The Amazing Spider-Man
(136 minutes, Rated PG-13)
The Amazing Spider-Man reboot gets unfairly criticized; I understand that this picture could be seen as unnecessary, but the studio heads were not going to allow the corpse, known as Spider-Man 3, to get cold before attempting another. For a while, a fourth Raimi film was being discussed, but as soon as that fell apart, everyone knew that a reboot was inevitable. However, no one thought they were going to start with another origin story: and therein lies the problem. The audience gets a cool superhero film that feels almost pointless; I understand the need of an origin story for an unrecognizable character, but why do one for arguably the most widely known superhero next to Superman? Yes, I have admiration for this picture, but I can also understand the criticisms; instead of, separating itself with a small backstory, Marc Webb and company decide to give us an above average origin flick that worries more about the future sequels than the ire of fans.
But at least, Columbia Pictures picked a director with a different vision: the director of 500 Days of Summer, Marc Webb, seemed like an odd choice at the time, but luckily his visual style is not a rehash of Raimi’s trilogy. And it is important to point out that I am not a huge fan of Raimi’s films; I like his first attempt but find Spider-Man 2 to be the definition of overrated. Now for those who gave The Amazing Spider-Man a chance, Webb has a distinct voice that can be seen with his camera movement; his first person camera view of Spidey flying through the sky shows confidence in his ability. And the reason why these shots work is because Webb decided to use practical effects as much as possible; what results are a mixture of practical and CGI effects during Spider-Man’s web slinging that blend seamlessly. On top of that, the camera feels fluid as it follows the web-slinger throughout New York; never did the intense camera movement make me nauseous, which was a prevalent thought when first hearing about the first person view.
And the reoccurring theme of unnecessary hate for The Amazing Spider-Man, is still felt when people talk about Spider-Man’s suit. Personally, I found the suit more believable than Raimi’s Spider-Man, but have been told that believability is not a valid enough reason to like it. So in my opinion, this darker suit fits the universe that was introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man; these films are not trying to be as dark as the ‘Nolan-universe,’ but the cheeky humor of Garfield’s Peter Parker fits in this somewhat darker attempt at Spidey. Furthermore, the suit feels like a teenager made it: the sun glasses for eyes, the constant jokes about spandex, and the somewhat darker colors all feel like a teenager’s decision.
On the other hand, I cannot understand the design for the Lizard: how could the CGI team allow a steroid induced version of the Goombas from the Super Mario Brothers movie. I love that they choose to do a different villain, which separates itself from the original three pictures: the reuse of villains is an annoying dumb practice of DC films. But this CGI-only antagonist needed more time to be visually developed; instead the laughable graphics result in a supposedly scary villain looking almost comedic. And the same goes for Rhys Ifans, the actor playing The Lizard’s alter ego Dr. Connors, who did not come off as intimidating: his ‘dual personality’ conversation is way too reminiscent of Willem Dafoe’s performance in the original Spider-man, which felt weird when watching a movie so desperately attempting to distinguish itself.
But where it truly differentiates itself from previous entries is with Andrew Garfield’s performance as Peter Parker. Spider-Man was an important comic because the normal everyday life of Peter was just as important as his alter ego. And to be honest, I never liked the casting of Tobey Maguire or the way that Raimi’s films portrayed the usually audacious superhero. But Garfield seems to have the role down pat; The Amazing Spider-Man perfectly sets up his dorky, but rebellious nature. Yes, he gets picked on, but at least, he is standing up for the right thing; and while the first twenty minutes also establishes his engineering skills, at least this ridiculous plot point gets downplayed. With that said, some of Garfield’s most entertaining scenes are the well choreographed fight sequences; the actor’s charm, mixed with the hilarious writing, allow the viewer to adore this fearless superhero. For instance, the scene that features Spider-Man and The Lizard fighting in the school allows for harrowing action mixed with hilarious quips from Peter Parker; the overall choice to use humor with the action benefits from the casting of Garfield.
But my absolute favorite part of Garfield’s performance is the chemistry the actor has with Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy. The two’s natural ability to talk to each other, as well as, their comedic bantering highlight several ‘slower’ parts of the film. While Gwen’s admiration for Peter’s bravery becomes the reason they date, the audience feels that these two have been together for years. And the only problem that I found with the relationship is Gwen falling so quickly for Peter. She seems way too self-reliant to let her guard down so easily: and this is a compliment to the character because Gwen Stacey differs herself from other so-called ‘damsels in distress.’ Yes, she needs to be saved by Spider-Man, but at least the trouble she gets in results from her independently trying to help people. Emma Stone’s Gwen is the closest thing to a fully fleshed out female character in a superhero movie; and her need for Peter does not completely hinder the smart self-sufficient scientist written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves.
Speaking of the screenwriters, while the story is coherent, it leaves a lot to be desired. The writers are limited by having to write an origin story because the character needs to hit the expected beats in order to become Spider-Man: both through plot points and character growth. For instance, Uncle Ben’s death is important but Peter Parker has to grow as a person to become the selfless superhero: and throughout the picture the audience sees Peter’s development into the hero that the city needs. However, it feels that the writers’ limited canvass reflect the inability to truly separate this story from other origin tales.
Also, add countless scenes that do not have any purpose to the overall story and one can realize that The Amazing Spider-Man does not actualize its potential. It also does not help that the cheesy cringe-inducing basketball, skateboarding, and crane sequence result in a collective ‘eye roll’ from the audience. But again, it feels that like Iron Man 2, this reboot attempts to build the sequel before establishing the original. And though it is clearly better than that dreadful Iron Man sequel, the previously mentioned script problems jointly hurt what the screenwriters were going for. With that said, I pray that the studio’s plan for a Sinister Six spinoff does not similarly hinder the storytelling of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
And these problems are clearly seen when observing the side characters: who range from wildly entertaining to distractingly futile. First and foremost, there is Aunt May and Uncle Ben; and while Sally Fields perfectly portrays Peter’s mother figure, it feels like Martin Sheen phoned in his performance. Yes, Uncle Ben’s death is effective, but that results more from Andrew Garfield’s acting and the following scene with Gwen and Flash Thompson. And even, Flash’s character is placed in this story as a reminder of the comics; but at least Chris Zylka is given more to do than Joe Manganiello’s previous rendition. Flash’s previously mentioned scene with Peter, after Uncle Ben’s death, sheds a different light on the bully: but then, he is forgotten until the last few minutes of the picture.
But Flash’s character is not nearly as useless as Missy Kallenback. From what I know, she was never apart of the comics; but the film wastes time on her for no apparent reason. It seems that she has a crush on Peter because she awkwardly stares at him from a distance; but then, like Flash, Missy disappears for the reminder of the flick, which makes me question that point of her character in the first place. Perhaps, her scenes were left on the cutting room floor, but then why leave any of her scenes in? One can only speculate, but even if Missy got a payoff, she is an additional character in an already crowded picture.
Now as negative as this review sounds, I am a fan of The Amazing Spider-man; but as anyone can see, it is far from perfect. An overly convoluted plot mixed with confusing decisions by director Marc Webb diminishes the web-slinging action, and the performances by the two leads. It just seemed that for every step forward, the film constantly took two steps back; but I appreciate the effort and love the unique things that Webb did with the characters, action, and camera. So instead of hating it like every fanboy in the world, I decided to take it for what it was; a very enjoyable superhero flick bogged down by the necessity to tell another origin story. Lets just hope that the sequel that The Amazing Spider-Man builds towards is worth the wait.