The Amazing Spider-Man Review
Directed by Marc Webb
Produced by Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, and Matt Tolmach
Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves
Starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field
Based on Spiderman by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
Runtime: 2 hr, 16 min
Released: July 3, 2012
I can still remember the day that it was announced that Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 4 was cancelled...and then in the same breath a reboot of the series entitled The Amazing Spider-Man was being put into production. I was pretty young then, but even I saw that it was a pretty obvious cash grab, and a cheap one at that. There’s a certain amount of time that has to pass for a reboot to actually be a reboot. Usually this is enough time for a new generation to come along, one that doesn’t know the story of the original, even if the original is something as culturally iconic as Spiderman. In any case, I saw the movie about a week after it came out, though I wasn’t exactly keen to. What did I think? I thought it was okay...ish... Let me go into a little detail. (I’m going to be drawing a few comparisons to the Raimi Spiderman movies, seeing as it’s basically impossible not to. These comparisons will not influence my overall grade on the movie, however.)
I’m not really going to go into much detail in the synopsis, seeing as most people already know it by heart. Peter Parker is your average, slightly nerdy (kind of a hipster in this version) teenage guy trying to get through life. He is bitten by a radioactive spider, and gets spider-like super powers that allow him to crawl on walls and such. After his uncle is shot and killed, Parker becomes the masked superhero Spiderman, and hunts down his uncles killer. After defeating him, he decides to continue to rid the streets of New York City of crime, be it robbers or giant CGI lizards. And so, a cultural icon is born.
I’m going to start out with the movies biggest strength: the casting. I cannot think of a movie with more pitch-freaking-perfect casting than this movie. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone both seem born to play the respective roles of Peter Parker and his love interest Gwen Stacy, and are a much more likeable pair than Tobey MaGuire and Kirsten Dunst. Martin Sheen is a fantastic choice as the wise Uncle Ben, and it’s this that makes it so much harder knowing he’s not going to survive the first act. Sally Field, one of my favorite actresses, is also a great choice as Aunt May, and is, in my opinion, much better than Rosemary Harris, despite a lack of screentime. Last but not least, Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy is one of the highlights of the film, and the role seems made for him. As for Rhys Ifans as Doctor Curt Connors and his villainous alter-ego the Lizard...let me get into that...
Alright, for me, the biggest flaw with the movie is the antagonist. Granted, the Raimi movies didn’t have the strongest bad guys either, but I just have a laundry list of issues with the Lizard. First off, he just isn’t that scary. I grew up watching the animated FOX Spider-Man, and that version was what I first envisioned the Lizard looking like: basically a huge lizard with ripped clothes that walks on two legs. For me, if the design of the Lizard had been more like that, he would have been more menacing, and thus a stronger villain. Unfortunately, in this he looks more like the Incredible Hulk’s skinhead cousin. He’s almost too humanoid, and not enough...lizard-y. Secondly, I still don’t understand his grand evil master plan. I’ve seen the movie four times now, and I still don’t understand why he would want to turn the whole city into lizards. It didn’t make sense the first time I saw it, and it still doesn’t make sense now. Rhys Ifans is alright in the role, but the role itself could use some work.
Those are the biggest strength and flaws of the movie, and the rest of my thoughts can be summed up pretty quickly. Another one of the bigger strengths is Marc Webb’s direction, which can especially be seen in the fight scenes, which are pretty cool on their own. Sam Raimi’s trademark cameo is hilarious, and there’s a lot of other great comedy, too.
Unfortunately, there are another two key flaws which kind of work off each other. One, and I can’t stress this enough, we have all seen the first half of this movie before. The cast helps a lot, but it still doesn’t change the fact that most of us could skip the first half of this movie, come in, and have a perfect idea of what’s going on. It was done before in the most literal context possible, and worse, it was done freaking recently. Secondly, watch a couple of the trailers. Look at a few of the posters. What do most of them say? THE UNTOLD STORY. No. This is a story that has, for the most part anyways, been told before. We were promised insight into what happened to Peter’s parents, and we barely got anything! One of the deciding factors in me wanting to see this was the fact that I wanted to know what happened to the Parkers. Where were they? I saw that these movies would tell me, and I decided to go. Were my questions answered? No, they were set up to be answered in the sequel, if then. In any case, that part was just disappointing to me, and takes away from the movie quite a bit.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man definitely isn’t amazing, but it holds up alright. It has a terrific cast, and there’s great direction and comedy, but there’s also a heckuva weak antagonist, and, let’s face it: we’ve seen most of this before. In the end, what could have been a terrific movie ends up being a bit of a disappointment instead. Still, it’s good, and it’s a pretty solid superhero flick. If I may say, though, this is one of those movies that gives off a strong “the sequel’s going to be better” vibe. The second one will have the freedom to tell it’s own story, the same cast and director with some new (and talented) faces, and what is hopefully a stronger antagonist in Jamie Foxx’s Electro. We’ll just have to wait until 2014 to find out.
Rating: ✮✮✬✰(2 ½ / 4 stars)
Wannabe Movie Critic