Review: The Amazing Spider-Man
Directed by: Marc Webb.
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Denis Leary.
Rating: Running Time: 136 mins.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) lives the typical life of a high school student. One day he gains the attention of Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) after standing up for a younger kid. Later at home with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), he finds an old briefcase of his fathers containing scientific documents and a picture of his father with Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) at Oscorp Industries. Peter visits Connors’ lab at Oscorp on a tour, surprising Gwen who is an intern there, and impressing Connors with answers to his questions about genetic manipulation. Connors, who lost one of his arms in an accident years earlier, hopes to one day cross DNA from reptile species to create a serum that would regenerate his amputated arm. While at Oscorp, a logo from his father’s documents leads Peter to sneak into a lab where radioactively mutated spiders have been bred to create super strong webbing and is bitten by one of them.
The next day, he wakes to find he has increased strength, senses, reflexes and the ability to cling to walls and ceilings. He approaches Connors at home, revealing his father’s identity to him, and talking with him about his father and the genetic work he is doing. Peter gives Connors a formula based on his father’s documents and Connors, impressed by Peter’s work, asks him for help in the lab with the serum, the two of them creating a working serum that regenerates the limb on a three-legged mouse. Revelling in their success, Peter neglects to pick up Aunt May from work, and gets in an argument with Uncle Ben when he returns home. Running out of the house, Ben searches for him, and is shot and killed by a thief that Peter could have stopped moments earlier. Devastated, Peter begins using his new abilities to find the man who killed Ben, and after a close run in, creates a costume to protect his identity. Meanwhile, under pressure from his superiors at Oscorp, Connors secretly tests the serum on himself, successfully regenerating his arm, unaware of a dangerous side effect the serum will have on him.
First off, yes, it is a reboot of a series that only a few years ago had it’s most recent movie. Sam Raimi did a great thing with Spider-Man, but lost his way with the third movie. Sony/Columbia had to make a movie within so long a time after the last one in order to hold on to the rights (otherwise they would revert back to Marvel), so they decided to reboot the franchise rather than attempt to carry on after the verbal bashing the last movie received from critics and fans alike. We’ll get to the way this movie compares to those in a moment, but let’s go over a few things first.
The Cast – Andrew Garfield gives an amazing (yes that was intended) performance in the lead. He’s perfect as Peter Parker, fitting in the wise-cracking that was missing in previous incarnations, as well as an emotional performance in his scenes regarding Peter’s parents, his relationship with Aunt May and Uncle Ben, and his scenes with love interest Gwen Stacy. Sally Field and Martin Sheen, while not given a massive amount of screen time, are great in their supporting roles. The biggest surprise to me was Rhys Ifans as Dr Connor, giving a much better performance than expected. Emma Stone does the best she can with her role, but it’s a weakened character. While the writers have decided to focus on the Peter Parker/Gwen Stacy romance and leave out (at least for the moment) the character of Mary Jane Watson, they haven’t really beefed up her character as they really should have. She does get a couple of moments to shine (mostly towards the end of the movie), as does Denis Leary as her father, a police Captain intent on capturing the vigilante Spider-Man, but both roles should have been better.
One thing that I’ve heard many issues about is the Lizard’s motives, without giving away too many spoilers, I didn’t have any such issues, in fact I found the Lizard a great villain, his first appearance being influenced by Connor’s wish to do something good to prevent something from happening, only that the Lizard acts on this wish with little regard for anything that gets in his way. I also had no issue with the Lizard’s final plan, as this is explained in a video journal of Connors that we see played back explaining Connor’s goals, only with the Lizard focused on making that happen. There’s also a sign of the Lizard’s hatred for Spider-Man showing through as seen in the comics, with him specifically going after him to stop him from interfering in his plans. Good motives, if you’re paying attention to what’s going on. The writers have made a wise decision in my opinion in choosing the Lizard as the villain, picking a character that fans will know, that novices to the movie should find interesting, and that anyone following on from the Raimi movies will find fresh as opposed to repeating a villain they have already seen.
The only main problem with the Lizard is some of the CGI effects. For the majority of his sequences, the CGI looks unfinished, and needed a little bit more work. Elsewhere, the majority of the CGI Spider-Man moments are well done for the most part, the swinging has weight to it, as opposed to the earlier CGI Spider-Man we’ve seen before, except for a few shots, even though some looked a little rough, they all worked fine for me. A nice touch is that during production, they did as many swinging moments practically as opposed to CGI.
With regards to the 3D, there are only a few sequences that take advantage of the technology, for the majority of the movie there’s very little use until the camera is flying through the air following Spider-Man as he swings through the city. There’s are some first person moments as seen in the trailer footage where the 3D does work effectively, though these are often abridged in the final movie where they were lengthy in the trailers, probably to prevent the pace from dropping.
Marc Webb has mostly worked on television projects before this, but has successfully made the transition to the big screen, with a solid direction that at no time feels like it was made for television, one to keep an eye out for whatever his next project is. Experienced composer James Horner has been brought in to compose the musical score to the movie, and does something that at times tries to create a theme for the character, but doesn’t entirely succeed in creating anything on the level of John Williams’ iconic Superman theme, which is the one piece of superhero music that all others are held up to. Nevertheless, Horner’s score does work throughout the movie, both during the action sequences and during quieter character moments.
