The Amazing Spider-Man is the summer superhero film I was excited about. Yeah sure, I liked the Avengers, and I’m hoping Batman will be good. Thing is…those movies don’t have Spider-Man in them. So, in the grand scheme of things, who really cares? Spider-Man is the world’s greatest superhero. It says so right on the cover every month.
Anyways, my verdict? I liked it. It lacks the straight-up, nostalgic fun of the first two Raimi flicks, but in many ways it’s a better film, and it updates and re-examines the Spider-Man mythos in ways I (mostly) find fascinating. (Although Brian Michael Bendis did most of it first in Ultimate Spider-Man). I’m gonna break the film down and try to explain what went right and what went wrong. There may be spoilers. This could go a bit long, so try to stick with me.
The Origin – Hollywood needs to learn that origin stories don’t really matter. The problem isn’t just that Sam Raimi covered this a few years ago. The problem is that every super-hero movie covers this, and it’s not that important. Go watch just about any super-hero cartoon ever made, and you’ll notice they have one thing in common – they never start with the origin, because it’s way more fun to start with a big fight scene.
However, I enjoyed the tweaks made here. I like that Peter is made even more complicit in his Uncle’s death. I like that it takes a little longer for him to accept his responsibilities. I like the Ultimate universe scientist-dad/abandonment issues stuff. Good times.
The Cast – Great. Andrew Garfield gives an excellent performance, giving Peter Parker a natural twitchiness and exuberance sorely missing from Tobey Maguire’s wide-eyed, aw-shucks shtick. While he’s a bit too cool, he’s funny, and he doesn’t forget what a total dick Mr. Parker can be a times. Emma Stone more than makes up for the robotic nightmare that is Kirsten Dunst. Rhys Ifans may not keep his appointments, but he chews the scenery like the Lizard chews stupid mammals.
Cinematography – Gorgeous. There’re a lot of sweeping shots of Manhattan which emphasize just how small Spidey is against it all, and how intense swinging around those buildings would be. The POV shots – which I was sure would suck – work nicely. On the other end, the camera gets in nice and close for the fight scenes, making the threats feel very real.
What I don’t like is that Curt Connors family doesn’t even exist in this film. Since day one, the Lizard has been dedicated to destroying Connors’ wife and child, and Connors’ has been driven by his guilt for the danger he put them in. Not only is it central to his character, but it’s a perfect reflection of Spider-Man’s own guilt. No excuse for this except time constraints, and those only apply to people who don’t want to watch a four-hour Spider-Man film. Screw those people. Which brings us to…
The Story – I wasn’t joking. This movie needed to be longer. There’re way to many dangling plot lines, and like used webbing, they all seem to dissolve without a trace. There’s a lot of great stuff here that I really enjoyed, but none of it really gets the time it deserves.
Secret Identity – This is another pet peeve I have with Hollywood - everyone there seems to hate secret identities. In the comics, Peter’s secret was a major factor in his relationships with everyone, especially Gwen and every other girl he dated. Here, the secret’s just thrown away for nothing. And then again. And again. Considering the film’s emphasis on secrets, why the hell couldn’t its central secret STAY SECRET?
This has gone way too long, so here’re a few final notes.
- Web shooters! Hell yeah!
- Flash Thompson is portrayed as a as a person, not a one-note bully. I love it.
- A supporting character robs Spidey of a “Yeah science!” moment. WHY?!
- The sewer fight owns.
P.S. - Want more Spider-Man/Lizard action? With a side of Moebius, the Living Vampire? Pick up the Amazing Spider-Man #688 and #689 to get on board Dan Slott’s killer story “No Turning Back.” So far, it’s one of his best yet.