So when a Spider-Man film comes out, I go with a mix of glee (and that's real glee - something more than 'excitement' but less than 'total stupidity') and fear they might have ruined it. This has only happened once, with 'Spider-Man 3' - not only a crushing disappointment after the brilliant second instalment, but also a perplexingly messy and daft piece of work. I was really taken by surprise. Like most people, surely, I tend to go to films I'm expecting to like, so I rarely come out of the cinema thinking, 'God, that was AWFUL.' But 'S-M 3' felt as if they'd sent the director out for a fag and quickly made the film while he wasn't looking.
Fortunately, the new one, which Mrs Specs and I went to see last night, is much more the ticket. Trying to have a grown-up opinion alongside my default setting of sitting there thinking 'WOOOAAH! ACE!', I was impressed by the way it seemed to nail what it clearly thinks is the 'new audience' - that is, savvy and in some cases soppy teens. The high school romance element - while not how I remember my teenage years (did girls turn me down because I ... you know.... used complete sentences... and... *shrug*) - is nicely handled and actually makes a welcome breather from the newspaper subplot the stories have always had in the past. ('How do you get so many pictures of Spider-Man, Peter?' Gah!) Mind you, I'm sure that's coming in the sequels.
When Spidey finally suits up, we get some genuinely spine-tingling set pieces of 'web action' (if there's actually a website for that, I don't want to know) which I felt imitated the jerky, disorientating action I loved so much from the cartoons far better than the Raimi films. We even get a kind of 'Spideycam' at points, as if we were swinging between the buildings ourselves. In funny glasses. Sitting down. But you get the idea.
Inevitably, since they have to tell us again how it all began, there's a lot to pack in, which means some of the character development is faster than lightning. Peter and Gwen seem to become an item more or less by telepathy (again, that could have come in handy back in the day). And I particularly enjoyed the police captain realising that Spidey is one of the good guys by telling him, 'I was wrong - this city does need you', as if suddenly noticing that the cops hadn't yet got around to setting up their own Giant Lizard Unit.
Now, Spider-people, make another one before someone decides to change it all again.