The Amazing Spider-man
By Craig “The Movie Geek” Silliphant
I should first admit that I was anticipating this movie with a mix of fear, dread, and excitement --- more than I would most normal movies --- because Spider-man has been one of my favourite things since I was a kid. Not just one of my favourite comic book characters, but one of my favourite things in general (him and Batman both). My love for the wallcrawler was built right in to the character that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created; who can’t identify with a teenage nerd that no one notices? Heck, even cool kids feel like a nerd sometimes. It’s part of being a teenager. And it’s even more fun when Peter gets super powers that come with a heavy price, from which he learns, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility.’ Suffice to say, I could probably go on about this for days. I’ll try not to.
In this reboot to the Spider-man franchise, director Sam Raimi is replaced by Mark Webb (director of the excellent (500) Days of Summer) and Peter Parker/Spider-man is taken over by Andrew Garfield (The Social Network). Mary Jane has been ejected from the story in favour of Pete’s actual first girlfriend from the comics, Gwen Stacy (played by Emma Stone). As Peter unravels the mystery of his parent’s disappearance and comes to grips with his new powers, an old friend of the family wreaks havoc when his experiment goes awry, creating The Lizard. Some say it was too soon for a reboot. I disagree, but then again, I’m a man obsessed.
Though here lies one of the major problems (with a reboot): note to Hollywood --- STOP REMAKING ORIGIN STORIES. Most of the plot points in this movie are straight from 2002’s Spider-man. I don’t need a whole movie every time to remind me how Parker gets his powers. Just dive right in! This is what made Spider-man 2 so entertaining. We know who Spider-man is (and a simple flashback would be fine --- Batman Begins does this well…it’s an origin movie that doesn’t make us sit through the same origin scenes we’ve seen over and over again). In the case of The Amazing Spider-man, it takes an entire hour before we see our favourite webhead. I took my 7-year-old nephew with me, and he was the Mayor of Squirm City for that initial hour. Peter Parker is every bit as important as Spider-man, but origin stories can sometimes erode the onscreen balance between the hero and his alter ego.
The movie is watchable though, and truly enjoyable in many places, even having some emotional resonance. Though it’s dialogue heavy, there is some good writing in some of the conversations and it’s well directed. It’s a bit more character-driven, especially in the love story. The actors, most notably Martin Sheen (as Uncle Ben) and Emma Stone are compelling. However, when held in context with the first two Sam Raimi Spider-man movies, the reboot doesn’t quite hold up as “classic” Spider-man.
On the negative side:
- I hate the costume. It looks like some futuristic update on the classic red and blues. It’s another reason why it doesn’t quite feel like Spider-man. I get that they want some visual difference between the classic suit and this update, but the costume feels a little forced. He looks more like he should be on a luge in the Olympics.
- Garfield is decent as Parker, and again, I get the need to distinguish the character a bit from the wide-eyed portrayal that Tobey Maguire handed in, but sometimes his anguish is a little much. Peter Parker, while a confused teenager with a lot on his shoulders, is still one of the most grounded characters. Sometimes in this movie, Garfield comes off more like the whiny-ass Hayden Christensen from Star Wars. I will admit though, that me not liking this angle may be more subjective. Parker is supposed to be a bit of a pie-eyed goody-two shoes, closer to Maguire’s portrayal in the earlier trilogy. I think it is central to Parker’s appeal in the comics because it makes him more of an ‘everyman,’ but those less familiar with the comic may disagree.
- There’s a coincidence too huge to ignore --- Gwen Stacy happens to go to Peter’s school AND be the daughter of the cop trying to catch Spidey --- fine, I can take that. But she suddenly happens to be Curt Connors assistant with full access to Oscorp Labs? Weak sauce. It’s a cheap way to allow Stacy to become relevant in the adventure during the climax (which she does well in, but I just don’t like how they get us there).
- Where is J. Jonah Jameson? The Daily Bugle?
- Lastly, I don’t know if it was written into Garfield’s Hollywood contract that we need to see his pretty face, but I’ve never seen a superhero take off his mask so damn much. By the end, pretty much everyone knows Parker is Spider-man. And I don’t want to see some ‘matinee idol of the moment’ fighting The Lizard --- I want to see Spider-man!
The Amazing Spider-man isn’t terrible as some are saying --- as a summer popcorn movie, it has some great moments. For a comic fan though, it feels a bit like a phoned in Spider-man lite, especially after the epic scope of the first two Raimi movies and just how well they captured the nuances of the comic book (but let’s pretend that third movie never happened).
3 and a Half Dorks out of 5 on the Geek-o-Meter. It’s worth seeing and lands on the better side of comic book movies.
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