And as promised I’m back with a look at what happens when the studio hits the reset button on one of it’s biggest francises, how does Amazing Spider-man fare in comparison to Sam Raimi’s first effort released just over a decade ago? Read on and find out.
The dictionary of things that aren’t really diseases defines Originitis as “Inflammation of the origin.” When I say Originitis however I’m referring to how origin sequences have a habit of causing pacing in Superhero movies to slow to a crawl while they jump through a few loops and get their character where they need to be. It’s a very common condition with superhero genres with some movies spending between a third and a half of their total running time on these sequences.
Amazing Spider-man found itself in a unique position, since the original Spider-man was only out so recently they could have opted to do a “Soft reboot” and start off with Spidey already powered up, much like the 90’s cartoon did in it’s first episode that also featured the Lizard. After all there isn’t many people out there who doesn’t know that Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider and even if there wasn’t, all it takes is a small flashback to fill in that bit.
Presumably to set itself apart from Raimi’s trilogy and establish that this takes place in a brand spanking new universe where anything can happen, we get a hard reboot showing everything all over again with unnecessarily slightly adapted characters for modern times. This really leads to the first half of the movie being like a checklist of events we’ve seen before.
Highlight Peter’s weakness as a social outcast and phyiscally.
Introduce loving aunt and uncle
Discovery of powers
Revenge of the nerd.
Annoying of uncle and subsequent speech about responsibility (curious enough missing out the “with great power” line, probably to avoid repetition)
Death of the uncle
Congratulations, your lead character has now been infused with enough angst to become a fully motivated superhero!
I can’t really hold this against it because really, every plot ever written is basically a checklist of stuff that has to happen at certain points. It’s the job of the script to mask this with larger than life characters that take on lives of their own, with dialogue that flows smoothly and captures your attention and doesn’t let go, with set pieces that challenge your imagination and get your adrenaline pumping.
This is where I felt Amazing Spider-man let itself and it’s cast down, there’s not much point casting brilliant actors like Garfield, Stone, Sheen and Leary in your movie if you’re not going to make the most of them and to me the script dropped the ball at that part. Scene’s felt like going through the motions and attempts to be cute rather than adding anything substancial to the plot, from Peter’s “Subway Discovery” scene to “Revenge of the nerd” the opening half certainly isn’t a snore fest, but it never shoots for above and beyond either, seemingly willing to just settle for “slightly charming.”
I could say more but what is there more to say, Martin Sheen was a dependable Uncle Ben but the movie didn’t real add anything to the overall mytho’s not in the original Raimi one. Might as well move on to something new to talk about.
The Good Guys
The cast is without a doubt the strongest thing’s about this movie, Stone and Garfields chemistry is instantly clear and both of them are absolute pleasures to watch on screen. Despite the modern changes Garfield is clearly Peter Parker (I’ve seen people complain that he’s too pretty but honestly, Peter Parker’s not an ugly guy in the comic), if I have one “problem” with the portrayal of Peter it would simply be for all the talk that “Spidey will be cracking wise” again, they gave away EVERY SINGLE WISECRACK in the trailers.
Emma Stone, despite being a perfect Mary Jane with her usual red hair colour brings Gwen to life with ease. Prior to seeing it a friend told me that Gwen is more like Mj in this movie than Kirsten Dunst was in Raimi’s trilogy but I disagree, I thought here we got a solid renedition of Gwen. Denis Leary’s Captain Stacey carries the hardass badge well to his final moments and managed to drive my lil sister to tears even at a point. Martin Sheen as I mentioned before was a predictably solid uncle ben. If there was one character I thought was under-utilized it would have been Sally Field as Aunt May, who it seemed was all but forgotten once the action started.
The Big Bad
There’s no doubt that Curt Connor’s/The Lizard is a classic Spidey villain from his first appearance in Amazing Spider-man 6, as evident by the fact that the character is still in use to this day. I’m not going to lie and say he’s one of my favourite’s but he’s certainly not a “Rhino” or “Shocker” c-lister that I could do without.
That said there’s a problem with the character, pretty much every lizard story is essentially Curt Connor’s losing control and giving into the creature within. This predictably enough is also what we get with the movie. Curt Connor’s is initially shown to be a good man with morals, like all good man with morals, is put in a very bad position. Sadly from the second Curt injects the formula to regrow his arm he stops being a 3 dimensional character and becomes a 2 dimensional bad guy, gone is the conflicted personalities of Williem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn, replaced with Rhys Ifans going crazy. The lizard wasn’t a bad choice of villain by any means, just much like the rest of the movie, they don’t do anything particularly interesting with him.
