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The Amazing Spider-Man - point by point
on November 5, 2012
I read a lot of reviews for this movie before watching it myself. In the end, they all boiled down to a few basic criticisms, which I kept in mind as I made my own appraisal. Here are the major problems people seem to have had with Marc Webb's "Amazing Spider-Man", along with my responses.
1. The reboot was too soon.
This more or less depends on your point of view. True, the last Spidey movie was in 2007, a mere five years ago - more than long enough to warrant another Spider-Man film; not exactly long enough to call for a complete reboot. On the other hand, I think a lot of people would agree that it's been more like eight years since the last GOOD Spider-Man film. I loved Raimi's work with the character, though I do criticize him on some minor points. But in the end, he really dropped the ball with Spider-Man 3, running a lot of good characters into the ground and painting himself into a corner with two hours of very messy plotting. In the end, whether a reboot was necessary per se is a matter of personal preference. But even if you think it wasn't necessary, is it fair to write off the new movie completely as a result? I don't believe it is.
2. We've heard it all before.
Yes and no. This is another interpretation of Spider-Man's origin story. But it's very different from Raimi's first Spider-Man film. More importantly, it's a well-done interpretation. At the heart of this "origin story" is Peter Parker's development from a somewhat geeky, trouble-making teen into a true hero. This transition happened far more quickly in Raimi's first movie, mainly because Maguire's Peter had a more strongly-developed moral compass to begin with. Neither version is objectively inferior in my opinion, but I do have a personal preference for the deep character drama achieved by Webb. The point is, yes, this is the spider-bite story again, but it's a good spider-bite story.
3. The hype about "secrets being revealed" was a big lie.
Yes, it was. This is most definitely not "the untold story". Significant-sounding lines from the trailers such as "Do you think what happened to you was an accident?" and "If you want the truth about your parents, Peter, then come and get it" didn't even feature, which I'll admit kind of annoyed me. That amounts to false advertising in my opinion. I was very happy with what I got, but it wasn't what I was promised. The thing is, there is some big mystery going on in this movie with Peter's parents. However, their story doesn't feature very heavily in this first movie. The elements of it that do were given away in the trailers. So don't bother watching this solely to find out more about Richard and Mary Parker. Their story will have to wait until the sequel.
4. The villain was weak.
My main problem with this film's take on Dr. Curtis Connors was that it diverged so heavily from the comics. The Connors I remember was an intriguing villain because he was a father and a husband who transformed himself into a monster in a quest for healing. Billy Connors and his mom aren't around here. Instead there's a bachelor, British-accented Connors who frequently runs the risk of going boldly where so many villains have gone before. Fortunately, Rhys Ifans' performance is good enough to prevent this happening most of the time. Connors' motivation makes sense overall, though little time is given to truly flesh it out. Perhaps if his mysterious connections to Norman Osborn had been explored in greater detail, he would have been more memorable.
5. The Lizard's design was flawed.
Most people who didn't care for the Lizard's look seem to describe it as "too human". The face certainly is. It wasn't really that scary. I've seen alternate designs which the production team ultimately abandoned which I think would have been a lot better. So basically I would agree with this criticism, but for me it was a minor quibble.
6. It had too much teenage angst and Twilight-esque drama.
Actually, it had none. The teenage interactions were more mature than I'm used to seeing in film or TV, with even Flash Thompson evolving from a typical bully into a likable character over time. There are a few moments of stereotypical rebellion from Peter, but they lead rapidly into the tragic events that change him, so they're quickly forgotten. Despite the early publicity saying that this movie would be "darker", I don't think I'd describe it that way. It's a little less cheesy and a little more gritty in parts, but there are enough moments of clever humor to give the viewer a break from the gradually building tension.
The Amazing Spider-Man does have flaws. But in my opinion, its good points are so good that they cancel out the missteps. Andrew Garfield brings the wisecracking, geeky, sometimes mischievous Peter Parker from the original comics to life better than anyone I've seen (or heard, in animation) thus far. He nails the sense of humor that was frequently lacking from Maguire's Spidey. I had my doubts about Emma Stone as Gwen, but her acting was superb as well. She and Garfield have great chemistry on screen, which bodes well for the future. Really all the main cast was terrific, but I must make a special mention of Dennis Leary's Captain Stacy. He truly did a fantastic job. The special effects in regard to Spider-Man's web-slinging and other stunts were breathtaking, and clever cinematography draws the audience into the action effortlessly. The music was forgettable for the most part, but served its purpose in the more dramatic scenes (much like the soundtrack to The Avengers).
In short, watching this movie was a delight for me as a long-time Spider-Fan, even with the memory of Raimi's better efforts fresh in my mind, and I'm very much looking forward to the sequel (teased at the end of this movie by an intriguing mid-credits scene). Worth buying, worth watching, and worth re-watching. It's a fun, engaging superhero film, and deserves to be judged on its own merits, which are considerable. Please don't let the unfair amount of negativity surrounding this movie scare you away from it. If you give it a chance, you won't be sorry.