Ten years after Sam Raimi first brought Spider-Man to the big screen, and five years after the third film in that series, we’re getting The Amazing Spider-Man, which reboots the story of Peter Parker (now played by Andrew Garfield), and goes over much of the same territory of how he becomes Spider-Man. One’s enjoyment of this new version will directly correlate to how much you enjoyed the last go-around. If you like to love Raimi’s versions, you should probably skip this.
- Director: Marc Webb
- Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
- Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Dennis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field
- Music: James Horner
- Cinematography: John Schwartzman
Peter Parker’s parents go missing when he’s young, so he’s left with his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field). He grows up to be something of a nerd (Garfield). When he discovers his father’s bag, he decides to talk to Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), who his father used to work with. He also gets bitten by a radio-active spider. When working with Connors, he helps the doctor crack a genetic code, which leads to the formula that turns Connors into The Lizard. Parker crushes on Gwen Stacy (Stone), and the two go out, but as Parker becomes Spider-Man, it’s Stacy’s father (Leary) who wants Spider-Man arrested.
- The Performers: Andrew Garfield deserves to be a star, and he’s really good in this. He and Emma Stone have a great chemistry together. You believe that they are attracted to each other, and it feels young and swoony. Dennis Leary also makes a good addition, and he’s never just doing Leary-schtick, he’s actually giving a performance.
- Swing Time: Director Marc Webb wanted a more practical approach to Spider-Man’s webslinging, and though he is unquestionably assisted by digital effects, this shows the benefit of three movies having tested things out beforehand.
- F- you, Pay Me: The reason this films exists, and possibly the only reason is because Sony needs to keep this property active to retain the rights from Marvel studios. There are great moments in the film, but most of them are isolated, and the film feels reshot so much that many plot strings don’t add up. There’s attention paid to one character, who then disappears from the film. In one of the stills bellow, you can see a picture from something not in the finished cut. Where Raimi’s version might have been a bit hokey, it had a finished script, and every scene advanced the narrative. Here, it’s just a mess, and it feels like the product it is.
- Give Emma Stone Something to do:The relationship stuff is the highlight of the movie, but she’s a love interest, and the filmmakers give her only interests that help further the plot but don’t really say anything much about the character.
- Cover Band: There’s something of a paradox to the film. The things it does best are things that Raimi did better. But important scenes like the death of uncle Ben, or Peter acclimating to his powers are woefully mishandled. Parker figuring out how to be Spider-Man, and his relationship with Gwen Stacy are the film’s highlights, but it also feels like they were trying to do things just different enough that they miss capturing the heart and soul of the character. It would be impossible to repeat “with great power comes great responsibility” but alluding to it and not really addressing it hurts the film. The film asks you to do all the heavy lifting.
- Marc Webb: It’s hard to tell how much of this is his fault. There’s a pep and an energy that comes through every once in a while that suggests he’s trying to use his own voice, but because everything feels a bit tampered with, those moments don’t play right. The scene where Peter Parker is on the subway discovering his powers for the first time looks like it’s supposed to be fun and playful, but the way the sequences ends up, Parker just comes across like a jerk. Likewise the basketball sequence is theoretically good, and you can see how it’s supposed to play, but it just feels off, and it ends poorly. Transitions in the movie stink.
- Do you like other superhero movies, Johnny?: You can sense the reference points of Batman Begins, much of the Raimi version, some of The Dark Knight, etc. etc. Basically they took everything that worked in other comic-book movies and put it in a blender.
- Curt Connors: Memorable villains are sympathetic, or have clear goals, or a spark, or something. Ifans plays a thankless role, and he has moments that are good, but the character never seems to embrace his inner psychopath the way that a good villain should, and the film does a piss-poor job at establishing why he’s acting differently, or what’s driven him to want to turn New York into lizards.
I’m a fan of the Sam Raimi movies, and though the third one has a lot of problems, I respect that it’s a trilogy, and it works for the most part. If you didn’t like those films but like the character, you may enjoy this movie, though I felt like there was never a reason to watch this over Raimi’s first film nor did I feel it did enough of its own thing to forget about those movies. This is just a mess – you can feel the reshoots and scotch tape that covers the film – and something obviously made because name recognition is enough to get the film to a worldwide gross around a half a billion dollars. I felt like the 2002 Spider-Man was made by people who cared and got the character. And though there are strong performances in this, this feels like it was made by committee, and without a new take or new story to tell.
The Amazing Spider-Man hits theaters July 3.