Happy late 4th of July, Tyrants!
So I just saw the reboot that apparently no one wanted. Seriously. When I perused through fan sites and blogs during the months leading up to The Amazing Spider-Man’s premiere I saw nothing but disinterest or annoyance or confusion. "It’s too soon for a reboot…why are they doing another origin story….not seeing this at all…is this Spider-Man 4?” Yeah, that type of commentary. And who could really blame them?
It has been only 5 years since Spider-Man 3 (which sucked). And right when Spider-Man 4 was still in development, a kerfuffle between Raimi and the studio led to him and the cast walking, followed by Sony immediately going into reboot mode (click here for the details.)
Anywho. Now we have a brand new Spider-Man, brand new cast/director and the untold story of Peter Parker’s parents. Yeah, the marketing was not very inspired. But as far as I could see, this film was sold out at the theater I went to this morning. In short, this film will make some big money despite the criticism. At least in the first weekend. So, how was The Amazing Spider-Man?
REVIEW: (Some spoilers ahead)
We've seen the Spider-Man origin before; high schooler from Queens who lives with his aunt and uncle, gets bit by a radioactive spider and gains cool powers. But they make some tweaks and add a few elements that were not in the Sam Raimi films.
For starters, despite the fact that Andrew Garfield is just south of 30, he was the best Peter Parker/Spider-Man we’ve seen. He is awkward and inept in social situations. He is flawed and even after he puts on the suit, he is not fully formed as an individual. Peter is still evolving as a person and hero and will continue to make mistakes that have larger consequences. For instance, at first, when he became Spider-Man after his uncle Ben’s death, he is looking only for the murderer who pulled the trigger. But then, after inadvertently blowing the long game of a police sting, Peter begins to realize that it is about more than just him and his grief. This is what makes Peter begin to look toward the bigger picture as Spider-Man. Plus, this film really showcases Peter Parker being kind of a genius, not just in the genetics area but also in him making his own webshooters (Raimi’s films made them organic). Not only that, Peter already being quite skilled as a photographer was showcased, even though he does not work at the Daily Bugle just yet.
Garfield nailed the Spider-Man wisecracks like a pro, adding a different dynamic to the fight scenes. I loved how he ‘sneezed’ out webbing at a criminal. Speaking of webbing, one of the great things about this movie was them showing Peter really adjusting to his powers. It was done to a degree in the first Spider-Man film. But I really dug how Peter was dealing with his super strength, the reflexes and then the sticky hands (though they never explained how his feet could stick through his sneakers. But whatever). And him still getting a handle on his strength doesn’t quite get resolved even after he becomes Spider-Man officially. The Spider-sense was shown, a kind of humming noise when an attack is coming at him, but it was never really named in the film. Anyone unfamiliar with that Spidey power might have just considered it reflexes and super-hearing. Also, it was smart to show that at first he was not very good at web swinging just yet or that the webshooters were easy to make. Spider-Man may have powers, but he’s not Thor or Hulk. He’s a more street-level hero, which is one of his more engaging qualities.
Peter stays in high school for the duration of the film, which allows more time to see him really cope with all the calamity of becoming Spider-Man as well as flesh out his budding relationship with one Gwen Stacy.
Another huge change was that instead of Mary Jane being his love interest, this movie stayed truer to the comics by making Gwen Stacy his first true love. To me, I’m all for this change as MJ Watson would have been a bit out of Peter’s league right when he’s still adjusting to the Spider-Man thing. Emma Stone was fantastic in this film as Gwen, not just playing a damsel in distress. She is Peter’s equal intellectually and full of spunk, and got to run through a fuller gamete of emotions than just being the funny gal. And can I just say that Emma looked gorgeous with the blonde hair and bangs. The chemistry with Garfield is obvious on-screen, and their scenes together were one of the best parts of the film. Gwen finds out pretty quickly from Peter that he’s Spider-Man. Even though its not the upside-down kiss from the first Raimi Spider-Man, how the reveal happens is actually pretty cool.
Rhys Ifans played Dr. Curt Connors/the Lizard, the film’s antagonist. The Lizard was actually a very good choice for the villain in this reboot. He provided a good physical challenge for Spider-Man as well as a moral quandary for Peter as he unintentionally helped Dr. Connors become the Lizard in an effort to find out about his dad. Connors’ initial reasoning for wanting to modify his body were noble, ‘A World Without Weakness’. But it then becomes twisted into something far more sinister after he experiences the power of being the Lizard. I felt that the final confrontation between Lizard and Spider-Man was solid, but it lacked the impact that should have made it more meaningful.
The rest of the casting fit well with their characters and the feel of the movie. Sally Fields never disappoints in anything, so she worked for me as Aunt May. Its clear that she knows about Peter being Spider-Man, but its an unspoken understanding. Martin Sheen, in his limited time on-screen, was solid as Uncle Ben. Now there had been some debate about the reworking of the infamous line of his that was Spider-Man’s credo; "With Great Power, comes Great Responsibility." Honestly, I didn’t mind how the line was changed, as Sheen made it work. I think shoehorning the original line in might have felt forced and unnatural.
The confrontation with Flash Thompson post-spider bite was more of a humbling encounter as opposed to Peter straight up kicking his ass. And in another nice nod to the comics, Flash eventually becomes Peter’s friend. Dennis Leary played Gwen Stacy’s dad, a respected police captain. As hard-nosed as he was, Dennis Leary still delivered a more understated snark in reaction to Spider-Man and Peter (who he of course didn’t approve of for his daughter). Captain Stacy worked especially well as Spider-Man’s foil since there is no J.J. Jameson in Peter’s life at this point. Speaking of absences, I really loved how Norman Osborn was presented in this film. He is larger than life, a titan of industry who is mentioned but never seen, and the only image of him we see is shrouded (a smart move for Sony so they are free to cast him in the forthcoming sequel.)
Now as for what really didn’t work for me. The film at times was a bit more dour. Now I get that this is supposed to be a bit darker, but at the same time a Spider-Man film should always be enjoyable.
The whole secret storyline about his parents that is so heavily teased in the marketing and trailers was talked about in the beginning, but ultimately never really a sticking point for Peter in the long-term arc of the film other than give a connection to Dr. Connors. It would have served the film better to have Connors and Peter develop a relationship independent of Peter’s father. That way, the confrontation between mentor and mentee would have had more bite. Plus, as good as Sally Field is, she could have been given a little more to do in terms of Peter and losing Uncle Ben. It felt that after a while, Peter’s grief over Ben was forgotten and no longer a major part of why he became Spider-Man.
It was good to see Peter’s save of a child from earlier in the film pay off toward the end, but how the boy’s father paid back Spider-Man felt a bit too convenient for my tastes.
Now, while the fight scenes were actually very fast, furious and entertaining, the Lizard looked way too CGI. It took me out of the film at times.
And seriously, dude needs to stop showing his face all over town. Someone in the press is bound to piece together that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are the same guy. We know its Garfield under the mask. No need to keep reminding us.
Amazing Spider-Man was not great, and definitely had its flaws, but it was pretty good. Marc Webb had an unenviable task to reboot an already successful franchise, especially as someone who has not handled such a big budget feature before. But he passed with mostly flying colors. I’d recommend The Amazing Spider-Man to anyone who’s already seen The Avengers five times too many and needs a good holdover until The Dark Knight Rises comes out in 2.5 weeks.