When I saw the first Spider-Man film years ago, I think I was too young to truly view it with a critical eye. That all being said, I remember feeling like it lacked something and I was a bit disappointed, though I never really knew why. The Spider-Man film franchise had been one I never really went back to–I’d watch each film once and then never again. I didn’t particularly hate each movie, but I didn’t really love them either. Spider-Man was my biggest hero during my childhood, and I’ve recently realized that it was the original film that got me to hang up the metaphorical web shooters and get over my favorite masked hero, as I’ve felt some indifference toward our friendly neighborhood Spider-man for the last ten or so years. I’m happy to say The Amazing Spider-Man movie revived my fascination with my childhood hero and has me already wanting to see the film again.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone
I should probably start my review off with one of the things I was most skeptical about going in….
I was pleasantly surprised by how well the cast pulled together for this film. I don’t know much about the source material (I’m sure I did at one point when I was younger, but most of that knowledge has escaped me), so I didn’t really have any expectations for Emma Stone’s portrayal of her character Gwen Stacy–what I mean is, I did have expectations for Emma Stone’s performance as an actress but not necessarily how she played the role of Gwen Stacy, a character I know very little about. I’ve been impressed with Emma Stone’s work in other films, and had high hopes for her in Spider-Man. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. Emma Stone more than held her own alongside co-star Andrew Garfield and created a special charm in Gwen that helped to bring out some of Garfield’s finest moments as Peter Parker.
Unlike Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy, I did have certain expectations for Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker, and most importantly, Spider- Man. The previews for Spider-Man first had me a bit surprised about the direction it appeared they would take Peter Parker’s character. The trailers made him seem over-the-top brooding and slightly emo–a direction that may not have been entirely wrong, but definitely not the way I always viewed Peter. While Spider-Man (and Peter Parker) as a character has always carried the burden of protecting New York City in a role quite analogous to Batman and his Gotham, the thing that has always set Marvel’s Spidey apart from DC’s Dark Knight is Spider-Man’s charm, wit, and snappy retorts in dire situations. So I definitely had preconceived notions that I would not like Garfield’s Peter Parker going into the movie. That’s the last time I let trailers influence my opinions about movies.
Garfield pulls off a pretty convincing, relate-able portrayal of a teenager with super powers–something that I think can be pretty difficult to do with the superhero genre, and it seems Hollywood has more often than not (aside from probably the recent Batman films) avoided exploring any relate-able sense of humanity in our beloved heroes. It may have been called ‘The Amazing Spider-Man,’ but it was as much as Peter film as a Spidey one. There were still great Spider-Man moments, though. All the witty remarks are there without too much cheese-ball or camp, and I think that’s a pretty huge feat that Garfield, Webb, and the writers all deserve credit for. Despite my expectations from the previews, I think I’m now happy to call Garfield my Peter/Spidey. He definitely didn’t come across as emo, and instead seemed a believable troubled teen faced with incredible responsibility. Garfield has me believing this is a movie about a boy who happens to become a hero, instead of one about a hero who happens to be a boy, and in this case, I think that’s a pretty good thing.
But Peter Parker’s character would be nothing without the guidance of his Uncle Ben, the man who made Spidey’s moral code. Played by Martin Sheen, Ben definitely gets more screen time than he does in the original the Spidey film and I think that was a pretty good call. Peter’s relationship with his Uncle was established much better than in previous films and I think this made the moments Peter and Ben were together have more impact.
There’s not really much else to say about the rest of the cast–no one else stood out to me as particularly good, but no one else stood out as particularly bad either. I wasn’t a huge fan of The Lizard, but I’m also not a big fan of him in the comics either–it’s hard to tell if my indifference to him in the film was because of his portrayal or because I just didn’t care about the character in the first place.
While the casting was my biggest fear going into the movie, it turned out to be, for me, the most stand out part of the film.
What I Didn’t Like
My biggest complaint is that it was still a reboot. While the origin story varies a bit from the original movie, and is perhaps more accurate to the source material, it’s still an origin story and the build-up to the Spidey parts took quite a bit of time. I’m a bit torn because I think in this case the origin truly helped develop Peter Parker’s character, but it also forced the story into a somewhat cliche formula we have seen in hero-flicks time and time again. The newest thing for me compared to the other films was the better acting and a more likable cast. Nothing else really seemed that new.
Now, I think I could forgive this flaw if The Amazing Spider-Man was under the same creative umbrella as the Marvel movie tie-ins to the Avengers films, and Spidey’s origin story was a way of shoehorning him into the next Avengers movie. Unfortunately this is probably not the case as Sony still has the licensing for Spider-Man films. The reboot served as more of tool to keep the franchise in Sony’s control, rather than an opportunity to build the Marvel Movie-verse–something I would have enjoyed much more, and in truth, redeemed the fact it was a reboot.
All In All
As I’ve said before, I really did enjoy the movie and Garfield and Stone’s portrayal of their respective characters was definitely the film’s most redeeming quality. Would I sign on for the inevitable sequel? Sure, if only to see Garfield and Stone (sounds like a Simon and Garfunkel cover band name) act together in another film, but I’d prefer to see the sequel set in the same universe as the Avengers titles.
‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ gets…