Alex writes about his favourite moment in The Amazing Spider-Man, and why Spidey will always be his favourite superhero, no matter how many mediocre movies he’s in.
I just got out of a showing of The Amazing Spider-Man. Like, just. For all I know, the credits for all the people who did the awkward Lizard CGI are still rolling. I loved parts of the movie, and hated others, but that’s immaterial information here. What matters is that it taught me why I go to the movies at all, despite the fact that I thought I already knew why.
As a person who has gone to a movie theatre, on average, at least once a week for close to a decade now, I thought I loved the actual process of going to the movies. The purchasing of the ticket, sneaking in whatever I decided I wanted to eat during the film (this used to be something as exotic as steak, but these days I eat Miss Vickies like a little bitch who doesn’t want to spill steak juice in his backpack), and choosing the seat that will allow me to optimally stretch out onto the seats in front of me. These are all very important, enjoyable aspects of going to the movies, but I doubt I ever thought I liked selecting a seat or box of Count Chocula for in-cinema consumption more than the process of actually watching a movie. I might be somebody who goes to the movies more often than anybody would deem logical, but I’m not a lunatic. I go see Prometheus to see Prometheus, not to select an optimal seat in which to watch some pro-choice sci-fi. And when I have to go a while without getting a chance to see a movie, I get antsy.
This week, I’ve been out of the city in which I reside and on the other side of the country in Whistler, British Columbia. The visit is not recreational; I would not be here if I wasn’t being paid to shoot a video. (If only because I never have any money.) It’s been an extremely hectic week, most of which has involved carrying heavy camera equipment across Whistler Village and up and down mountains, as well as spending evenings listening to ad agency people I don’t know monologue positively about the more Orwellian aspects of FourSquare. While the parts not involving the incredible soreness that will continue to destroy my less-than-considerable physique for the next five days or so have been great, tonight I was so tired that all I wanted to do was sleep. Or go to a movie.
As I walked past a small, basement theatre in Whistler earlier that afternoon, I checked the movie listings that were taped to its front door, to see what I wish I was doing instead of carrying around 100 pounds of camera equipment. (I assume this is the lazy person’s version of window-shopping.) The Amazing Spider-Man was playing, a movie I was so interested in that – for approximately ninety seconds – it made me almost not want to go on this job at all. I assumed I wouldn’t get time to go see it until I got back into Ontario, but then I got lucky/just kinda fucked off for two hours.
When I actually went down into the theatre, I was first struck by how fucking old everything was. This theatre certainly remains unchanged from the last time a Spider-Man franchise began, and it looked like it probably hasn’t changed since Spidey animators in the 1960s used odd colour palettes to give six-year-old kids pseudo-acid nightmares. After buying a ticket, I had to walk down a weird, long hallway with faded James Dean and Marilyn Monroe paintings to get to my actual cinema, and the chairs in the room were so comically gigantic that two of me could have fit in one. The floor was sticky, I could tell the sound was probably going to screw up a bit at some points during the movie, and the pre-movie advertisements consisted of promotions for local clothing stores that inexplicably encouraged cheating on your spouse. I also wondered why the theatre’s left section was designed to only have rows of two seats, practically begging couples to give each other handjobs. But whatever, I was about to watch a movie. And regardless of the fact that I was pretty sure said movie would be aimed at the Twilight crowd, I was excited.
Again, the movie itself was far from stellar. The parts that were good were incredible, but even the good scenes never really flowed into one another – it was like a series of good three page scenes in a comic, but none of them ever totally tied together. Certain scenes made me extremely happy, and others pissed me off to no end. Somehow, though, at one point in the first half of the movie, I completely forgot where I was. Not like when people hyperbolically claim that they got lost in the metaphorical wilderness of good fiction, but I was literally confused as to where I was. After a particularly good scene ended and a worse one began, I realized I did not recognize the room I was in. Of course, I quickly clued in, and then realized that this brief moment was precisely the reason I go to the movies at all. People always over-romanticize the idea of movies as escapism or a way to truly lose yourself in something, but I never believed Peter Travers or Roger Ebert when they said these things. I assumed these were childhood feelings that they wish would still happen, but never actually do. Now, however, I might.
I cannot stress enough how rarely this feeling happens. In fact, I can only think of two other times in my adult life that this has occurred, and I feel like only the memory of one of those occurrences remains unembellished. It’s a weird, unknowable feeling, and whenever it happens, I’m perplexed. A similar feeling can occur when you find yourself moved emotionally in some way by a piece of art, particularly by an idea you didn’t realize you agreed with, or a piece of score that doesn’t seem like something you should even like. All emotions are like this; laughter, sadness, and excitement all have to hit you when you don’t expect it in order to deliver any sort of potent punch. If you can see the joke coming, or hear the John Williams music swell as a horse solves Nazism, the emotions simply don’t hit you as hard as they would if you weren’t expecting them. Since we’re all media literate beings in a world that often treats us otherwise, we’re rarely surprised anymore. And the only reason to repeatedly do something is to hope to be surprised by anything.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a movie about Peter Parker trying to find his place in the world: not necessarily as Spider-Man, even, but as the teenaged Parker, as we are in the post-Batman Begins era and this is how it is now. Despite having always self-identified with Pete (minus the murdered uncle, superpowers, and good grades in science classes) I never really felt like him when I was a teenager. I was a nerdier teenager to an extent, but I was always confident in that aspect of my personality. I was never good at sports, but I took gym because I liked it regardless of my lack of skills, and I shrugged off the consistent defeat at the hands of the better athletes. Nobody disliked me in high school, so I disliked nobody. I didn’t have a goth phase, because I didn’t feel I earned it, having lived a remarkably easy life. I still feel this way, but I’m far more confused about where I’m going now than I ever was as a teenager. When I was Peter Parker’s age, going to the movies a few times a week after school, I assumed I would graduate, find a job I liked and just do that until I die. Now that I’m about ten years older than my favourite teenaged superhero, I know I found that job, but I don’t know how to make a living doing it. It probably shouldn’t have to involve being deliriously tired from a paying job I’m not entirely into, but it might have to. So be it. Maybe I just need to continue to try to lose myself at the movies in order to figure out where it is I should be headed when I leave the theatre.