Up til now I had a general rule of thumb, if a movie was shot in 3D I would see it in 3D. After seeing this I’m changing that rule to “if a movie is shot in 3D by a visually dynamic director (Scott, Cameron, Scorsese) then I’ll see it in 3D” The 3D added absolutely nothing to the movie at all and the “first person” web shooting gimmicks came across like the gimmicks that they were.
Nerd Problems : Put your fucking mask back on
In the original trilogy Tobey Maguire famously had a problem with keeping his mask on. Spidey would often find himself maskless at a climatic moment in the script just so the pretty boy lead could get more screen time and convey emotions better, after all it’s hard to convey emotion through an expressionless mask without just yelling all your dialogue like evil Tobey in Spider-man 3.
Andrew Garfield takes this problem to new extremes, it’s not an exaggeration that he probably spends at least 50% of his time in costume completely maskless. While I do understand the reasoning behind this it does have the side effect of making the lead hero look absolutely fucking incompetent. There’s a point when he takes his mask off when saving the kid from a car dangling off the side of the bridge because the kids scared of him initially (I dont think a grown man in skin tight spandex is much better but what do I know) What was with that? You know what’s going to happen after that, spidey’s going to be walking down the street one day and that kids going to see him, and because he’s young and doesn’t know any better he’s going to shout “look there’s spider-man” and before spidey knows it the secret’s out of the bag because he couldn’t keep his fucking mask on.
It’s not only that, later in the movie he fights in his civvies in his school hallway, even our school hallways had camera’s installed and with school bombings/shootings I think American schools would have even more. There’s a point after that later in the movie where he’s investigating the sewers for lizard lab and doing it completely maskless, why? I mean doesn’t hinder his sight or hearing or any of his abilities and it does protect his identity, why wouldn’t he wear it at all times?
Nerd Problems: Spider Sense? What Spider Sense.
“Spider-Man’s “spider-sense” manifests in a tingling feeling at the base of his skull, alerting him to personal danger in proportion to the severity of that danger. For instance, a little tingling such as a happenstance passing by of an enemy would prompt Peter to be alert, while a strong tingling, sometimes to the point of being painful, is interpreted as a need to take immediate evasive action on a deadly threat”
With that in mind, how the hell do the writers explain how Spider-man got shot not once but TWICE? The scene in which Peter discovers his powers heavily implies the spider-sense is there (even if it’s never outright stated, it’s a standard part of spider-mans powers and should be expected as part of any basic package) but they can’t even follow through on it for the whole movie.
Random Thoughts: Not big enough to impact what I thought of the movie, but enough for me to notice.
My blood pressure briefly spiked when I seen Peter Parker was using a skateboard five minutes into the movie but this honestly had no bearing on how much i enjoyed the movie, it was a choice I disagreed with but in the large scheme of things it was really only window dressing.
It’s strange how the time Spidey was actually shot with a real bullet, the injury changed from “life threatening/I don’t think he’s going to make it” to “not an issue” with a bit of web fluid.
Speaking of that bullet wound, the “Crane” scene was just a waste of time, I’d almost rather have the people of new york standing up the bad guys again.
Captain Stacey’s death really needed some more time spent with the character prior to hit me, he spent so much of the film just being a dick and I really wish we got more of him and spidey being side by side. His death in the comic brought me to tears but here, not so much.
Stan Lee’s cameo? Amusing cute etc What else is there to say.
So does Aunt May know the truth or is she just assuming Peter is pimping himself out and getting beat up for it in the village? I hope we get more Aunt May in the sequels, Sally Field was very underused here.
Interesting like the “Spectacular Spider-man” cartoon a few years ago Gwen is depicted as the smart scientist here as well. While not quite at odds with her original portrayal by Lee it was far from one of her more defining characteristics in the 60’s.
Speaking of Gwen I got the impression Peter confided in her way to quickly, did not get the impression he completely trusted her and really, I just got the impression he told her so he could hit that, not that I could blame him anyway.
Finally the scene at the end of the movie? Osborn? I mean who else could it be.
I’d give this a 3/5, maybe a 3.5/5 if I was feeling generous. It’s not a bad movie by any means but title aside I just didn’t think there was much “Amazing” about it. Truth be told despite preferring the cast in this I think I still prefer Raimi’s original over this, mostly for Willem Dafoe’s performance and the way it broke new ground with it’s clear cut sequences of Spidey swinging across the city, here we get gimmicky first person 3D and not really much else that sticks out in the memory the next day.