Let’s be clear about this, I am a Spider-Man diehard.
So much so in fact, if it meant getting bitten by a radioactive spider just to have the remote opportunity to become anything like the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, I would be first in line.
Ooooh, ‘Amazingly’ Holographic.
This type of dedication is only truly evident when you understand how much I actually hate spiders. Upon seeing an 8-legged arachnid of any size or shape, my first inclination is to spray it with 32 gallons of bio-hazardous nuclear waste and then roll over it with my truck 14 times for good measure.
Still, it’s without hesitation that I can declare Spidey is my favorite sci-fi superhero of all-time. Always has been, always will be. If that means going date-less for another year, then just color me red and blue.
Since the Amazing Spider-Man is heavy on the history of the web-slinger, I will offer up a little personal back story of my own. (Unlike the movie though, I’ll keep it shorter.)
My love for Spider-Man started at a somewhat early age… right around the time when I was starting to show some decent signs of acne and I should have been showing interest in ‘real’ women. Instead, I was in love with Mary Jane. No, NOT the herbal remedy, but the red-headed perfection that has long been Spider-Man’s better half.
Hard to believe, I know, but I was quite the comic book reader and collector back in the day, and to a certain extent, I still am. (The latter of which I tend to keep confidential from potential brides-to-be.)
My entry into the world of Spider-Man comics happened around his 30th anniversary just prior to one of the more popular Spider-Man story arcs ever, known as “Maximum Carnage”. Have I dated myself yet?
Stay with me folks, as this is all important info for the review in that it shapes my perception on how Spider-Man on the silver screen is, and should be represented. For instance, how close do they stick to the comics, are the actors doing the characters justice, are the villains as awesome in motion as one might imagine, and are all women in comics really Hooters server material?
Being such a new blog, I haven’t done a full review of the most recent Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy yet, but let’s just say everything about that series was represented almost to perfection – here come the crazy comic fanboys – from how I imagined the web-slinger should be represented in the world of real life motion pictures.
What’s more, I – and 9 out of 10 geeks agree – Spider-Man 2 was not only the best Spider-Man movie ever made, but one of the best superhero movies ever to grace current film stock. Yeah, I just went there.
Keeping my Raimi love bias of those movies in mind, Amazing Spider-Man had some big shoes to fill going into this viewing. Thus you will notice me making several comparisons to that franchise. Unfortunately, panic already set in for me after seeing the trailer for the reboot several months ago.
The trailer was indeed a sign of dark days ahead.
To keep my thoughts organized I’m going to tackle each aspect and major character of the movie separately… for my sanity and yours. You’re welcome.
SPOILER ALERT: Lucky for you, the history of Spider-Man is pretty well known and has recently been told, so I don’t provide any major giveaways. However, as with any movie review, I talk about… well, the movie. Consider yourself forewarned…
THE STORY : Grade = B
If you saw the first Raimi Spider-Man with Toby Maguire, then you should be caught up. The main difference with the latest version is we get a longer more drawn out adaption of Peter Parker’s childhood and further insight on how he came to be with Aunt May and Uncle Ben.
In addition, connections are made between Peter’s parents, Osborne Corporation (Green Goblin anyone?), and mutant spiders. It’s an intriguing plot point that loosely follows his parent’s history from the Ultimate Marvel universe (because there are roughly 7,856 different Marvel universes) and also makes Peter a product of his father’s own research in an indirect roundabout way.
As a whole, I didn’t have any major issues with the story other than the fact it has already been told somewhat recently back in 2002. Two-thirds of the movie also seems to be spent on it, which kind of gave the flick a slow start. If I owned a watch, I probably would have looked at it 47 times.
PETER PARKER / SPIDER-MAN : Grade = D-
I’m going to cut right into the meat and potatoes here and provide my much anticipated thoughts on Andrew Garfield and his portrayal of the man behind and in front of the mask. I know this could put my life in jeopardy, but for my money Tobey Maguire is heads and web shooters a better Spider-Man and Peter Parker.
While Garfield’s portrayal isn’t a total failure, it’s pretty close.
