Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 2 hours 16 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Action and Violence
Directed by: Marc Webb
Written by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent & Steve Kloves
(based on the SPIDER-MAN comics by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan & Chris Zylka
The decision to redo Spider-Man seems like a stupid one from the start. Rumors circulated about how everything went down with Sam Raimi’s failed attempts to create SPIDER-MAN 4 (featuring Lizard and Vulture as titular villains). Despite all the outrage from fans and the dumb marketing for the new version of Peter Parker’s web-slinging alter ego, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN opened in July 2012 to become a big success. As a whole, it’s a bit odd to be throwing this more campy costumed hero back onto the big screen when the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy have shown just how awesome superhero movies can be. The real fault of this 2012 reboot comes in an unbalanced tone. Sometimes, the story wants a darker vibe. Other times, it’s just plain cartoony. With this major flaw taken into consideration, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN is just serviceable enough as a superhero flick that probably would have been far more impressive if it hit multiplexes somewhere back in the early 2000’s.
After his parents up and leave, Peter Parker is raised by his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. As a teenager, Peter is picked on at school and constantly made to feel inadequate to his peers. When he finds some clues about his missing father that lead back to the huge company Oscorp, Peter sneaks his way inside and is bitten by a mutated spider. This bite bestows some unusual gifts upon the awkward adolescent (including the ability to crawl on walls, a sense for danger, quick speed, and super strength). Soon enough Peter Parker has become Spider-Man. As he finds love in classmate Gwen Stacey, a monstrous madman is on the loose in the city and the police are after Spider-Man for his vigilante actions.
That’s the basic outline for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and it sounds similar to the first SPIDER-MAN flick that hit theaters in 2002. Some details have been changed and inclusions of certain comic book characters that were merely background noise in the original trilogy (Gwen Stacey was a mere side character in the disappointing SPIDER-MAN 3) have been upgraded to front and center protagonists. One plot thread that I did enjoy watching a lot was how the cops were after Spider-Man himself, which glimpsed over three mere scenes in Sam Raimi’s 2002 film. Denis Leary as Gwen Stacy’s father and the police captain adds an extra spark that wasn’t in the first trilogy. I greatly appreciated that addition.
The romance between Peter and Gwen has some charm to it. It also seems rushed in a couple of places, but the teenagers in this film act like real teenagers. Even the supposed clichéd jock stereotype is shown to have some humanity later on. I felt that Marc Webb’s reboot of Spidey nailed almost every character in a more believable way than Raimi’s 2002 version. However, there’s one character that isn’t quite given the menace he needed. This would be Dr. Connors (a.k.a. The Lizard). Rhys Ifans can make for a great villain. Watch ENDURING LOVE for proof of how scary the man can be. As Connors, Ifans just hams it up. There’s no realistic motivation for the Lizard that hasn’t been seen a dozen times and a switch up in his personality near the end that doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.
The effects bringing the Lizard to life look extremely cheesy too. This doesn’t appear to be a villain that Spider-Man should be fighting, but a creation for Syfy Channel original movies. The CGI bringing Spider-Man to life looks pretty cool and I liked the suit a lot better this time around. Where things feel forced is in the comic relief moments. There are a couple of very funny scenes (one of which involves Emma Stone making up an excuse to her father), but the quips Spider-Man constantly says grate on annoying. It almost feels out of character for the Peter Parker we’ve watched develop over the film and that’s where a major problem of the messy tone comes in.
Sometimes AMAZING SPIDER-MAN wants to be a goofy comic book film and then it mostly seems to be playing things off as a sort of BATMAN BEGINS for Spider-Man. This becomes as confusing as it sounds. There are some laughs seen in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but it always maintained that serious sense for the comic book movie. Lately, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers series) has been evolving into the same thing. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN tries to have it both ways and comes up a tad short for this sole reason. The writing is stellar is some places, but falls victim to a downright silly villain and some bad jokes.
There are some big things to praise about AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and those mainly concern the good characters/acting on display. Some of the writing is great and if it had a slightly more focused script then this very well could have been the next Batman trilogy. However, the goofy moments and laughable villain take the whole thing down significantly. I am looking forward to seeing what the future films in the franchise bring, but also hope that the big flaws will be cut down and eventually eliminated. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN winds up being a serviceable superhero flick that pales in comparison to a decade full of outstanding ones thus far!