Spider-Man has never really appealed to me as much as Batman, X-Men and such other worthy rebellious but well-motivated super heroes. Personally, the original trilogy to Spider-Man was somewhat of overcast, specifically because I only thought one of the three was actually a great film (Spider-Man 2). Some die-hard fans of the web-slinger will completely disagree, as the first one was what started the greatness. But if this rendition of Spider-Man started off the original trilogy, than we would have truly witnessed the beginning to something amazing.
The Amazing Spider-Man starts off similarly to the original. Heck, there are plenty of familiarities from this one to the Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst love affair. The criticism to its somewhat parallel story telling and common instances is heard but greatly misunderstood, but we’ll get back to that later. This Spider-Man is very different starting off with the masked vigilante himself, as there is so much more emotional depth and a wide range displayed here that we get to know Peter Parker in a more sensitive manner.
And I think that’s a good thing. I’ve never read the comic books or anything like that, and I’m not familiar to its universe, but I know Peter Parker is suppose to be this corny but friendly fellow who seems, in my opinion, to be flat and single toned. Not sure if it’s true, but that’s definitely how Tobey Maguire played Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, Never Let Me Go) plays a scarred and troubled kid who isn’t a complete loser but is definitely an outcast. We see the good guy in him, but there’s so much more to this character than Maguire’s (It’s not Tobey’s fault necessarily, but he did agree to do that dance scene…).
We clearly understand that Parker’s struggles are deeply rooted from his parents abruptly leaving him while he was a child after a safety incident. Not knowing why this is, he wanders around, looking for answers where he begins to start a cute and very believable relationship with Gwen Stacy, played by the lovable Emma Stone. This is where the multitasking in this film starts, as we’re thrown into three major story lines. The first being the secrets on Peter Parker’s family, the second being the growing relationship between Gwen and Peter and lastly, the small little bite on the back of the neck from a genetically manipulated spider.
This is where the film starts to struggle a little bit. We’re brought into this film thinking we’re seeing the origin of Spider-Man, his dark secrets and what really happened to his family, but really, this is not that film. I’m still trying to figure out where the emphasis is, but thank goodness, the eventual creation of the hero is put on center (as it should be).
His motivations are clear as he’s trying to look for one simple but important criminal, but his focus and attention transfers to The Lizard, or also Dr. Curt Connors, who has a connection to Peter’s past. Unfortunately, like all well thought but misguided scientists in these comic book movies, his medical experiment (cross generating the DNA from reptiles, who can regenerate limbs, and mixing it with human DNA) eventually turn disaster which leads him to becoming an uncontrollable monster. Been there, done that. Honestly, someone needs to create a creative origin story for a super hero villain. But anywho…
Besides this uncreative aspect, The Amazing Spider-Man is somewhat of a different take, not just comparing it to other comic book films, but in action/adventure films in general. There’s actual emphasis on plot and character. For almost the entire first half of the movie, we barely see a set piece that resembles of an action scene. Instead of spending much time on explosions and crashes, we see this guy, who gets thrown into a crazy situation, and try to handle it as well as he can. This is important because we understand that this isn’t some super hero who can do all be all. He’s just a regular teenager. And this is greatly seen through the performance of Andrew Garfield.
Who knew Eduardo Suavarin was also Spider-Man? A big middle finger to Zuckerberg. Okay, but really, Garfield plays this role so well. He really is the reason why this film works. We like him. We care about him. We want to give him a big hug after every big fight. He’s courageous but still a rookie. He’s brave but also vulnerable. And Garfield really displays this way of Parker.
They say behind every great man is a great woman, and this seems to be true here as Gwen Stacy is also another great character here. Emma Stone is one of those actors that can command you to smile anytime she wants. Her charm and lovable personality is clearly presentable, and her chemistry with Garfield is strong. Very strong. The cast also is well rounded from Rhys Ifans as the mad scientist, Dennis Leary as Captain Stacy and also Gwen’s father, and Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter’s uncle and aunt. This cast does better than any other Spider-Man film, and I really appreciated the group’s work.
I think the biggest issue with critics and some Spider-Man fans is its similarities to the original Spider-Man. Let me make this clear: If this film was the original first to the three-part series, many would consider this the first big step to a potentially ultimate trilogy. But considering that it’s not, there’s a lot of at stake here. Yes, there are some situations or essential parts to the story that we’ve seen before. You could even say some scenes and specifically some lines have relatable material to the original, but you know, I’m okay with that.
The question that most critics are asking is, “Was this film necessary?” My response to this critique is, “Who gives a crap?” Aren’t most reboots unnecessary? Heck, couldn’t we argue any film is somewhat unnecessary? That question is so inappropriate to the conversation of whether or not this film was great, and there’s no point of reading such review because there’s already a negative bias.
To those who can get past this, this is really a high quality comic book movie. I did have some issues, one being the juggling act it tries to perform on the three major plot lines. I understood why they wanted to incorporate all three because one can say all three are intertwined, but still, it didn’t do the best job in the world of connecting it, but it redeems itself because we can see the one major plotline, the secrets of his family, is going to played out more than just one movie. And I think that’s brilliant. Why is it necessary for these major events in life have to be summed up in one movie? This has been bothering Peter for his entire life, and then we expect this individual to be introduced, experience and receive closure with this life changing event in 2 hours. I think it’s smart to extend it longer and I’m glad to see a new version of this.
There were other things that bothered me, like the obvious coincidences that happen throughout this film, and the weird decision to have The Lizard speak English in a British accent when he’s in rage mode. There’s something unsettling about that choice, but its doable, though I wanted to laugh a couple of times.
But listen, if there’s one thing that this film clearly does better than any other previous Spider-Man film is the action. Witnessing the web-slinging, criminal fighting action on IMAX 3D definitely enhanced my experience, but wow, it truly was a spectacle. Everything that transpired on screen seemed real and live. Especially with the swinging between buildings and cranes, I really thought Marc Webb did an excellent job in showcasing these skills that we’ve never seen before. I would sometimes catch my mouth slowly opening in awe, which is a reflection of how amazed I was with the action pieces, and the pretty awesome Stan Lee cameo.
These sequences come at a non-stop pace in the second half, and there’s nothing we as the audience can do but hold on to our seats. This is a film of two halves. I started to wonder if this film is less action and adventure and more romantic dramedy, but I was proven very wrong once the action starts going. It really is eye-popping and I would suggest watching this in IMAX 3D.
Honestly, I don’t know where I place this comic book/super hero movie in comparison to the others. It’s too early to put in the place of Superman, The Dark Knight or Spider-Man 2, but it definitely achieves what it was going for. A smart, funny origin story where we really care about these characters, that’s what the goal was. The studio clearly felt that Sam Raimi was going in a different direction, and though I appreciated what Raimi did for the series, it really was time for a new and fresh start.
If any Spider-Man fan should be extremely excited for is to see this cast, this story and this world Webb and his creators started move on to the next phase. It’s now officially out of the first Spider-Man’s shadow and it’ll truly be on its own legs. This is something to really anticipate. The Amazing Spider-Man has started a potential massive trilogy and I’m very stoked to see it continue.
The Amazing Spider-Man receives 3 ½ stars (out of 5).