For those that devote their time to graphic novels (sounds more mature, right?), you know that Peter Parker is a pretty big nerd. A very smart nerd no less, but a scrawny book worm that doesn’t attract as much as an odd stare from the opposite sex… and I should know.
That alone has me questioning the casting choice for Peter, and at minimum his makeup team. Since when did Peter Parker become a cool skateboarding hipster that just looked like he walked off the set of one of those teen-angsty Twilighty vampire werewolf romance movies (that I swear I’ve never seen). Compared to the rest of his school, he looked like a GQ model with perfectly quaffed messy bed hair all while skateboarding through the halls of high school. Yes, I said skateboarding through the halls of high school.. HUH?
If that wasn’t enough, it seemed like Garfield (not the cat) portrayed Parker well below his supposed IQ level with some of the completely dumb things he did and the fact he seem liked an antagonistic slacker looking for a fight during the rest of the overly-lengthy run-time. I know Peter was conflicted, but these were issues he dealt with internally, not with everyone that said hi to him the wrong way.
Trust me when I say I’m not the only one that noticed this change (Read here). While I understand this is a refresh that requires some updating for current times and trends, Peter Parker was no James Dean rule-breaking hipster… he was a science nerd just longing to be accepted; nothing more, nothing less. The film dropped the ball on this big time.
On the Spidey side of life, things didn’t seem much better. In the comics, when Peter dons the infamous leotards, he becomes a wisecracking powerhouse; and a fairly funny one at that. I felt like in the attempt to make the movie darker and more serious, they cut out a main personality trait that makes Spider-Man so awesome… he’s a goofball when he’s in full on combat! The few times it seemed they tried to inject some Spidey humor, it was cringe inducing to the point I felt like kicking Andrew Garfield right in the web-sack in hopes he would just shut-up. He came across more mean and egotistical than light-hearted and goofy. While I no-doubt blame the acting, I also lay blame on the writers, producer, director and caterers. (Hey, they did keep the guilty culprits nourished.)
I’m not going to say Toby Maguire epitomizes everything that is Peter and Spidey, but I will say that he captured the essence of Mr. Parker and his web-slinging alter-ego from the comics to a ‘T’ compared to the latest replacement. Nothing personal Andrew, it’s just a review, right?
THE SUIT : Grade = B-
Since this is a reboot and technology has changed, you had to assume Spidey would be inheriting brand new duds for the occasion. At the risk of sounding like a super-hero fashion snob, I can’t say I hated it, but I didn’t love it either. The added blue to the upper torso defiitely balanced out the whole ensemble nicely and gave the updated version its own sleeker personality. It was also an interesting idea giving the leotard what looked like a dimpled texture. If you look close enough, it almost seems as if like the entire suit was made from the surface of a basketball. Despite looking like a piece of sporting equipment, I had no qualms with the new version as it still represented classic Spider-Man in a new way.
Nonetheless, since I know you are dying to hear my comparison, when it comes down to brass tax, it I still like the suit from the Rami movies a bit better. In a weird way, it just seems a tad more simple and truer to some of the original comics. But that’s all personal preference and I’m not that big of a diva when it comes to costumes on my heroes as long as they keep it fairly true to the original.
I’m not even going to get into the whole organic vs mechanical web-shooters debate. That’s even too geeky for me, and I’m a major dork. I’d like to find a girlfriend at SOME point.
GWEN STACEY : Grade = A-
Watch your back Andrew, I feel another Geek Outlaw marriage proposal coming on!
I’ve pretty much enjoyed Emma Stone in almost every movie role I’ve seen her take on, and Gwen Stacey is no exception. In fact, I felt she was one of the saving graces of this movie, and not just because she is a pure joy to stare at (her eyes are insanely gorgeous and mesmerizing… among other things).
Like Mila Kunis did for Ted, Emma Stone provided most the emotional heavy lifting that this movie seemed to be grasping for. From her flirty scene at the high school to the confrontation with Peter post funeral, she hit all the right notes.
