The Amazing Spider-Man: A Review
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More like the Adequate Spider-Man. Not amazing, but oh well.
Synopsis: Enjoyable, but not a Slam Dunk. And it should’ve been. And so many loose threads.
Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man – Never crazy about this choice, but I think he did well. Just. That hair. Makes me laugh every time I look at him, and think about trying to stuff that out of control mane underneath his mask. But definitely believable as a nerdy genius, and sometimes believable as an adolescent.
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy – I love Emma Stone. She is one of those actresses, one of those women, who is just the whole package. And I love to watch her work. Filmmakers, however, still clearly have no idea who Gwen Stacy is, or who Mary Jane is. Emma Stone’s spirit, style, delivery, is much more in line with Mary Jane than with Gwen. Period. She did a pretty good job here, but she acted like what she is, a young woman in her 20′s. There was nothing about her performance that said “giggly 15 year old girl whose boyfriend is a superhero.” She’s just way too mature for that.
Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard – He did a good job, given the script. There wasn’t anything terribly memorable about his performance, and nothing signature or iconic that made The Lizard stand out as one of the classic and earliest Spider-Man villains.
The rest of the actors I’ll mention as the review goes along, because if a movie can’t make it with its principals, then all that will be left is a possible memorable or breakout performance by one of the cast, and there are none here.
This movie was billed as “the untold story of Spider-Man.”
But what happens with almost every dangling plot thread of this movie, is that they introduce a concept and don’t follow it through. We were kind of sold on the idea that Peter’s parents would feature prominently in this movie, and they somewhat do…but they are used to set the backdrop and then they disappear. And we never see them again, and they are only alluded to. Peter’s parents are in league with Dr. Connors in the field of Genetic Research, trying to figure out how to extrapolate and apply the properties of animals and insects to humans. There’s also an element of both corporate and government espionage, but it’s never fully explored.
Peter gets bitten by a super spider, Dr. Connors experiments with the research on himself, the Peter/Gwen romance ignites, and The Lizard thinks he needs to fix the world be aero-impregnating everyone with Super Lizard DNA. Okay. But again, this is supposed to be the untold story of Spider-Man. There’s really no new information presented here, other than the brief exposition and teasing about Peter’s parents. And what’s also aBUNdantly clear here is that they wrote it with the sequel in mind.
What They Got Right
1) His powers – Holy cow this was easily the best part of the movie. Spider-Man finally looked & moved like Spider-Man. The poses, the swinging, the strength, the speed, the spider-sense, the wall crawling. Finally, the character that Stan Lee & Steve Ditko brought to life 50 years ago was seen in live action the way he was presented in the books. Home Run.
Now, I have been a convert to Team Organic Web Shooters ever since I saw it done in the first movie. Here they go back to the book origin, in which Peter invents both the web-shooters, and the web fluid. Just in terms of that alone, it was done well. More on this later.
2) Squarely cementing him as a teenager – Playing with his phone, his emotional states, his naivete about the cops & their approach to crime fighting, his awkwardness with women, his deep woundedness about his relatively unexplained parental abandonment….all done very well by Garfield & cast. Even his late night sneaking out was a wink to the early books. LOVED the skateboard.
Also, the traditional Spider-Man wisecracking snark was back. He finally was the quipper that we know and love from the books, which made sense since he starts out as a testosterone fueled teen, that’s clearly full of himself. But who wouldn’t be if they had freaking spider powers as a sophomore? Again, the smartass Spidey that we know from the books finally showed up.
3) The overall CGI – Sure, it was cheesy in some places, but in general, it was the most seamless live action Spider-Man yet. And The Lizard, while much more cartoony here than he is in the comic, looked good most of the time. He was much more reminiscent in tone and look of Killer Croc from Batman than the actual comics Lizard, but again, the overall CGI was well blended in. One of my biggest problems with the Raimi films to this day is that Spider-Man is a cartoon. I didn’t buy for a second that Tobey was ever in that costume, because it was all so obviously CGI’d in. Not so in this movie, kudos on that.
What They Got Wrong
1) Missing Beats – That was the biggest problem with this movie. It did not know how to properly hit its beats. Not even close. The biggest obvious example was the death of Uncle Ben. That was the birth of Spider-Man as a hero, his guilt, his driving force in uttering his most famous tagline, “With great power comes great responsibility,” but here, they once again changed the way it happens, and it’s all over so quickly. There is little to no time to grieve, or really feel the impact, and the death of Captain Stacy later on carries more emotional weight than Ben’s death. Such a shame.
