I didn’t have any reservations about rebooting Spider-Man. He’s my favorite superhero, and things weren’t working out with Sam Raimi after Spider-Man 3, so by all means, have another go at Spider-Man with a new crew. After seeing Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, I’m happy we got this movie.
The first time Spider-Man is in his full suit and faces a thief in The Amazing Spider-Man, he says, “No one seems to grasp the concept of the mask.”
The characters in the movie might not understand how the mask allows Peter Parker to be Spider-Man, but the people who made the movie certainly do. That’s what I want to talk about.
Spoilers after the cut.
First, a bit about casting Andrew Garfield: he looks the part. He’s got the gymnast’s body and boxer’s speed that Spider-Man needs. His mannerisms, body language, and voice hint at a kind-hearted personality. He can talk about science facts and theories (though he doesn’t have many lines like that) and he pulls off the socially awkward teenager—that’s all Peter Parker.
But there’s more to Peter Parker and Spider-Man than that, and this is where the mask comes in.
Without the mask, Peter is nerdy, shy, polite, and forgetful. He’s wary of Flash, awkward when he tries to ask out Gwen, and remorseful about Uncle Ben’s death.
With the mask on, Peter gains anonymity, and that gives him confidence. He taunts criminals and he’s sarcastic around the police. Spider-Man assertively reacts to what happens around him (no doubt with the help of his enhanced senses), and Peter’s uncertainty falls away.
I like the scene where Peter goes after the mugger in the alley, when Peter is wearing a jacket and hat. He roughs up the mugger and when more criminals gang up on Peter, he runs away, punching and kicking them when he can. Peter reacts to what the criminals do, and he doesn’t stop to think. He simply moves, and that’s Spider-Man’s personality coming through. But even so, he’s sloppy. He trips, runs into more criminals, and has to change directions. Peter doesn’t have the mask on, and so he doesn’t have Spider-Man’s finesse yet.
Compare that scene to one later in the movie, where Spider-Man fights off a group of policemen, including Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy. The police catch up to Spider-Man and Captain Stacy unmasks him. But at this point, Peter has better control of his abilities. No mask, but still in the suit, he disarms the ring of police officers so that he can keep going after the Lizard.
The mask lets Spider-Man shift into superhero mode and taking it off lets him go back to being Peter Parker.