While I still preferred the romantic arc of Mary Jane and Kirsten’s Dunst’s performance as her, I have zero complaints against Emma. Hell, she even kicks some reptilian ass at one point.
Another quasi bright spot was the chemistry her and Andrew Garfield had during their scenes together. Although my movie partner, Erika ‘Spunky Destructor”, informed me they are dating in real life, which could explain why no acting was required for those particular shots.
If I had any knock on the relationship story of this Spidey, it’s that it all happens so suddenly. One minute they are shy giggling teenagers not able to complete English-based sentences around each other, and the next minute they are caressing each other’s faces while talking about their long term potential for marriage and spider-kids.
It wasn’t just that sub-plot either though, as the transitions during the entire movie seemed choppy at best.
CAPTAIN STACEY : Grade = B+
Another unexpected bright spot was Dennis Leary’s portrayal as the protective cop daddy of Gwen, Captain George Stacey. The father – daughter dynamic was actually quite believable and moving between both characters. It was also a nice plus to see a regular John non-superpower police officer portrayed as a hero instead of a bumbling idiot as they sometimes are in these types of superhero mega flicks.
THE LIZARD (VILLAIN) : Grade = F
Excuse me while I reattach my negativity cap again, however I must say that the Lizard (aka Dr. Curt Connors) played by Rhys Ifans, disappointed on a few separate levels. One thing that didn’t seem so well done was the special effects used to create the Spidey’s scaly adversary.
In a reboot that was striving for a more realistic approach to the Spider-Man series, the Lizard CGI looked akin to a Roger Rabbit cartoon walking through a street in real life New York. Something just seemed off, and for whatever reason it seemed to be his eyes for me. The close-ups looked like they forgot to put green paint around the eye-lids making it look like a Halloween costume from the 0.99 cent store. I’ve seen clowns with better face makeup.
Lastly, I didn’t quite buy into the full explanation of why Dr. Connors was doing what he was doing other than the fact he developed some sort of alter ego (where have we seen that before… cough, Green Goblin, cough.. Spider-Man 1, cough) that wanted to turn everyone else into lizards for no precise reason.
UNCLE BEN & AUNT MAY : Grade = F
In another round of “What was the casting department smoking?”, who the hell’s idea was it to cast Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May? Am I the only Spider-Man nerd that felt like these actors looked like fish out of water?
For starters, Aunt May is a decidedly older and frailer woman in the comics, as she was properly represented in the prior trilogy. Sally Field is like the incredible woman that never ages and it seems like they didn’t even try to cast anyone to fit the character profile. Almost as if they were just fishing for name credibility.
Same goes for Martin Sheen, albeit at least he looked a little older and tried to play the part a little more accurately. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t separate the fact Martin Sheen and Sally Field were playing the parts. It was rather distracting to be honest. As an example, the scene where Martin… err, Uncle Ben kicked the bucket did nothing but make me wonder how many prostitutes Charlie Sheen was with at the moment..
3D, D-BOX & SPECIAL EFFECTS – OH MY! : Grade = B
Since this is Spider-Man we are talking about, I went for the full she-bang with the 3D and D-Box viewing. Since it was filmed with 3D cameras, I felt like this was a no-brainer. If anything, that was one of the smarter decisions I made.
While not ‘Spectacular’, the 3D in the movie was quite good and definitely more noticeable during the final scenes. The moving D-Box seats – which I have now experienced in several blockbuster movies – was used appropriately and added some extra fun to the experience of Spidey swinging through the city.
Overall though, the effects left much room for improvement. As I mentioned with the Lizard, certain scenes just didn’t look right in the grittier and more realistic world Spider-Man was thrown into this time around. I want to say it felt like they threw in some video game footage during some of the fight scenes. The first person perspective shots with Spider-Man swinging around were kind of cool, but nothing that had me getting out of my chair and throwing roses at the screen.
However, on a positive aside, one of the best scenes had to be Stan Lee’s cameo as the school Librarian while Spidey is taking on the Lizard; great stuff. At least Stan got to be part of one of the best scenes of his most iconic character creation.
