The new movie ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is built on a really good script, an origin story reboot of everyone’s favorite spider/teen hybrid, Peter Parker. We’ve seen this story on the big screen plenty of times now, and this big-budget film stars a moody, sensitive Andrew Garfield in the title role, with cute – but smart! – Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy, Peter’s love interest.
Reboots are always a challenge and doubly-so when they’re explaining how a hero is forged out of the circumstances of his life. In that sense, I really enjoyed the twists and narrative ingenuity of the film. In this instance, Peter doesn’t just show up on-screen as an orphan boy living with his beloved Uncle Ben and Aunty May (played effectively in this version by Martin Sheen and Sally Field), but actually has parents who are integral to the story, even as they abandon him and vanish from his life.
The problems with the film are many, however, from very uneven pacing (the 10-year-old boys sitting in front of me were fidgeting throughout the film) to the innumerable lapses in continuity that made me wonder if we were screening a work print, not the final film.
There’s a suspension of disbelief required for any film and probably even more so when it’s a film based on a comic book story, but I just kept thinking “Oh, come on!” throughout the film. Peter goes to a science magnet school but still has the cliché jocks tormenting him? He visits OSCORP twice in the first part of the movie, the company where his Dad worked when he mysteriously vanished. The first time we learn that it has crack security throughout, the second time he just waltzes into a secure lab and no-one stops him? A storm door shatters when Peter slams it, just to be miraculously repaired in the next scene? And even for Spider-Man, he sure healed from his injuries quickly.
Epic films are made from epic storylines like the hero’s journey and the path of redemption. Peter’s journey is certainly interesting, but he starts and ends as a troubled boy with the world weighing him down and I was disappointed in his lack of maturation during the film. Even as it ends, he’s still out for vengeance, still angry at the world.
And redemption? That was the path of Dr. Curt Connor (Rhys Ifans), Peter’s Dad’s collaborator and now head scientist at OSCORP who transforms into The Lizard. But Director Marc Webb couldn’t quite commit to the stark black and white palette of a good comic book film and left things ambiguous: Is Peter good, or a villain? Does Dr Connor transform into a villain when he’s on a rampage, smashing people left and right, or is he really just trying to replace that missing arm and help mankind because he’s just, well, misunderstood?
In the hands of a visionary director like Chris Nolan, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ could have been a powerful, dark, intense reboot of a beloved comic book hero. Webb’s background with the lovely ‘(500) Days of Summer’ leaves us with a film that has too much narrative exposition and too little action, a sweet romance between Peter and Gwen, bad guys who maybe aren’t really so bad, and a hero who is remains tormented by his own childhood. Interesting ingredients, but it doesn’t add up to be what this film could have been.
A Second Opinion by Scott West
Before I begin, let me state that my view of this movie is probably colored by a bias that, as a huge Spider-Man fan, I find hard to set aside. That said…
I’m going to have to disagree with Dave on this review. I thought that, aside from the new side-story with Peter’s parents, this version of Spider-Man’s origin was much closer to the comic version than anything we’ve seen before. His journey from troubled teen to hero is as complete as it needed to be in a first outing of a new franchise. Yes… at the end of the film Peter’s still, as Dave puts it, “a troubled boy with the world weighing him down”. However, I can’t think of many times that the Peter Parker of the comics wasn’t somehow troubled and weighed down by something. Even in the recent ‘Ends of the Earth’ storyline, Spider-Man is upset that he couldn’t save one life after he saved the entire world. Peter is always struggling to be a hero. It’s not something that comes natural at first and shouldn’t be so cut and dried in the film universe as having Uncle Ben die and then Peter suddenly becoming the perfect hero.
On the subject of the inconsistencies that Dave pointed out (and I’ll avoid spoilers as well as I can here), by the second time Peter visited Oscorp the second time, he’d already visited Doc Connors at home so it’s safe to assume that Connors buzzed him through security. Peter does heal extremely quickly in the comics. It’s not Wolverine quick, but it’s much faster than a normal human. As for the broken door, I noticed it was repaired later but I didn’t catch how soon. I’ll have to watch for that the next go ’round. Since I can’t vouch for it, I’ll give that one to you, Dave.
As for the rest of the film, I thought it nailed the origin story pretty damned well. The pacing was good for me (and for my kids who watched the film with me) and the actors in this version were levels above the previous trilogy. I felt for them every time something bad happened and watching Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter and Gwen was awesome and bittersweet with the knowledge of what is sure to inevitably happen in future films.
Also, the Stan Lee cameo was the best one I’ve seen in any Marvel film so far.
I can’t wait to see it again!