I’ll make the disclaimer now: there will be (miniscule) spoilers. If you hope to watch The Amazing Spider-Man at some point in your life and don’t want the movie ruined (slightly), you should not read this until after that time.
Another disclaimer: I hold Spider-Man to a higher level than other superheros. He was my favorite super-powered savior as a child, and remains my favorite to this day. There is a giant Spider-Man poster hanging in my room that has been there since I was four, and I’m not afraid to admit it. It’s why I thought Spider-Man 1 & 2 were fantastic years ago (and still are), and why Spider-Man 3 devastated me to the point that I honestly didn’t want to watch another superhero movie ever. This definitely affects the way I viewed The Amazing Spider-Man, and if you aren’t a super huge Spider-Man fan I can assure you with 100% confidence that you will enjoy this movie.
Now, onto the main attraction. I don’t normally find myself overly critical of movies. When it comes to The Amazing Spider-Man, however, I find myself on the opposite side of the fence of most people. It’s everything you would expect in a superhero origin movie: some mildly interesting back story, a lot of action, an evil supervillain, a budding relationship and a (mostly) happy resolution. I know this is the formula for winning superhero movies going into them (save for the Dark Knight trilogy), so typically I don’t expect anything more out of them. If a superhero movie can hit those criteria, it should be considered a success. I know this. The movie wasn’t bad. Far from it in fact. And yet, something left me feeling sour as soon as I exited the movie theater.
Let’s start with the good, because believe me, there was plenty of it. The casting was amazing (pun intended.) Andrew Garfield was made to play Spider-Man. He was about a million times better than Tobey Maguire, and I greatly appreciated it. In comic and animated lore, Spider-Man always had a mouth. He delivered witty one liners while battling the most sinister of foes, simultaneously beating them up physically and mentally. His comments caused enemies to lose focus and become frustrated, and he took advantage of those moments by finishing off his opponents. He was exactly like what you thought a typical teenager with super powers would be: a cocky, over confident shit talker who thought he was unbeatable. In one scene, Spider-Man surprises a car thief when this exchange occurs:
“You know, if you’re gonna steal cars, don’t dress like a car thief.”
“You a cop?”
“You seriously think I’m a cop in a skin-tight red and blue suit?”
Later the car thief pulls out a knife, to which Spider-Man has this to say while falling to his knees in agony:
“Oh no! You found my weakness. It’s small knives.” He then promptly captures him while quipping “Oh, it’s so simple” in a mocking tone.
Those sarcastic, witty one-liners were never given by Tobey Maguire, but in The Amazing Spider-Man Andrew Garfield delivers them perfectly. He brings the Spider-Man character to life in ways Maguire never did, and for that I am very thankful.
In other casting news, Emma Stone was brilliant in her role of Gwen Stacey. I’m a huge Emma Stone fan, so I’ll try not to gush. She is everything you could hope for in a Gwen Stacey. She portrays the slightly geeky yet somehow still extremely attractive persona beautifully (pun intended again, because Stone is, indeed, very beautiful.) Her interactions with Garfield flow extremely well and feel genuine, a direct effect of their romantic involvement when the cameras are not rolling. I honestly can’t begin to describe how much I loved watching both her and Garfield on screen. It was truly a pleasure.
Besides picking the right person to play Spider-Man, the character itself was portrayed better as well. None of that “I can shoot webs out of my skin” bullshit. One of the reasons I was always so fascinated with Spider-Man was the fact that he required his non-superhuman side to become a complete superhero. Even with all his super powers, he still needed his human intelligence, something he had before the mutation, to make himself whole. The previous Spider-Man trilogy stole that away. In addition, having synthetic webbing would sometimes lead to situations where things became dicey because Spider-Man would run out of material, something that (sadly) was not touched on during The Amazing Spider-Man. I’ll let that slide, however, because at least he wasn’t shooting webs out of his wrists.
I also thought that it was a very aesthetically pleasing movie in general. Director Marc Webb, he of the (500) Days of Summer and indie-hipster background, brought his own flavor to the superhero universe. The colors were vibrant, and there
Here’s what I didn’t like: it was the same story. If you’re going to reboot a franchise, change it up. Christopher Nolan has shown that you have a certain amount of leeway in creating a superhero universe, so long as you don’t stray too far from the main concepts. If you’re going to tell us in the commercials that this is the “untold” version of Spider-Man that we’ve never heard before, why would you make the first hour of the movie EXACTLY WHAT WE HEARD BEFORE. The origin is exactly the same. Peter Parker loves science. Gets bitten by a radioactive spider in a science lab. Turns into a super powered freak. Plays around with his new found powers without any responsibility. (Let’s face it. If you were a teenager who just discovered his mutant super powers, would your first thought be “I’m going to save the world now!” No, you would want to play around a bit too.) His uncle is killed, which forces him to turn to a life of crime fighting. It’s the exact same thing. If you’re going to reboot this early, tell the story in a new way. Otherwise, leave the franchise alone for a while.
The part that I really didn’t like, however, was the portrayal of the Lizard, the supervillain of The Amazing Spider-Man. This is the point where, if you weren’t really a Spider-Man fan as a kid, you probably won’t care. But for me, it was a travesty. When I was younger, The Lizard was always shown as a science experiment gone wrong, kind of like The Hulk of Spider-Man. He had no control over his transformation. Whenever he changed, he terrorized the city because the instincts of The Lizard took over his human half, not because he wanted to. At no point did he ever have some kind of a supervillainous plot to take over the world. Which is why, while watching this movie, my mood continued to sour until the very end. The Lizard was never a supervillain. He never had any control. It made me mad that the movie was trying to say otherwise.
But Daniel, you just said the director should make his own universe. Maybe he just made The Lizard his own way.
I’d be fine with that, if there was any indication that this was a different universe. It wasn’t. Make your own universe, make your own supervillains. Totally fine with that. But don’t bunny hop on one universe and then change the basic characteristics of an individual in it.
Overall, it was still a good movie. Not on par with The Dark Knight Trilogy movies so far, or even as good as Spider-Man 1 & 2, but on the same level as Ironman and The Avengers. It was worth my two hours. And I guarantee you’ll enjoy yourself when you watch it. Unless you were a Spider-Man fan as a kid. If that’s the case, it may be a little bittersweet.
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