I couldn’t give less of a flying fuck if it’s been just 5 years since the original Spider-Man trilogy ended. It’s now become clear as crystal that those movies were not the best way to be introduced to the character. In fact, forget all about them. The Amazing Spider-Man is the Spider-Man movie we both needed and deserved all along.
The Amazing Spider-Man sees social outcast and orphan Peter Parker on the hunt for answers about his parents, who went missing when he was a child. His search brings him to the lab of Oscorp scientist Dr. Curt Conners when a chance encounter with a genetically altered spider grants him extraordinary abilities. Donning the alter ego of Spider-Man, Peter woos his high school crush, Gwen Stacy, while realizing he inadvertently gives Dr. Connors the tools to become a mutated monster.
This movie’s main criticism has been that it retells the origin story. If you were satisfied with it the first time around, you may find yourself a little bugged you have to revisit it here. If you’re of the correct opinion that barely anything about Spider-Man (2002) was resonant, origin included, you’ll be pleased to know that it is told here in a way that is both more integral to the overall movie and helps relate to the characters even more. In other words, better in every way.
This movie is very different from what has come before. People have lazily said that this movie is trying to be the Dark Knight version of Spider-Man. Yes and no.
Yes, in that gone is the whimsical fluff of the previous movies. Amazing Spider-Man has more of an edge to it and is a few steps closer to reality. That’s not to say that in this version the Lizard is a guy who has a really bad case of eczema, just that the real world things in it seem definitely more real world.
No, in that this is still Spider-Man. Director Marc Webb brings a great sense of humor to the movie, akin to his last movie, (500) Days of Summer, and it feels very at home with these characters (and certainly not overly corny). The scenes where he first discovers his powers are about as funny as any great comedic scene you’ll see this summer.
Many people may be surprised and maybe even disappointed to learn that this movie values the characters and their relationships most of all. It’s not paced like a regular summer movie, opting to build up to most of its action in the last 45 minutes, and while that does create some problems in the form of a couple of really slow parts, the characters were engrossing enough to keep my attention.
Andrew Garfield embodies so much of what makes not only Spider-Man great, but Peter Parker as well. Instead of being a shy outcast who felt at home in the ’60s, like in the last series, this Peter Parker is an outsider that fits in current day. He’s dorky and awkward but he also rides a skateboard and has some abandonment issues. At times, it’s almost as if he has Aspergers. He loves his Uncle Ben but doesn’t quite take the leap into full responsibility as Spider-Man yet. And why would he? He’s a high school student still trying to find his own way through things. Having such a real, dimensional character to root for this time is awesome and Garfield’s performance is a great anchor for the movie.
Who honestly doesn’t like Emma Stone at this point? This isn’t her being that full on smarmy and sarcastic self she’s known for, but she is SO incredibly likeable, especially when compared to her predecessor. Her scenes with Garfield are what keep the movie afloat.
Rhys Ifans is a great actor and he turns in a good performance here, but The Lizard isn’t one of the things that is great about the movie. Essentially, he is a perfect villain to begin your proposed trilogy with because he cribs from the best and most familiar Spider-Man villains: eccentric scientist who is a role model of Peter’s goes loopy after a botched laboratory turns him into a monster. I’m sure that doesn’t sound familiar. The all-CG design of The Lizard looks great most of the time and it was a smart decision to incorporate Ifans’ voice and mannerisms. However, just one more scene with him would make him seem more integral to the whole thing and he would probably be a great villain instead of just a good one.
|Not in the movie, FYI|
Many blockbusters have starting thinking more in terms of a long term franchise and it seems Spider-Man has now succumbed as well. That’s not a good thing. Many elements are left unresolved at the end of the movie. The mystery about Peter’s parents isn’t solved, Uncle Ben’s killer is never caught, and the Dr. Ratha character completely disappears after the bridge scene (likely edited out, judging by stills and sound bites already released). The first two aren’t so bad, seeing as the movie got to where it needed to because of their inclusion, but the third hints at some missing material that may have taken the story in a different direction.
Worse, there is a stinger half way through the credits that hints at answers to the parents mystery, along with a likely villain next time. While it’s enjoyable to ponder who this mystery figure is, and I very much look forward to how they go forth with this series, the scene makes it too clear that this movie can’t stand completely by itself because of all the loose ends.
Still, once the action kicks in in the last 45 minutes, it becomes some of the most fun in all of the Spider-Man movies. Spidey’s battles with The Lizard at the high school and on top of the Oscorp tower are thrilling and gritty. The swinging sequences, despite not having the advantage of being fresh and new, still pop off the screen, and just about every special effect that looked horrible before looks Amazing now.
It took me a while to warm up to it, but James Horner’s score works fantastically in the movie and could possibly rival Elfman’s on the icon-o-meter.
Spider-Man is such an iconic character that means so much to so many different people that it’s become impossible to please everybody. Many (supposedly) professional critics decided to hate this movie from the start because of its genesis. Yes, this movie was made so Sony could retain the rights to the character and keep public awareness up. That being this case, it’s some kind of miracle that this movie ended up as good as it did. This is a more realized, well balanced version of Spider-Man. Sure, the quips, the iconic Spider-Man poses and the mechanical web-shooters make a welcome return, but finding what makes these characters tick and showing all the great aspects of them is what sets this movie above the rest. If you consider yourself very attached to the previous movies, your reaction may differ, but The Amazing Spider-Man proves to be on another level from what has come before and a welcome big screen return for the wallcrawler.