When I first read that Marvel and Sony Pictures were going to relaunch the Spider-Man movie franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man, my first thought was: Why? Then I remembered: money. But hey I love the character so I’ll see any crappy Spider-film that’s released at least once, even though I kind of felt like I shouldn’t be supporting this type of venture with my money. You know, the kind of movie that’s seemingly made solely because the studio doesnt want to lose the rights to their property, story be damned. In the end though, I couldn’t resist, so I celebrated the July 4th holiday by watching Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man in a packed theater with nerds and normals alike. Going in I didn’t really expect the film to be that great but I was really surprised at the gulf between the quality of the acting and the script. To summarize: acting good, story bad.
Not that the people who worked on the film didn’t give it a good shot. The broad strokes of the story were fine: Peter Parker got bit by a radioactive spider, hooked up with fellow sexy teen science nerd Gwen Stacy, lost his uncle and gained an arch nemesis in The Lizard. He saved the day, grew up a bit, and a franchise was reborn, all in about two hours. The action was well directed for the most part, while the CGI was solid. The movie, well the first chunk anyway, was grounded in a sort of realism that made Peter Parker’s world feel tangible. There were a couple of fundamental changes made to his origin but they felt like natural moves that contributed to that sense of reality. Other changes to the character, not so much. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Pretty much everyone in the cast, especially Andrew Garfield and Martin Sheen, was pretty great throughout. Garfield’s a charming guy with an infectious smile, and he filled out the Spider-Suit remarkably well. He just looked like Spider-Man. Sheen, as Peter’s doomed Uncle Ben, was warm and loving as well as stern when he needed to be. Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy was likeable and sympathetic, while Rhys Evan’s Curt Conners…would’ve benefited from better material.
Because when you go a little deeper, the story was swiss cheese. Plot points were established only to be quickly discarded. Character development went unexplained. People did things that made no sense. The editing was choppy at times. And The Lizard was a terrible choice for a film that was going for a more naturalistic tone. His transformation and journey kind of tied in thematically with Peter’s, but it was half-assed while his master plan was ridiculous and ill conceived. It would be like if Batman had fought Scarface and The Ventriloquist in Batman Begins. And here’s the worst part: this whole story was already told ten years ago! The basic structure was the pretty much the same as 2002′s Spider-Man. Hell, it was the same as almost every superhero movie that featured an origin story. And while the origin changes were good some of the alterations made to Spider-Man’s background took away from what makes The Wall Crawler such a great character.
One of my biggest problems with the film was that this version of Spider-Man didn’t feel like Spider-Man. A huge part of the character is about the struggle: to do what’s right, to make ends meet, to stay healthy and keep a healthy supply of web shooters. Nothing comes easy to Spider-Man, and he has to try his hardest every day to do what’s right or else he’ll let someone down, whether its his Aunt or the citizens of New York City. Webb’s Spider-Man was a nice handsome kid who lived in a sweet townhouse, got the girl fairly easily, and was seemingly well off enough that he could order supplies for really advanced looking webshooters and a pretty awesome suit without blinking. He was a priviliged white kid, basically. Look, change is good, change is necessary, but a handsome, well off Peter Parker isn’t nearly as interesting a character as a poor, nerdy looking one who suffers from a chronic case of The Old Parker Luck.
Thankfully Garfield, Stone, and others were so likeable that they made the entire endeavor palatable. The Amazing Spider-Man is enjoyable for fans of the character who aren’t too obsessive about fidelity to the source material, or basic story structure, or consistent editing. Basically, just turn your brain off and enjoy the webslinging.
The Amazing Spider-Man is Rated: Functional