Is it sacrilegious to remake a Sam Raimi film? The question isn’t as ridiculous as it might first sound. Imagine if some upstart filmmaker tried his hand at Evil Dead: II, Rebooted. Such audacity would surely be met with righteous indignation the world over, and a handful of us might even issue a fatwa, forcing said blasphemer into a Rushdie-style hiatus from public life. But that’s obviously an extreme example. Putting This is Spinal Tap to one side, Evil Dead II might be the greatest artistic creation of the 20th Century. And of course, Raimi’s follow-up Armies of Darkness was pure dreck – nevermind what all you loser fanboys have to say about it – so we know that Raimi’s oeuvre doesn’t quite deserve a presumption of divine perfection.
With respect to Raimi’s “Spiderman” trilogy, we are dealing with, well, just “Spiderman”. So the stakes are surely lower. And of course, Spiderman was Marvel’s creation, not Raimi’s. Sam was hired as the director. So you put all these pieces together and conclude that yes, it is theoretically possible to remake Spiderman without offending the cosmos. Sony and Marc Webb have given it a try.
But is it too soon? We did digest 3 different incarnations of the film in the first decade of this century. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait another decade or two? The only way to answer this question is to review Raimi’s product from the last 10 years. And here, dear reader, I run into a problem. For to be totally honest, I simply don’t remember the earlier films all that well. I vaguely recall that one of the first two films was pretty good, and the other was sort of blah. (I never saw the 3rd, which I’m told was the worst). I know I hated the Green Goblin – particularly his dialogue, but not only that – and I have this vivid memory of Kirsten Dunst’s giant mug on the big screen, and me observing, “Boy, she sure has bad teeth”. So I’m thinking I disliked the first installment, and liked the second. But who really knows? (I tried to jog my memory by watching some of the first two films again, but since AppleTV wanted to charge me $9.99 to “buy” instead of $3.99 to “rent”, and Netflix won’t stream them, I was out of luck. Suck it Apple and Netflix!!).
What I do know is this: I really, really liked The Amazing Spider-Man. Truly, I did. More than I expected to. More than many other critics did. This is surprising, for I pride myself on holding opinions that track the median critic’s views, or that are an order of magnitude more critical than everybody else’s. Yet here, my enjoyment seemed to exceed that of many others who saw this film. The reason is clear — the cast. I thought Andrew Garfield (who played the Saverin character in The Social Network) was magnificent: nerdy, brooding, clever, emotional, in just the right combination. And I almost think Emma Stone walks on water. (She was magnificent in Easy-A, easily the best high school comedy since Mean Girls (yes, that’s a complement)). So I’m biased, but I just really bought into both these characters, as well as their relationship. I also felt the emotional drama of the film worked really well, just as intended, and I rarely say that about a movie.
I could talk about the plot, but why bother? It’s a formulaic Spiderman story from 30,000 feet, but with certain differences from the earlier incarnations. Do you really need to know the details of the story in order to decide whether to go see it? Of course you don’t. Just go see this movie.