The Amazing Spiderman. If anyone read my Master’s thesis blog about Sam Raimi’s Spiderman from 2002, you’ll know that I’m a devoted nut about Spiderman and take the subject more seriously than a man my age has any right to.
But like many of you Spidey fans, I was perplexed and dismayed that for a fourth Spiderman feature they decided to go back to square one and “reboot” the origin story. And well, they really didn’t need to. In fact the filmmakers and top minds behind this new movie were so uninterested in retelling the origin of Spidey, that the message and strength of the origin story–the thief that big-headed Peter Parker/Spiderman was too proud to stop, comes back and murders his Uncle Ben– is rushed through and isn’t even an important element in Peter’s transformation into Spiderman. That’s akin to rebooting Batman where Batman’s parents are alive and well. The chief reason Peter becomes a crime fighter is to make up for Uncle Ben’s death. The Amazing Spiderman movie seems to forget that element after a scene or two. In fact, I don’t think Peter even realizes that the thief who killed his Uncle was the guy he didn’t stop. He gives up looking for him, I suppose because the thief is going to come back as another villain somewhere down the road but, jeez, Uncle Ben literally could be alive in the movie and it wouldn’t matter at all to the character of Peter Parker/Spiderman in THIS movie. You know? The one that I’m watching now and not two years from now, you stupid greedy bastards, Marvel and Sony. Quit setting things up without a payoff.
So, yeah, rushed is the operative word. The whole movie feels like a waiter quickly and mechanically wiping a table before you sit down, and the events all seem unimportant. As a big operatic superhero movie, it’s a failure.
HOWEVER… I still liked it better than Sam Raimi’s movies. While the plot and story are a mess, in many ways worse than the Raimi’s cornballers, the vibe is right. While I love the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko era of comics, I learned to read with the moody, angst-ridden Lee Romita comics from the early 70’s. This movie has that vibe. Maybe because of the prominence of Gwen Stacey and her father George. But mainly the serious tone Andrew Garfield brings to Peter. Read Spiderman from the 70’s and Peter is almost a downer as his normal self but then when he’s Spiderman, he’s a gas. And best of all, the Spidey action is top notch. I’m going to give a shout out to Jerome Chen, the effects supervisor. He’s clearly a man who knows iconic Spiderman action. I could use more awesome Spidey punching poses. (You know, where Spidey just lets a villain have it and they fly out into the foreground.) But it’s a small quibble. Any time Spidey is swinging and jumping and doing his Spidey thing, it looks like a living comic and not a screen saver.
There were a couple of minor irritating and confusing bits where Peter was inconsistently either too weak or too strong, as the scene required– even after scenes were established to show just how strong Peter was after the spider-bite, which irritated me no end with the Raimi films. Why is Peter afraid of a Wrestler? Why is he running from a gang of goons in this film? HE’S BLEEPING SPIDERMAN! (and, this movie repeats other mistakes Raimi made such as the source of the spider’s power wasn’t a random accident. It looks like it could be repeated at any time, so anyone could become Spiderman. And worst of all, Peter’s displays his agility and super strength in front of anyone who will notice when he’s not Spiderman, so anyone with a Pre-K sense of logic would be able to guess who Spiderman is. And again, he’s mask-less for so much of the film that I wondered why he even wore a costume at all. I don’t know why Marvel and Sony are ignoring the canon but they are and well, anyway, so what? I don’t care anymore. These movies are beating my love of Spiderman out of me.
Here it is. Weak movie with a much better actor in the Spiderman role. Andrew Garfield looks better physically as Peter Parker and Spiderman, lean and wiry and not like a pudgy kid wearing a Halloween costume, and he’s legitimately funny when he wise cracks as Spiderman. Emma Stone also brings her personality and a sense of enjoyment to the role of blonde and bland Gwen Stacey so she does a better job than Kirsten Dusnt as Mary Jane, who seemed sort of worried and pissed to be in Spiderman movies. The Peter and Gwen love scenes seem a little more organic and believable than the Tobey McGuire/Kirsten Dunst stuff which was all pretty sit-comish and unbearable.
You notice I haven’t chimed in the Lizard. Frankly, Rhys Ifans was fine. But the character just didn’t matter. Did I care that he didn’t look quite like the comic. Nope. Not a whit. He was as lifelessly written a villain as any in this day and age. Yes, he looked like a CGI dinosaur pet on TV. But he wasn’t as epic-ly offensive as Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin costume.
The tell tale sign about this movie was that I took my two boys to see this movie and they were BORED. Like climbing all over the seats, going the bathroom four times bored. And my older son LOVED the Avengers. He wanted to go home one hour into Amazing SM, but I wouldn’t let him.
For this movie, I was mainly interested in the James Horner score (a major improvement — finally, a rousing theme in a superhero movie) and the spectacular Spidey effects and action. So I wasn’t bored.
But hardly thrilled.
So that’s all, true believers, I’m done.