Spider-Man is reborn for a new generation! Well, actually, it’s probably more like the same generation, only slightly older. But either way, he’s back again, for the first time, in The Amazing Spider-Man. WARNING: There be Spoilers.
The Amazing Spider-Man
It is nearly impossible to review this movie without comparing and contrasting it with the other Spider-Man films of the 2000’s. But despite the recentness of those movies and the necessary adherence to the same source material, I’m going to try to judge this film on its own, and how it stands up with other superhero movies. And again, fair Spoiler Warning.
The film starts off by giving us some Batman Begins-style scenes with kid Peter (even starting as Begins does with a game of hide and seek), showing us how he came to live with Uncle Ben and Aunt May, his mom and super-scientist dad fleeing into the night after someone tries to steal his super-magic science formula. Something to do with spiders…
This initial intro not only gives us a peek into Peter’s formative years, but also adds some backstory to the science project that creates Spider-Man, and possibly all the other villains in this new series. Making his dad responsible for Peter’s gifts certainly is a traditional way to explore the hero’s journey. Like Superman, or Luke Skywalker or King Arthur, Spider-Man’s powers now come from his father.
Unfortunately, this is probably the only aspect of the origin story that the other films didn’t cover, meaning that once we get to teenage Peter, played by Andrew Garfield, we end up retreading a lot of the same ground. Peter’s relationship with Uncle Ben and Aunt May is virtually blow-for-blow in step with the first Maguire movie, even down to alienating them once he gets his powers and shifts his priorities, causing Ben’s death. Sally Field and Martin Sheen are spectacular, though, and like Garfield, come across as more realistic and grounded than in the other films, feeling more like real people and less like characters in a movie, if that makes any sense.
My only qualm is that Peter’s motivation following Ben’s death was more about revenge and less about responsibility. The driving factor in Spider-Man is that he slipped up just once and acted like a jerk, costing the life of someone he loved. And so he can never afford to be irresponsible again. He’s eternally trying to make up for that one screw-up. But here, Peter seems motivated only by revenge, becoming a violent vigilante to catch the man that killed Ben. And yes, you could argue that the guilt is still there, but it feels like the focus was more on the anger, which is a more fun emotion, than the guilt.
Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is your perfect superhero girlfriend. She is pretty, understanding, and smart enough to help save the day at the end of the story, like all girlfriends in recent superhero movies. Her science background separates her from Mary Jane, allowing her to be more than just a hostage victim (which amazingly and thankfully she manages to avoid). Using Gwen as the love interest also opens the door to the inclusion of her father, Police Captain George Stacy, played by Dennis Leary. Not only is he your “worst nightmare” as your girlfriend’s father, his position allows him to be right in the middle of the action.
The film’s main plot, which involves Peter providing his dad’s old partner Curt Conners with the secret formula for creating animal-human hybrids, turning the man into the monstrous Lizard, who then plans to turn the whole world into monsters, is suitably epic and sci-fi-y for a comic movie plot. The film quotes Batman Begins yet again when the ending becomes a race to THE TOWER, in order to stop THE VILLAIN from releasing a toxin that will CHANGE THE WORLD, along the way incorporating the original Spider-Man’s habit of having New York’s citizens pitch in and aid Spidey in his last battle.
The by-now traditional “after-credits” ending scene was, sadly, epically pathetic. After an entire movie of only hearing about Norman Osborn, and how he was dying, and about how all the sci-fi stuff going on was only to save his life, I really expected him to show up there at the end with Conners, played by a great actor in a surprising “Nick Fury” moment. Sadly, it was not to be.
Overall, where this film really shines is the special effects. This is a movie that looks like a comic book. Technology has finally allowed us a Spider-Man that leaps, and bends and fights just like he does on the page. The new suit looks somehow more classic than in the other films, in quick shots resembling more of what your subconscious mind pictures when it thinks of Spider-Man.
Despite all that, the better FX, the more complex and enjoyable sci-fi story, when it comes to emotion, I still have to give it to the Maguire films. Maybe it’s the lack of Harry and Norman Osborn, whose relationship with Peter was a perpetual motion story-engine, driving all three movies in the original trilogy. There’s nothing like that here. Adding to that the loss of impact in the Uncle Ben story, and there’s not a lot here to really invest in, emotion-wise.
That said, I will admit that having been a huge Spider-Man comic fan growing up, I was never too enamored with the original trilogy. I find Andrew Garfield’s quiet, intense Peter Parker much more in keeping with Lee and Ditko’s original interpretation, as opposed to Tobey Maguire’s goofy, tear-stained take.
While the sci-fi plot was worlds better in this film, it’s the human plot in the original that made it a modern classic. If only I could take the heart of the original trilogy, and add it to the effects and plot of this one, I’d have a perfect Spider-Man movie.
A COMIC BOOK BLOG RATING
|Better FX, jokes and plot, with a more grounded and realistic portrayl of the characters||The emotional connection just wasn’t as strong, and it mimics BATMAN BEGINS just once too often.|