I was surprised when I originally heard that the Spider-Man franchise was going to be rebooted – just five years after the Sam Raimi directed trilogy ended. Granted, the first of the series was just alright and the last closing installment was plain silly. The stand-out, gem, of the original trilogy was the second in the series. That middle film benefitted from more emphasis placed on the character behind the superhero. I was afraid this reboot would add nothing to the previous efforts. Then I saw the cast, director, and writers – promising, for sure. So I walked into the theater with some expectations of a new twist, or more compelling story. I walked out a bit disappointed. The Amazing Spider-Man wasn’t a bad superhero movie (the second film of the original trilogy retains its place as the best of the lot); it just felt somewhat pointless in the end – did like a lot though.
As a very young child, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) experienced both of his parents being whisked away under mysterious conditions and with no explanation. They leave him with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). They never return. We find out that they’re killed in a crash. Peter has had to live with this sense of abandonment ever since – bottled up inside of him for years. He isn’t popular at school. One day he visits Oscorp, the lab where his father was working before he disappeared. Peter meets his father’s old colleague, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). When he strays into an unattended lab, he gets bitten by a spider. This wasn’t a normal spider, though. We all know the story by now – the spider venom changes his DNA. His life is completely altered as he gains his new “spidey” powers.
Written by James Vanderbilt, Steve Kloves, and Alvin Sargent, the screenplay is a mixed bag. The humor aspect works well. The Spider-Man of the original comics was always a bit cocky and cracking jokes when taking down criminals. This was something not addressed in the previous trilogy. It works well in this film. It was worth some chuckles and never felt forced. The script falls flat in other areas, though. The villain isn’t given much thought. He’s not fully developed and there’s too much to his character that’s left unexplained. Other characters seem to act in ways that are not consistent with their personalities. There are plot holes. The story seems like it’s trying to be complex, but the script doesn’t fully develop all its ideas. I do think Peter Parker was handled marvelously.
Marc Webb is the director. You may know him from his excellent romantic comedy, (500) Days of Summer. The big reason I was looking forward to this incarnation of the Spider-Man franchise was because I had read it would be a darker take on the story and I had been so impressed by Webb’s earlier film. I was expecting the Batman Begins of the Spider-Man franchise. The film builds for about an hour before the “action” starts. I like it when a movie takes the time to set up a plot and develop the characters; I really love it when it’s done well. In this case, however, the background doesn’t have the strength to carry half the film to Batman Begins kind of level. I found myself getting a bit bored at times. The characters and situations were engaging at times, but I never felt “glued” to the screen. It needed more “life.” There were two bright spots that helped the first hour of the movie – the two leads.
The acting is really good throughout. The standouts in the cast are Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. They have great chemistry. That might be due to the fact that they are dating in real life. I wouldn’t go as far to say they are better than Tobey Maguire and Kristen Dunst, but they definitely inhabit their roles in a new way that works. You could make a case, though, that Garfield is better in the role than Maguire. Garfield plays a very appealing nerd. Maguire only really shone in his second Spider-Man movie. In the others, he was average. Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, and Sally Field are just fine in their supporting roles. None of the supporting roles shine, but they do a solid job.
The special effects are excellent. There are some action scenes that are superior to any of the Spider-Man action scenes of the past, for sure. They excite, and are a pleasure to watch. Spidy’s web slinging looks excellent. I also liked the costume. When I first saw a still of Garfield in the costume I wasn’t “feeling it.” Now that I’ve seen it in the movie, I have to say it does work. (I hope that’s the same for Hathaway’s Catwoman costume.) Nice soundtrack as well.
The Amazing Spider-Man was totally a mixed bag if there ever was one. I think it was too early for a reboot. The film isn’t a waste of time. It’s good solid fun. I’m happy it’s more than a typical cash grab entertainment blockbuster, you’ll enjoy it – and even more at an IMAX theater. Don’t bother to see it in 3D, though – that’s definitely not worth it. Maybe the Spider-Man franchise reboot will be like the first trilogy – an alright solid opening act followed up by an amazing second one. I hope so and I look forward to the next Spidey outing.