Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man - **1/2

Directed by: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Dennis Leary

Review: Many people will tell you that ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is unnecessary.  While I feel this movie has its flaws (I will get to them shortly), I don’t feel it being “unnecessary” is one of them.  Rebooting a franchise or character has long been a staple in the comic book industry and the idea that this wasn’t needed is just silly.  Fresh takes on characters we love are never a bad idea.  Others will say that its “too soon,” which I also don’t necessarily agree with.^  

^ Apparently this movie was made because if Sony didn’t make a movie in a certain period of time then they would lose the film rights to the character and they would revert back to Marvel.  As such, Sony made a bold play by not making another Raimi-McGuire-Dunst sequel and went with a reboot instead.

People forget that ‘Hulk’ was rebooted after just five years, even if that was a pseudo-sequel.  It took Batman only eight years to get rebooted from ‘Batman & Robin’ to ‘Batman Begins,’ and next year ‘Man of Steel’ will fly into theaters just seven years after the reboot they tried in 2006 fell flat on its face.  Would two or three more years make this more necessary?  If time truly is a concern then all reboots need to wait a decade or more, right?  It should at least be partway into a new generation if we’re going to stamp a time requirement on reboots.

Currently, DC Comics has at least four different monthly comic books with Batman as the main character.  Each one of these has a different writer, a different take on Batman and Bruce Wayne, and different stories all running at the same time.  Same goes for Marvel and Spider-Man, there are at least three different monthly comics hinging from the original, one of which doesn’t even include Peter Parker anymore.

Imagine if nobody said “Hey Christopher Nolan, why don’t you try your hand at Batman?”  If people would have said, “you know what it’s too soon,” or “this is unnecessary, let’s scrap it.”  Then we wouldn’t have arguably the best super-hero franchise and soon to be trilogy of all time.  Matter of fact, if they wanted to reboot Batman right now and have two franchises going at the same time it wouldn’t bother me at all.

The only caveat to this is that the new take has to be solid.  I’m not going to complain about “not bringing anything new” to the table in terms of story because often times the origin story is what it is and has great bearing on who the main character becomes.  Minor tweaks are fine, but keep the essence.  The “something new” that can be brought to the table should include new takes on the character (personally and emotionally) and, as mentioned, some slightly different tweaks to the story that fit a different time and different audience.

Thus, this is where ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ didn’t quite do it for me.  Marc Webb may have been seen as an odd choice as director, but I can understand the reason behind it.  His only other feature length production was the excellent ‘(500) Days of Summer.’  A movie that was a slightly hipster romantic comedy that was redeemingly tragic and a huge crowd pleaser,  deserving of more recognition than it got.

At its heart, the story of Spider-Man, and more specifically Peter Parker, is a slightly hipster romantic comedy that is redeemingly tragic.  Parker and his love Gwen Stacey (or Mary Jane Watson depending on which storyline you’re running with) are youthful kids full of that first time love feeling.  It’s a combination of lust you don’t know how to handle with knowing that this person could very well be your soul mate.  It’s a love and feeling that’s not tainted by adulthood or the cruelty of the world.  That is, until Spider-Man gets introduced into the equation.  Thus, the tragedy of Peter Parker who is always paying for what Spider-Man does.

This movie does a great job to focus on those aspects.  The tone is a little bit darker than what Raimi did and it pays off.  Garfield has a great take on the character and Stone is remarkable as Gwen Stacey.  The issues this version has come from the same issues that Raimi’s original did.  Everything just happens too fast.
Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider and by the ride home he is bouncing off walls and showing off his super strength.  About a week later he has a makeshift costume and is swinging from the rooftops as a vigilante.  He is looking for one particular person but for those not familiar with the story, I will hold off on spoiling who and why here.

Then after he doesn’t find him bigger things start happening and he forgets all about it and gets swept up into something that “he created.”  A man that Parker worked with and also worked with Parker’s father has suddenly become a mad man meta-human and it’s all Parker’s fault.  The man is Curt Conners (Ifans) and with Parker’s help he developed a serum to use on himself to grow back a missing limb, but the small side effect of turning himself into a giant raging lizard who wants to turn everyone in the city into another version of himself.

The fights between Spider-Man and the Lizard are remarkable and a step above the fights from Raimi’s versions.  They were well done and incredibly entertaining to watch.  The lizard was a great villain and they kept his essence from the comic book intact.  It would be easy for them to have him just be a hulking mass, but they allowed him to still be Conners just a little more mad and little more scaly.

Where the story fell apart for me beyond how quickly everything unraveled was how they didn’t concentrate on the right areas.  They spent plenty of time getting Parker and Stacey right to the point where they were in a relationship, but not much once that’s actually decided.  When Parker learns that he can’t be with her anymore, it hurts, but not as much as it could.  It should have been developed more and the audience would have been more greatly affected.

Also, Parker/Spider-Man’s manhunt for a certain individual gets pushed aside much too quickly.  Finding this person and dealing with him is an important component of who Parker is and they just glossed over it.  Spider-Man’s motto was always “with great power, comes great responsibility” and he barely learned that in this version.  We see the scenes where he abuses his power and embarrasses himself but never that impactful moment where he realizes he has to become more than somebody with super powers and actually become a super hero.

The bare bones of this movie are there and are great, but they could have been more focused and made it better.  With the ground work already laid, the second installment of this will no doubt be allowed a little more freedom.  I’m curious to see how it will be handled and am definitely looking forward to Stone’s roll the second time around.

If you’re a fan, this is worth your time.  If you’re not a huge fan then you can probably wait till video.


  1. This is about how I felt about the film really. The character stuff was largely strong, as were the fight scenes, but a lot of plot points were just dropped, and a fair few of the big moments just fell very flat.

    Though I am among the number that described it as unnecessary, I must admit. My reasoning being not that there's no point in rebooting, or that it's too soon, but rather that there's no point in a reboot that is, fundamentally, so very similar to the last one. It felt more like a remix of Raimi's Spider-Man than a new film in its own right, to me at least.

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