2) Teenage Love – Andrew Garfield did really well, but there was very little that was teenagery about this relationship. I even hated the way that Gwen’s father walks in his 15 year old daughter’s room AND THERE’S A BOY IN IT, and has ALMOST ZERO REACTION. Just no. The “love” story was much more like a 20 something comedy than two high schoolers, one of whom has a big secret, and his girlfriend being brought into it.
3) Wasted Actors – Biggest obvious one here? Sally Field. She’s a veteran actress, and she is completely wasted as Aunt May, because she’s not given anything of real import to do. Even with Ben’s death, she gets over it so quickly. Martin Sheen falls in this category too, because what we did not feel in this movie was Peter’s love for Ben. What we felt was Peter’s frustration at being turned over to them by his absentee parents, and that’s not the whole story.
4) Parameter Inconsistency – Holy crap, Peter had all of his powers like, right after the spider bite. I know it was like that in the book, but I preferred the 1st Raimi movie where it took a while for his blood to alter. It was just the way they did it here, making him adjust so quickly that I didn’t like. But, they at least had some training sequences, that diluted the all-at-once presentation somewhat.
Also, again, they did such a good job of having him spin the web and use the vibrations to track the Lizard, but if you pay attention to every appearance of the Lizard, HE NEVER TRIGGERS PETER’S SPIDER-SENSE. ……..What?? There are some villains from the books, like Venom, who have a real reason for not triggering Peter’s spider-sense, but The Lizard was never one of them. Next…..how could everyone in that freaking school not figure out that Peter was Spider-Man after he started showing those incredible things that he could do?
And The Lizard….just how strong and fast was he? This seemed to change from scene to scene, and I hate when he broke Spidey’s web-shooters. I really did.
5) Taking. Off. The. Mask – *sigh* I don’t know what the fixation with this is, but filmmakers seem to love to unmask Peter. His identity was one of the best kept secrets in the Marvel Universe, which is why when he revealed it in Civil War it was such a shock. The impact came from the fact that nobody ever guessed that Spider-Man was this kid from the Bronx. But in the movies, everybody gets to see Spider-Man unmasked, from the little kid that he rescues, to Gwen, to Captain Stacy, ugh. Just so tired of this movie idea. I really am.
6) Too many undeveloped and unresolved plot threads – Holy crap. They showed Peter’s genius throughout the movie, and especially with making the web shooters…and then that was it. Peter was notorious for running out of web fluid, and also for having to figure out ways to make his webs behave when he was in the field. They never used the mechanical web shooters to their full potential, not even close.
Peter’s parents, we got that undiscernable scene at the end, that’s just a set up for a sequel. There was so much hinting at how deep all of the backstory went, but we never got to really experience any of it, which makes it useless to us as an audience.
Dr. Connors here was a slimy, shady person. They threw out the Jekyll/Hyde nature from the early books, and made him a mad scientist, instead of the good family guy that he should’ve been. His motivation then becomes even more selfish, because The Lizard was always an accidental villain. This Curt Connors was completely, and I mean, comPLETEly unsympathetic.
They kind of shoehorned Gwen in on the final battle…I know that they wanted to get away from the same plot of all three Raimi movies, at least in terms of the female lead, so Gwen wasn’t captured or the damsel in distress, she was part of the solution. Not bad, but felt forced. And again, the villain found out who Spider-Man was. Not necessary EVERY FREAKING TIME.
What became obvious to me upon exiting the movie theater was that they had taken such great care with some aspects of this film, and seemed to apply an equal amount of carelessness to other aspects, to the point where you have to wonder if it was all done by the same production team. How could you pay so much attention to Spider-Man using vibrations in his web like a real spider and ignore his spider-sense? How could you so clearly make Peter act like a teenage boy and make Gwen act like a 22 year old college girl? How could they put so much weight on the mystery and heartbreak of Peter’s long lost parents and spend about 10 minutes total screen time dealing with Uncle Ben’s death? Do you see what I mean?
Could’ve been a slam dunk. But so many of the stand-up-and-cheer moments were just peppered throughout the film, and were often subsequently undercut by gaps in logic, or mischaracterizations, to the point of continuity & pacing becoming way uneven. So, I did enjoy it, and would probably watch it again; I’ll also probably see the sequel. I would just want the story to hold up better, and for the movie to know what beats at the heart of any Spider-Man story…..
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