WHAT’S MISSING : Grade = F
My biggest gripe about this re-imagining? What in God’s green earth happened to the infamous line that Spider-Man is literally founded upon? Not once was the phrase “With great power, comes great responsibility” ever mentioned by anyone, let alone Uncle Ben who is (one of) the originators of the phrase every Spidey fan will never forget. In ‘Amazing’, Uncle Ben blabbers on to Peter about being responsible, but the actual words are regrettably MIA. The directer, Marc Webb, jibber jabbers about his artistic reasoning on why he didn’t use it (at this link). Oy.
For it not to be mentioned once in a Spider-Man origin story is in a word, “Blasphemy”. This Outlaw is NOT happy about that alone to say the least.
Another small quip, what’s the deal with Spidey always taking his mask off at every chance he gets. Isn’t the point to stay anonymous, it’s seemed like everyone and their mom – including the republic of China – saw Peter Parker’s true identity and it was only the first movie of a new story arc! I guess they had to show that brooding face as much as possible for the 13 – 21 female ticket sales demographic.
What else was noticeably absent? Much like this blog, a little thing called humor. Whatever attempts were made of it, fell pretty flat to me (and the rest of the packed theater I was watching it with). If I laughed it was more out of the unbelievable fact I wasn’t laughing more.
Keeping on the lack-of-humor subject, one of the characters who provided some comic relief in the prior films, JJ Jameson, was noticeably absent. Not to mention the whole photography aspect of Peter Parker and Spiderman’s life was pretty much glossed over like Mel Gibson’s past 7 movies.
Although technically a musical score wasn’t missing, a memorable one was. Despite not being a deal-breaker in the grand scheme of things, a great musical score definitely adds to the tone and overall impact of the film. The original Spider-Man had a great score, but I guess there was no room left in the budget for creativity in that department. They must have blown it all on glow in the dark spiders.
CONCLUSION : Grade = C-
The biggest problem this reboot has going for it is that it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t long ago that the last trilogy started, and less time has even passed since the 3rd movie. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t absolutely hate this movie… but I didn’t love it either even though I so desperately wanted to. While it had it’s entertaining, emotional, and even inspiring moments, it all just felt ‘too soon’ for me. I’m not a fan of change for change’s sake and this movie felt like nothing more than that.
Also, forget ‘Amazing’, Sony should have just titled this flick “Spider-Man Begins” because a Dark Knight type of reboot is what they were obviously shooting for. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in the least for our favorite wall crawler because Spider-Man isn’t a dark character with dark origins like Batman is. There is a reason they call him the Dark Knight, right?
Spider-Man is the story of an nerdy underdog teenager who – for better or for worse – is bestowed special powers that require him to make some extremely tough decisions in life when it comes to himself, a moral calling, and the people around him that he cares about.
Peter Parker doesn’t choose his fate like some other heroes, but after understanding the repercussions of his inaction that inadvertently led to his his Uncle Ben’s death, he embraces the motto of his deceased uncle, “With great power, comes great responsibility”.
It’s those words and wisecracking attitude – both completely MIA in this reboot – that made Spider-Man the popular superhero we all know and love. Even more so, Spidey knows how to have fun with it. Unfortunately, this movie does not, and neither did I.
In my own personal – but accurate and factual – opinion that won’t be shared by others, ‘Amazing’ missed the boat on the true spirit of what Peter Parker and Spider-Man represent.
I know, I know… this reboot was not made for the likes of me or the other millions of Spider-Man fans whom grew up on the original comic books. No, this ‘amazing’ film (yes, that’s sarcasm) was made for the new angst ridden teeny/twenty-something Dark Knight generation whom like their heroes to be angry, messy haired, modelesque vampires that are so unbearably cool they are outcast by everyone else. All of that makes zero sense to me no matter how many times you repeat it into your Twilight body pillow.
It’s ok though, I understand this is a sign of our current times. My fingers are crossed though that we will get the original Spidey back as he was meant to be come the next remake cycle… which according to my watch that operates on Hollywood time, should be any day now.