The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

July 4, 2012

Three Spider-Man movies have come and gone in the past 10 years, and I admittedly never enjoyed them as much as I hoped to. I can also admit that when they initially announced the reboot, I groaned “We have been there, we have done that. Why are they making this?” just like everyone else. Then I saw the first picture of the suit and Andrew Garfield in it…and I found myself anxiously awaiting for The Amazing Spider-Man since. As my interest grew and grew, the line was drawn in the sand amongst friends who were also excited for the new movie and those who felt it was a pointless and stupid reboot. Having finally seen it, I have chosen my side of the line.

Amazing would not be what it is without the original Spider-Man trilogy doing a lot of the legwork. Where the original trilogy familiarized audiences with a lot of Spider-Man’s universe, Amazing relies on that, leaving certain things unattended whilst exploring other territories. By rebooting the franchise, Amazing knows what and what not to do to get fans interested and keep them that way, fixing and tinkering with things that maybe didn’t work so well in the originals. Amazing is a 180-degree turn from it’s alternate-world brother, serving more akin to the Ultimate Spider-Man comics than the true Marvel series (much like Avengers movie was based more on the Ultimates). As this is a reboot, it works quite brilliantly.

The movie does suffer from a few things that are almost unavoidable in any comic book movie, starting with the most obvious build throughout the movie (back story, origin story, etc.), climaxing at the inevitable “hero vs. villain” at the top of a building. There are quite a few things in here we have seen countless times before; it wasn’t annoying or bothersome, just a little bit of a let down. The movie definitely lulls in a few places, and could have easily been 15 minutes shorter, but that also wasn’t a huge detractor. Unfortunately, the movie definitely suffers from the trailer giving away a lot of the climactic moments, so I wasn’t as blown away by any revelations or developments throughout. There are a few plot elements that come and go without any answers, but all in all they are fringe points and perhaps something that will be addressed in later installments (regardless of this movie’s success there will be more to come).

What works best?

  • Garfield as Peter Parker – brings a honed level of nerdy but lovable outcast to the role, and physically commands the screen once he dons the red and blue suit. Wiry, thin but strong, Garfield is the perfect Spidey, showing Peter as more innately heroic, but also perhaps more cocky and self-assured (almost to a fault), never losing the investment of the audience in him and his struggles to become a superhero. Tobey Maguire never felt like Peter Parker to me, he was too dopey and shy and he never delivered the wit that Spider-Man has. Garfield delivers every bit of attitude that Spidey should have.
  • Gwen Stacy as the love interest – Gwen’s storyline is a huge part of Marvel’s history, really marking a proverbial shift from the Silver Age to the Modern Age in comic books. As Peter’s first true love interest, her impact on his life is huge, and it was a missed opportunity to skip over her in the original trilogy. Emma Stone is a success in the role, and it will be very interesting to see where they go with their complicated relationship in the future.
  • The web shooters are mechanical – Peter’s prowess with technology while also showing his inventiveness is perfectly illustrated by going back to the comic book version of the shooters, foregoing the organic ones that Raimi created.
  • Web-slinging – He uses his webbing in a variety of ways, much more effectively than ever before. One of the cooler ideas has him crawling around the Lizard wrapping him up like a spider would his prey. The webbing is light and strong, and comes out fast and with purpose. When he swings across the city it feels more frantic, and much more real (he doesn’t float through the air, it’s actually rather “violent” the way he catches buildings to swing on).
  • The physicality of everything – Raimi’s take seemed much more whimsical and romantic, and rather light on some of the action scenes. Amazing just feels more grounded, more dynamic, stronger and faster. CGI all looks like CGI in every movie (it’s a part of life now), but it works very effectively here, really pushing Spidey into situations where he needs to use his agility and physicality to an extent we haven’t really seen before. Action sequences were not confusing and were actually interesting to watch and the physics of Spidey’s movements were spot on.
  • I don’t like that Stan Lee has a cameo in every Marvel movie, but this one was actually pretty good.
  • The suit – it’s a stronger design (despite how timeless Spidey’s suit is in the comics), a little more DIY, and definitely announces this is a new and different Spider-Man. It helps that Garfield fills it so perfectly and while it retains the kind of impossible construction of the past movies, this version makes more sense.

What didn’t work so well?

  • Flash Thompson – he makes a rather unconvincing turn from heel to bud, from kicking Peter in the stomach while he is down to trying to hug it out with him when his Uncle Ben dies. It’s a little too convenient and simple.
  • The missing parents – this movie hinted that there would be some revelations about Peter’s parents and why they abandoned him, and while the movie started looking that way, by the end that aspect becomes an afterthought. It didn’t seem too much of a focus for the story which had me asking why it was even brought up to begin with.
  • Why are there lizards all over New York just because the Lizard is in the sewers?
  • The origin of the suit –  Why a lucha libre inspired costume? It wasn’t a huge distraction but it was just kind of out of left field.
  • The overall story is a little flat, with nothing really new or interesting to present to a jaded audience having just seen The Avengers and any other blockbuster. At this point in the superhero game, these kinds of movies should be pushing us into different, unfamiliar territory.

While the negatives of this movie suffer from the same problems of any blockbuster where perhaps there is often more style than substance, Amazing certainly succeeds in many places that the originals didn’t. Amazing feels like a truer movie; it was tighter, more fit with more weight to it, packing punches with a gusto and liveliness the originals were always missing. The romance between Peter and Gwen was much more believable and dynamic than the one set-up between Peter and MJ before. Spider-Man is more snarky, more vibrant and alive, and most importantly, more enjoyable to watch.

After seeing The Amazing Spider-Man, discussing it amongst my friends and fellow nerds of varying degrees, the deciding factor of whether you will enjoy the reboot or not comes down to this: Those who loved the original trilogy, who can look to Raimi’s interpretation of the character and feel content with what he did (while also ignoring the unforgivably awful Spider-Man 3), will probably not enjoy this movie so much, claiming it’s too soon and too similar to the Raimi trilogy and thus pointless. To those who never liked the originals, who want something more and something different and something that will finally present them with a Spider-Man they can get behind, you need not look any further than The Amazing Spider-Man, because this is as good as you are going to get.

Final Grade B+ (8.4 out of 10 on the comic book movie scale)

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