possibility of using Harry’s blood instead, and thereby healing Peter’s old friend and not turning him into a cackling supervillain? If Norman Osborn was a representative case, Harry isn’t dying quite yet, despite getting some skin damage.

But of course in Hollywood skin damage equals corruption of the soul, and if you ask for something you’re evil and not gonna get it. Especially if it could have helped untold millions because stasis is good and science is impotent and evil — wait, did Peter’s father sabotage a cure for AIDS and cancer? I think a few Libyan super-soldiers would have been a fair price for that.

*

Also: “Sony Vaio notebooks — so tough not even two men tearing at it in a falling plane can’t damage it!”

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