The Amazing Spider-Man – Movie Review
After years of anticipation from Spider-Man fans such as myself, The Amazing Spider-Man is finally in theaters. Many have argued that a reboot was unnecessary, but those detractors clearly haven’t watched the atrocity that was Spider-Man 3 in a while. In case you’ve forgotten, that “film” had three villains, killed two of them (one of which was only a glorified cameo), and had a dance sequence with emo Peter Parker getting down in a Jazz club and then punching Mary Jane in the face. Dancing, strutting down the streets while women laughed at him. Combing his hair into an emo coif and applying eyeliner. Yes, Raimi thought this made a dark version of Spider-Man. The goth kids at the mall must be infected by alien symbiotes as well.
Sorry for the slight derailment, but I had to remind people what had happened to bring us to this point. To illustrate the utter need for a reboot. Right before The Amazing Spider-Man was announced, Raimi was looking into Anne Hathaway as “The Vulturess” for Spider-Man 4. Thank God someone pulled the damn plug on that. How this man can call himself a Spider-Man fan and so badly annihilate the character’s reputation is beyond me. And how many villains does Spidey have? Not many, by the time Raimi was through with the franchise. Green Goblin? Dead. Doc Ock? Drowned in a river. Harry Osborn and Venom? Dead, and deader. I’m sure if they could have figured out a way to kill a pile of sand, Sandman would have been dead as well.
Now that I’ve fully illustrated my point, is The Amazing Spider-Man any better than those movies? The answer is undeniably yes. Marc Webb has directed a stellar reboot for the franchise, retelling Peter’s Spider-Man origins while keeping things very fresh and not recycling any elements from the first movie (except being bitten by a radioactive spider). There’s no organic webbing- Peter develops the fluid himself into web shooters, just like in the comics. The bitchy MJ (played with all the acting range of a tree by Kirsten Dunst) is out, replaced by Gwen Stacy (a lovable Emma Stone). There’s no Green Goblin in a Power Rangers costume. Instead Curt Connors (wasted in all three of Raimi’s films) finally gets his due as The Lizard, and he’s arguably Spidey’s best onscreen villain yet. Peter actually stays in high school throughout the whole movie, instead of graduating in the film’s opening 15 minutes like in 2002’s Spider-Man. Peter is characterized as a bit nerdy but far from the stereotype/ parody that was shown in the Raimi films. Yes, he still gets bullied by Flash in this film, but even before becoming Spider-Man he stands up for himself and other kids getting harassed. And when he gets his powers, Flash gets a great bit of comeuppance. Even Spidey’s suit looks cooler than in the past- a great mix of the old suit, the Ben Reilly costume and a bit of 2099.
That’s one of the best things about The Amazing Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield is pretty much pitch-perfect as Spidey. He has anger boiling beneath the surface, and when his loved ones get hurt he doesn’t just sit there and cry, but gets really violent with the local criminals. He almost throws a dude off a building, until he realizes it’s not the guy he’s looking for. By the end of the film, Flash is trying to kiss his ass just so Parker doesn’t kick his teeth in. He’s funny and sarcastic while in the costume. Basically, he’s everything that Tobey Maguire was not.
You could say that Spidey has two enemies in The Amazing Spider-Man– The Lizard and the NYPD. Gwen Stacy’s dad Captain Stacy (great acting by Denis Leary) has put a warrant out for the masked vigilante known as Spider-Man, and it gets a bit ridiculous when their efforts almost seem more focused on Spidey when he’s obviously trying to put down the murderous 15 foot Lizard stomping through the city. Luckily, he saves a lot of New Yorkers along the way, including one construction worker’s son, who calls in a favor to help out the webhead near the end of the film. It’s a much more effective scene than the cringe worthy, “You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us!” scene in 2002’s Spider-Man.
The effects in this film are fantastic. When Spidey is swinging through the city or beating down criminals, everything looks very realistic and, well, awesome is the only way to put it. These shots are quite literally exhilarating, especially when Webb uses CG first-person shots to give us all a feel of what it would be like to swing through Manhattan. The Lizard looks OK – he doesn’t have the snout most 90s readers would recognize, and is a bit more humanoid. However, the character is there, and he’s a much more effective villain than Venom or Green Goblin were. The effects used to show Connors regrowing his arm were pretty great.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is an effective reboot that really makes you care about its characters. Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) do a great job of illustrating how”with great power comes great responsibility” without ever actually saying those famous words. You feel Peter’s heartbreak when he lets these people who care so much about him down, or leads them to danger. Gwen Stacy is not just a damsel in distress, but puts herself in harm’s way in the film’s endgame to help stop the Lizard’s bioterrorism plot. Captain Stacy hates Spider-Man at first, but understands by the end that he is a real hero, and does everything he can to help him. Nearly everyone in the film has a great character arc, and this humanization gives the characters emotional weight that carries over into the action set pieces, creating a perfect storm of a great summer blockbuster, and setting the path for very interesting films in the future.
Second Opinion– Zachary Kircher
I definitely agree with most people when they say that The Amazing Spider-Man felt rather unneeded. Sure, Spider-Man 3 kind of sucked (Ed. note- it really sucked), but I don’t think it showed that a complete reboot of the series. As a result, The Amazing Spider-Man ended up being very predictable since its story progressed in much of the same way that Sam Raimi’s film did. In addition, I felt that The Amazing Spider-Man introduced too many plot points that were unexplored by the end. I’m sure that the eventual sequels will develop these ideas, but even so I left the theater somewhat let down. Despite these two big flaws though, I think that The Amazing Spider-Man is a well-made redo of the original film. First of all, despite the fact that it’s the same story, the story is still emotional and entertaining. Secondly, Andrew Garfield is excellent as Spider-Man, providing for great moments as a complete nerd and then a charismatic jokester when he is in the suit. He is the main reason why the film works, because his performance made me care for his version of Spider-Man. Emma Stone is great, Denis Leary is great, Martin Sheen is great, everyone is great! Well, maybe aside from Rhys Ifans since The Lizard is actually a mildly weak villain here (I actually love The Lizard, I just didn’t think that he worked as well in this film).
I was actually surprised by how Marc Webb handled the material, because his previous film was (500) Days of Summer. A switch from an indie romantic comedy to a superhero blockbuster is a rather bold one, but I think that he did a good job. The cinematography is good, effects are cool (if a little overused at times), there are some great action scenes at times and I appreciated that Webb went for a darker tone to the story (not quite Batman Begins, but you know what I mean). In all, The Amazing Spider-Man is a successful redo of the hero’s origin story and will likely be the start to a great new series, but I still felt like it was unnecessary and inferior when compared to Sam Raimi’s film.
Zach’s Score: 4 out of 5 (Very Good)