“You found my weakness! It’s small knives!”
I’m gonna get hell for this – I was rather disappointed with The Avengers earlier this year. Although I thoroughly enjoyed it, I was expecting it to be the best Marvel movie I’d ever seen. My favourite Marvel film so far is Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, which is truly spectacular in my opinion. I love the character of Spider-Man. He’s my favourite superhero of the Marvel franchise, and when I found out they were rebooting the series so soon after the first Spider-Man, which was released in 2002, I was one of the few who didn’t mind the idea. Sure, it’s only been 10 years since the first Sam Raimi movie, but after the disappointing Spider-Man 3, that series had run out of its original charm, and thus a fourth sequel would just make it worse. Directed by Marc Webb, who previously made one of my favourite movies, (500) Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man is a decidedly more darker take on the character than we’re used to, and as a reboot, it offers a slightly different origin story. There are many similarities between Raimi’s Spider-Man and Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man in the scripting department, but I can’t stress enough how enjoyable this film is – there are elements here are that absolutely perfect in my opinion.
Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), a high school student, has lived with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) since his mother and his scientist father abruptly abandoned him as a child. Peter discovers a briefcase containing secret documents of a scientific theory his dad was working on, and during a visit to OsCorp, the facility run by Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), his father’s former partner, he’s bitten by a spider – as a result he starts to become immensely strong, impressing Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), the schoolgirl on whom he has a crush. When Uncle Ben is shot by a gunman, Peter takes one step further to becoming Spider-Man.
Written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), Alvin Sargent (Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy), and Steve Kloves (Harry Potter franchise), the screenplay has its ups and downs. These three screenwriters are all extremely experienced, so it is a shame that this script isn’t entirely flawless. Many movie-goers have criticised the film’s first half, which basically outlines Peter’s transformation into Spider-Man, for basically revisiting much of the original Spider-Man. This didn’t particularly bother me, as I did think the dark tone was a lot more different than Raimi’s original film. However, there are sub-plots that were handled a lot better in the original Spider-Man. For example, the death of Uncle Ben – there’s a sense of sheer guilt and tragedy in the way Raimi handled this moment in the film. Webb and his team of writers, however, rushed through this moving part of the story, and thus, it just doesn’t make much of an impact – there’s no guilt, and nothing about it registers as truly moving. However, Uncle Ben’s character was established perfectly, although I can’t say the same for Aunt May. The death of Uncle Ben leads Peter to take on the role of Spider-Man and find his uncle’s killer, which is well established to the audience, but as soon as the film moves to the second half, his motivation suddenly disappears, and this quest to find the killer of his uncle is never mentioned again. It’s a real shame there are flaws like this in the script considering how great these writers are. On the other hand, they nailed the personality of Spider-Man perfectly – the moments with the superhero wise-cracking and acting like a smart ass are the best parts of the film in my opinion, and Spidey’s dialogue is simply hilarious.
On the plus side, the romance is infinitely better than that of Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. The reason why I never really got into the whole love story in the original Spider-Man films was the character of Mary Jane. I just hated the girl – I thought she was simply a bitch. Gwen Stacy on the other hand is so much more likeable. She’s cute, she’s smart, and she’s nice as well. The character of Gwen was introduced in Raimi’s Spider-Man 3, but that take on the character just didn’t resonate well. In the comics, Gwen was basically an innocent damsel-in-distress. Webb and his writers nailed this personality of her character, and I absolutely found the romance between her and Peter adorable. While it could’ve been slightly improved on the intensity of their relationship, I still prefer the love story introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man than Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy.
The villain is a slight disappointment. Dr Curt Connors is the baddie of the flick – he transforms into a giant reptile known as The Lizard after experimenting on himself. The sheer monstrosity of the villain is effective, but the human side of Connors is hardly explored at all. There could’ve been some exploration into the relationship between Connors and Peter’s father, and this just makes him feel rather shallow. The Green Goblin of Spider-Man had two great sides to him, with a human living in fear, and the alter ego of a menacing villain. It’s a shame this couldn’t translate to The Lizard, although again, he does make for a fresh nemesis in the Spider-Man film universe – we’ve never seen a villain quite like this.
The cast is maybe the film’s biggest plus – everyone is so well-cast. Andrew Garfield, in my opinion, makes for a superior Spider-Man in comparison with Tobey Maguire’s. Maguire was fine in the role, but I feel that Garfield has a lot more range, and also handles the wise-cracking attitude of Spider-Man perfectly. Emma Stone is absolutely adorable as Gwen Stacy. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like Stone – she just has such a likeable screen presence that works in whatever role she’s cast in. Also, she shares a great amount of chemistry with Garfield, resulting in some truly lovely romantic moments between the two actors. Dennis Leary is magnificent as Gwen’s father, who is also the chief of police. Leary manages to adopt both a humourous and threatening tone to his performance, and it works wonders. Rhys Ifans brings class to Dr Curt Connors, and handles the transformation into The Lizard with skill. Martin Sheen is pitch perfect as Uncle Ben, but Sally Field doesn’t have a great deal to do as Aunt May. Her character pretty much disappears during the second half of the movie.
Shot natively in 3D, The Amazing Spider-Man looks amazing There’s a rich dark vibe at work here, and Webb uses the 3D technology in very creative ways. This is one of the best 3D movies of the year so far, and it just shows what you can do with the format in terms of action. The visual effects are simply mind-blowing, complete and convincing, and every action set-piece utilises these effects well, with visceral use of sound. The creation of The Lizard is also quite impressive, as Webb and his crew used motion capture technology to bring the villain to life. The Spider-Man costume is actually pretty excellent, and I’m glad they at least tried to make it different. Also, the web shooters are a nice addition, as it both stays true to the comics and gives the film a sense of tension – what if he runs out of web fluid? Edited masterfully, you can always tell what is happening during the action scenes, and surprisingly enough, they’re very fast paced. This is thanks to the great visual effects and the newly improved Spider-Man, who cracks jokes at almost every moment he can. James Horner’s score may not be as memorable as Danny Elfman’s music for Raimi’s Spider-Man films, but it captures that heroic tone that is necessary for any comic book movie like this.
Hate me for it, but I loved The Amazing Spider-Man. Hell, I loved it more than The Avengers. It may have huge flaws, but it’s not as if Sam Raimi’s trilogy was flawless. Marc Webb has done a spectacular job with this much darker reboot of Spider-Man, and he is served well by his excellent cast and crew. Although this isn’t better than Spider-Man 2, I have hopes for the sequel, as the post-credits scene hints that there is more to come from this reboot. Let’s hope that Spider-Man 2 can finally be dethroned from my number one spot.