So how does it compare to Sam Raimi’s version of the story?
Well, while there are obviously similarities from the source material, there is also a lot that has been changed, mostly for the better. The basis of the costume is still there, though it’s not as played up as it is in Raimi’s, One of the things that will be a huge issue with fans will be regarding the web shooters, and the decision to go back to the comic source and have them be devices created/re-purposed by Parker in order to shoot webbing. Raimi’s decision was to give Spider-Man ‘organic’ web shooters from his own arms, largely because he found it hard to believe that a teenager could come up with such a thing. The funny thing is, back when Raimi’s Spider-Man came out, I liked the idea of the webbing being a result of his mutation, it made sense, but it had a side effect that I didn’t become aware of until I saw this movie – it weakened the character of Peter Parker.
What do I mean by this? It weakens him by giving him more power/abilities? Well… yes. If you know the comics (I’m not an expert but I probably know more than the average Spider-Man fan), you know that Peter Parker is an intelligent and resourceful character, even before his mutation from the spider bite. These are not things that he gets as a result of his transformation, he had this to begin with. By giving him organic web shooters, you’ve dumbed him down – here they’ve compromised a little, showed him using a mix of Oscorp equipment and his own ingenuity, but it’s still a character trait more closely resembling the Peter Parker from the comic books than Sam Raimi’s version.
There’s also other character points that have been given more thought here. The abandonment issues that any kid, left by his parents as we see in the opening moments, would surely have as a teenager, and the thrill that he feels from firstly discovering his powers and then wielding those over the school bully. There’s also some great moments that show spider-like traits in Peter after his transformation, in one moment where Peter catches a fly in his hand, he holds it between thumb and forefinger, eyeing it as if he’s about to eat it, before releasing it and then running his fingers across his lips – it’s a weirdly creepy moment, but it adds that extra something. There’s also a great moment where he builds a web not only as a trap, but then lies on it waiting, only moving once he feels vibrations, just as a spider would.
Heroes, be it super or otherwise, are not only necessary but essential to our everyday life. Sam Raimi’s movies tried to demonstrate this, but didn’t show the effect that it has on the world. There’s a scene in this movie (I won’t spoil it but for those who have seen it, I’m talking about the Crane scene) which is the perfect example of this – because of what one person does, they inspire good in people to risk their own lives to help others, that inspiration is captured beautifully in this movie, and it’s one of the many things that this movie not only got but hit it right on the nose and because of this, almost had me welling up at that moment.
Then there’s the suit. Raimi’s looked ok, but it has the fake six-pack padding, plus it overdid the red in the red/blue balance. The new one, for me, looks so much better and more realistic – it looks much more like it was designed with function in mind – I can believe that Spider-Man can move flexibly in this costume as he would need to. Trust me, the movement in the suit just looks more natural.
But the big thing that worked better for me in this as opposed to Raimi’s is his Spidey-sense.
In Raimi’s, we’re given one moment of Peter’s Spidey-sense during his fight with Flash Thompson at school, then later during the parade, he senses something’s coming, but with no idea or no reaction (if anything, Toby Maguire just stands there looking constipated). Here, we’re given a great initial moment, when Peter, immediately after his transformation, reacts to a situation with his Spidey-sense making him react purely on instinct. There are also moments where he senses something is going on (on a rooftop), but then reacts instead of just waiting to find out what it is. During any fight/action sequences, there’s also a sense that Spider-Man is actively using his Spidey-sense, it hasn’t just fallen by the wayside.
Overall, if you liked the Raimi movies but like me were hoping for a more grounded and realistic Spider-Man, you owe it to yourself to check out this movie. Personally for me, this feels like a better movie than all of Raimi’s movies which, don’t get me wrong, I like (yes, even 3), but for that fact alone – that this feels like a better movie, to me it is a better movie. “Better than Spider-Man 2?” I hear you ask, to which I would answer – Yes. The train sequence is the pin that holds that movie together, pull that pin and without that sequence, the movie would start to fall apart and slow to a bore – it’s all built around that sequence – you can’t say there’s any one sequence in The Amazing Spider-Man that you could take out and it would have the same effect, it has it’s highs and lows, but works overall.
See it in 3D if you like 3D, as mentioned there’s only a few moments which take advantage of it (moments swinging through New York and some of the quick first person moments are breathtaking), but if you’re not interested in that, just go for the 2D. The movie clocks in at just over the 2 hour mark, it could do with some slight trimming on the tail end of it once the climactic sequence has ended, but don’t let that put you off hanging around those extra few minutes for a mid-credit sequence that sets up some elements for a sequel.
Posted on July 7, 2012, in Reviews and tagged 3D, andrew garfield, based on comic, Blockbuster, cinema, comics, Denis Leary, emma stone, gwen stacy, lizard, marc webb, martin sheen, marvel, mutation, peter parker, reboot, review, Rhys Ifans, Sally Field, sam raimi, spider-man, superhero, theatre. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.