Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Note: This review will contain spoilers.

I remember when Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man came out in 2002, and how exciting that was. I enjoyed the first movie, thought the second was pretty good, and was thoroughly disappointed by Spider-Man 3. Whether the rumors over plans for a Raimi-driven Spider-Man 4 featuring the Lizard and a married Peter Parker and Mary Jane are true or not, it’s probably for the best that series wrapped up at three movies.

I walked into The Amazing Spider-Man excited and optimistic, despite this reboot coming together only five years after the last Spider-Man movie. In the end I enjoyed myself, though it left me thinking about a few of the standard tropes we expect from superhero movies.

I enjoyed the places where common Spider-Man themes were revisited, but in a new way. Falling through the roof and into an old boxing arena and then drawing costume inspiration from a poster was a clever homage, and seeing Peter Parker responsible for Uncle Ben’s death in a new way was kind of neat. I say this as someone whose experience with Spider-Man extends only back to the 90s cartoon television show — I’ve never been very well versed in the comic lore.

Comparisons to the Raimi trilogy are difficult to avoid. Andrew Garfield, I think, pulled off a less boyish Peter Parker than Tobey Maguire. Garfield’s Parker actually feels like someone who could inhabit the Marvel universe The Avengers film created — even if it’s not likely that will ever happen — while Maguire’s felt a little bit like a cartoon sometimes.

That, and I prefer Spider-Man’s wit under Garfield. They were less corny than they were legitimately funny, and I found myself wishing for more scenes where he was having fun in the suit picking on criminals.

The movie itself did feel a bit on the long side. I’m not sure whether this really needed to be an over two-hour epic film; a good twenty minutes could have been lopped off without negatively effecting it. Not to mention the movie included a good deal of setup and questions that just haven’t paid off yet. This was set up for a sequel, sure, but might have worked to weaken the film as a whole.

Speaking of what could have been removed without me missing it at all: the crane sequence toward the end. Perhaps the filmmakers wanted to include a scene where the city accepts Spider-Man in some way, but it just rang false to me. First, we’re to believe that this manager/crane operator just so happens to be the father of the son Spider-Man saved earlier in the movie. Not only that but he spots Spider-Man, sees that he’s hurt, somehow knows where Spider-Man’s header (and that it’s a good thing he gets there) and then coordinates a half mile of construction workers to point their cranes in the right direction.

Right. That’s one insightful crew manager. Or maybe he just read a copy of the script.

One other gripe, and this could simply speak to my age, but I prefer my superheroes to be at least college age. My personal preference aside, it did seem a bit odd that Gwen Stacy held a prominent internship at Oscorp when she was only a high school senior. I wonder how much of the script was in place before they decided to put them all in high school rather than college or even graduate school, which would have fit a little bit better.

At least the sequel will be firmly placed after high school, right?

Above: I would have liked to see the transformation of Connors spread out over a bit more time; less of a flipped switch and more of a gradual decline. It might have made him seem more redeemable at the end.

More realistic (confusing?) fight damage

It took me a good chunk of the movie to realize it, but Spider-Man took much more realistic damage in Amazing than he did in the previous movies. This made the fight and action scenes that much more dangerous and interesting, really. Spider-Man was actually somewhat human. On top of that the scenes between Spider-Man and Lizard were a bit more grounded and believable than some of the more fantastic battles we’ve seen Spider-Man in before.

At the same time, at times the fighting stepped into that old style. Despite Spider-Man being visibly (and badly) hurt when scratched by Lizard, he later went through a couple (two? three? I lost count.) of walls without, you know, dying. Every time I thought I understood just what his limitations were they changed again.

Fight scenes were easy to pay attention to, though. I could tell what was going on pretty much all the time, which is more than I can say for most Bourne-esque fight sequences common to action movies nowadays.

Also? Far less CGI than Raimi’s movies. Spider-Man seemed more real, with fewer smooth edges than before. I tender approval.

All about the girl

Peter Parker always seemed to be about responsibility and righting wrongs above all else. In this movie, though, he seemed to be more interested in Gwen Stacy than anyone else. Perhaps this was just as prevalent in Spider-Man stories before and I missed it, but it sure seemed like most of his thoughts centered on Stacy in place of a more noble purpose.

His search for Uncle Ben’s killer, which took up most of the first half of this movie, was basically forgotten after one dinner at the police captain’s house. Moving on from revenge to a greater responsibility should have been more of a turning point than it really was. Perhaps it was just overshadowed by the quick romantic scene that immediately followed it.

The ending felt a bit off too. When the ending eventually came (there were three or four times it felt like the ending, right?) it was in a classroom, ending on a quote from Peter Parker than sounded something like this:

Peter: I’m sorry I’m late, it won’t happen again.

Teacher: Don’t make promises you can’t keep Mr. Parker.

Peter: But those are the best kind. [Gwen smiles.]

I don’t get it. A flirtatious line about breaking promises is where we leave the hero at the end of the movie? I guess they wanted to end on a hopeful relationship note, but it left a weird taste in my mouth. Rather than leaving thinking about Peter Parker’s growth into someone taking responsibility for his city because he’s the one that has the power, I’m walking out of the theatre wondering just what that last line is supposed to make me think. Is it just a cute throwaway line to make people feel good and smile? Is Spider-Man making a joke of the promise he made to Captain Stacy — the promise that seemed to really be bothering him just a few minutes earlier?

I still don’t get it.

The bit midway through the credits (video of which doesn’t seem to online quite yet) seems to point to Norman Osborne as the villain in the next movie, as well as a hint toward more surprising information coming out about Parker’s father. Osborne in the sequel shouldn’t surprise anyone at all, but it seems the bit about Parker’s father is supposed to. If so much emphasis wasn’t put on him during the film itself I think this would have been a more exciting reveal.

Decent movie, but not a must-see

Andrew Garfield was pretty great as Peter Parker, and it was a near-perfect role for Emma Stone. I enjoyed the rest of the cast, but it really was Garfield’s movie.

I recommend The Amazing Spider-Man, but it’s not necessarily worth running out to the theatre to see it right away. It’s no Avengers. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to come back and enjoy this movie a bit more when the inevitable sequel comes out in 2014 and the loose ends in this movie come together a bit more. I’m looking forward to that.

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