Friday, July 6, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man, and a few musings about superheroes

I was going to blog about this morning's practice, but then I thought: Why? Practice is... practice. Nothing extraordinary happened. Did my usual primary plus second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana. In the finishing backbends, I barely managed to catch my ankles in Chakrabandhasana for (barely) five breaths before rocketing back up to the surface...I mean, back up to standing. Nothing extraordinary to report, at least on the asana front.

Then again, maybe something extraordinary did happen. Because everyday is a gift, and everyday that one gets to get up and practice is an even bigger gift. But all this is starting to get very, very platitudinous. Which means I might be turning into the Amazing Platitudinous Platyplus.

Speaking of amazing... here's something that might be more interesting to blog about. A few days ago, I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man. I highly, highly recommend it. I suppose I should say at the outset that I am kind of biased here, because Spider-Man happens to be my favorite superhero. I've always felt that I can relate much better to Peter Parker than to the "civilian selves" of other super-heroes. While it is true that most superheroes have "civilian selves" that are rather unassuming and socially awkward (think Clark Kent), one always gets the sense that it is the superhero playing the role of the civilian in these cases. Whereas with Spider-Man, we have an ordinary teenager with very ordinary everyday problems who suddenly finds himself with superpowers, and finds himself drawn into superherohood (as opposed to adulthood?), almost against his own will (with great power comes great responsibility...). So yeah, as I was saying, Spider-Man is my favorite superhero, because he is really a very ordinary kid with very ordinary problems and flaws who suddenly finds himself with superpowers, and has to deal with this situation. But then again, I may also be biased.

While watching the Amazing Spider-Man, I couldn't help making comparisons in my head with the previous interpretation of this character by Tobey Maguire. I suppose one should evaluate a movie on its own merits, and not compare it too much with previous interpretations. But I'm not trying to do a "real" movie review here. Besides, there really are some interesting differences between Andrew Garfield's interpretation and Maguire's. When I first came out of the movie theater, I had this feeling that Garfield's Spider-Man is very, very different from Maguire's. And it took me a couple of days to put this difference into words. For starters, one gets the sense that this latest Spider-Man seems somehow darker, more brooding and emotional as compared to the previous interpretation. One can see this even on a purely physical level, in the way Garfield's Spider-Man carries himself as opposed to Maguire's: Throughout the movie, Garfield's Spider-Man adopts a more forward-leaning, head-pointing-forward stance, as opposed to the more typically chest-out super-hero stance favored by Maguire. To see what I'm saying, take a look at this:

[Image taken from here]

Which makes a lot of sense. After all, Spider-Man is not the same kind of super-hero as Superman. He's always had a more forward-leaning, crouchy air about him, which translates into a darker, more emotional feel. To illustrate, this is the typical Spider-Man-in-action shot: 

[Image taken from here]
Hmm... he looks like he does Ashtanga: This looks like the kind of movement that can be perfected by doing a lot of jump-throughs and jumpbacks. Or think about the jumping-your-legs-around-your-arms movement that one does to get into Bhujapidasana: That movement would really build up the core strength needed to wrap one's legs around one's arms and sling oneself around Manhattan skyscrapers, wouldn't it? :-)
But anyway, compare the typical Spider-Man-in-action shot with the typical Superman-in-action-shot: 
[Image taken from here]

Spider-Man clearly isn't supposed to be the kind of chest-out, head-back superhero that Super-man is. Actually, come to think of it, we can probably divide super-heroes into two kinds: the chest-out-head-back kind vs. the leaning-forward, head-pointing forward kind. The second group definitely consists of much darker characters than the first. Something to think about, no? Somebody should come up with a classification of all the super-heroes that are out there using this rubric. I think it'll be fun to see who falls into the first group (Superman, Captain America would be clear candidates) and who falls into the second. 

But anyway, if Spider-Man is clearly a leaning-forward, head-pointing-forward kind of superhero, then it would seem that Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man is a much closer interpretation of the character--much more true to the spirit of Spider-Man, if you will--than Tobey Maguire's. Besides, Garfield's Spider-Man also seems to have a more playful air about him, in keeping in line with the juvenile identity of his civilian self. Here's Spider-Man having some fun with a car thief. My favorite scene in the movie. Enjoy!

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