At the Golden Globes last month, it was like a summit meeting for super-hero cinema. Robert Downey Jr. presented an award, strangely chipper and shaggy Christian Bale accepted one and Christopher Nolan sat near the stage not far from Anne Hathaway, who within a few days would be announced as the latest star to visit the filmmaker’s Gotham City. Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johannson were among the representatives of the Marvel universe, while the man who will soon change into the Hulk for Marvel, Mark Ruffalo, smiled and said he was pretty happy to be at a career juncture where he’ getting award nominations for mature fare like “The Kids Are All Right” but also ramping up for a green movement that will put his visage on Slurpee cups and the toy aisles of the world.
“I’m just enjoying everything; it took me 20 years to get here and in 20 more I’ll be 63 and I’m just going to be in this moment,” Ruffalo said, looking, at least at that moment, like the picture of relaxed satisfaction.
That description did not apply to Andrew Garfield, the 27-year-old actor who was sitting at a table with his compatriots from “The Social Network.” A few days before the awards show, Columbia Pictures had released the first real image of Garfield in his upcoming role as Peter Parker and when I asked him about the reaction he was getting to that photo he looked both anxious and excited. “So far so good, I’m glad that people like the suit. It’s one of the big challenges with a movie like this.” Garfield is busy actually making the movie — which, by the way, will be titled “The Amazing Spider-Man,” as Columbia announced Monday when they released the new photo above — so he probably doesn’t have too much time to surf the Internet looking for fan, blogger, press and pundit response to the suit. That may be best for his emotional health as well.
The suit for the Marc Webb-directed film has been a lightning-rod topic for weeks and weeks now and after some ungainly (and unapproved) photos circulated, a significant percentage of the reaction fell into the category of purist indignation and withering ridicule. The release Monday of the photo has tilted the overall conversation again — a lot of casual fans seem to be just fine with this Spider-Man — and I’d say I’d agree that the suit lives up to the challenge of being different from the Sam Raimi films but not too different from the classic suit that stands as one of the great comic-book costumes ever. Speaking of change, the photo seems to verify that Webb (yes, he is the most aptly named director in film history) and his team have gone back to the mechanical web-shooters that were part of the original Spider-Man mythology. That’s no surprise, I suppose, since Webb and the screenwriting trio of James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves would instinctively look for ways to separate themselves from Raimi’s trilogy, which pulled in $2.5 billion in worldwide box office by the time it finished its run in 2007.
I loved the way the Raimi films boldly embraced the concept that Spider-Man’s webs were generated biologically and came along with all of his other powers at the bite of an irradiated arachnid. I’m sure it rankled some fans at the time (anything that veers from the perceived comic-book canon is quickly labeled as heresy even though comic-book writers and editors casually changed or ignored the “established” mythology as they went along) but to me it solved a pretty significant story problem. How are we to believe (as the 1960s comics put forward) that a financially strapped young man was able to conceive, construct and supply a wrist-worn device that can instantly produce a strand of synthetic “webbing” that begins in liquid form but then supports his weight as he swings among the peaks of skyscrapers? Raimi knew it was a deal breaker. It’s one thing to accept a film where a guy crawls up walls but it’s even harder to swallow the idea that he can’t pay the rent when he has created (or at least has access to) a modern miracle of materials science. I’m sure Webb and his team have spent time on this and I’m eager to see what they come up with. When it comes to webs, what exactly will be the new spin?
– Geoff Boucher
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