It’s probably still better than how Spider-Man 4 would have turned out.
The Amazing Spider-Man is the first film in the second big-screen adaptation of the web-slinger and stars Andrew Garfield in the titular role as he searches for answers surrounding his parents’ deaths, which leads to him becoming Spider-Man and facing the Lizard, the alter ego of Dr. Curt Connors, his father’s professional partner.
In order for a reboot to be successful as a film in its own right, it should bring something new to the table and make it work for both the plot and the characters. The Amazing Spider-Man does have several ideas we never saw in a Spider-Man film before, but they all create a mixed bag–there are good things about each of them, and there are shortcomings. First off, the story of Peter’s parents, Richard and Mary, is seldom explored in anything outside the comics. Bringing them into the mix was a unique idea; it showed us a side of Peter Parker never seen on film. His pursuit of what his father worked on with Connors allowed audiences to see Peter’s intellect, a major aspect of his character. Unfortunately, the mystery of his parents was intentionally left unsolved in this movie so the writers could give a few more pieces of the puzzle in the sequel. Superhero movies detract from what is important in a standalone film when they set up something for a future installment with no payoff in the movie itself. For example, the subplot concerning Thor’s dream in Avengers: Age of Ultron does not fit well in that movie because it does nothing for its plot and is only there to set up Thor: Ragnarok. Conversely, part of Black Panther’s being in Captain America: Civil War may have been to get audiences ready for his solo movie, but he works in the plot. We only get some payoff for the story of Peter’s parents in The Amazing Spider-Man, and it was left open just so it could be further explored in the second film.
The way we see Peter’s powers develop was an interesting and realistic way of showing how he becomes Spider-Man. However, it was odd to make him behave like a spider, such as catching a fly and eating raw food. It does make for some good humor, though, like Peter smashing his alarm clock. How many times have we wished we could do that? But what this part of the movie fails to do is show how Peter learns how to control his powers. For example, how did he make sure he didn’t tear rooms apart without being super careful, or how did he make sure everything he touched didn’t stick to his finger? The only times we see Peter wreck stuff after he destroys his bathroom is when he gets aggressive, but he is in control the rest of the time, such as keeping the basketball in his hand when he confronts Flash in the gym.
Andrew Garfield was a fitting replacement for Tobey Maguire to play Peter Parker and Spider-Man, especially for the former. You believe that Garfield can be awkward and nerdy. However, as Spider-Man, he may be a wisecracker at times, and a funny one, but he gets in a cop’s face and goes all like, “I’m swingin’ heh!” when he gets away from said cop and his and his backup. His dialogue and actions don’t always align with the character, but he does a good job as Peter.
Emma Stone was a perfect choice to be Gwen Stacy, Peter’s love interest. Stone has pulled off every major role she’s landed, and she doesn’t fail here. She gives an excellent performance as a sassy and intelligent young woman. Her and Garfield have superb chemistry with each other on-screen, some of the best when it comes to comic book movies. Stone is a much better love interest and character in general than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane; she takes risks and helps Peter fight his enemies, showing off her own brainpower in the process. The only downside to Stone’s casting, performance, and character is that she only got two movies to work with. Other than that, she is as fantastic as ever in every way.
The entire plot of Uncle Ben’s murder is handled poorly. Everything from Ben’s speech before Peter storms off to his death to Peter trying to catch the killer feels wrong. Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben doesn’t sell the “with great power comes great responsibility” due to his average acting in that particular scene. What’s worse is that the movie never stops to allow Peter to soak in the fact that he let Ben’s killer go before it happened. To top it all off, Peter never catches the guy. Ben’s murderer never appears after he is killed. Once Peter truly becomes Spider-Man and saves the people on the bridge from the Lizard, he stops looking for the thug altogether. What the hell?
The Lizard is one of the weakest comic book movie villains we have seen in recent years. First of all, he looks like he belongs in a cartoon. His comical face prevents anyone from taking him seriously a menacing villain. I actually chuckled several times when the Lizard was on screen. Furthermore, he is one of Spider-Man’s most dangerous villains; his thick hide and tail make it very difficult for him to be defeated. Spider-Man’s best villains all have a weapon(s) or aspect of their character, making them such formidable foes. These are rarely highlighted in the films, even with Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2. It hinders the villain and makes them a little less enjoyable to watch, especially when there are opportunities to make them more of a challenge for Spider-Man to overcome, like with the Lizard. Lastly, his plan doesn’t make sense. He wants to turn everyone in New York into creatures like him because he wants humans to be better. Why? What is the point? It’s thin, poorly thought out and executed, and even less compelling than Sandman’s plight against Spider-Man.
The biggest problem with The Amazing Spider-Man is that it isn’t all that fun. It fails to capture the same magic and excitement of the first two films, or any, for that matter. For instance, the scene in which Peter experiments with his powers isn’t as fun or full of energy as it was in Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire showed a genuine sense of wonder and excitement when he climbed a wall for the first time and jumped across the rooftops. Garfield lacks both, and the slow, calm music that accompanies the scene in this film isn’t a good fit for what is happening on-screen; it should be an original track that is fast-paced and gets the audience pumped. These are unique powers to have, and you should want the viewer to feel the awe that Peter has when he realizes he can crawl walls, leap twice as high as a normal person, and swing through the air with the greatest of ease. Throughout the entire movie, you don’t feel much tension or energy; the sense of fun is largely missing and that’s a big problem for a superhero movie.
Despite stellar performances from Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, everything else about The Amazing Spider-Man crumbles from new ideas that were executed averagely, a major part of Spider-Man’s origin squandered, a substandard villain, and a general lack of fun.
The Amazing Spider-Man gets a C-
“When I was 14-years-old, I made this PowerPoint presentation, and I invited my parents into my room and gave them popcorn. It was called ‘Project Hollywood 2004’ and it worked. I moved to LA in January 2004.”-Emma Stone
If you haven’t already, you can check out my reviews for each film in the Spider-Man trilogy below!
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