The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Plot: When high school loner Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) uncovers information about his now lost parents, it leads him to Oscorp, a high profile science and research facility. There he gets into an accident with a spider, leaving him with strange new super powers. Peter must adapt to his new abilities as he continues to uncover more about his parents’ research, while also facing the trials and tribulations of high school.
*Warning: If you really like the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, this article is going to make you very upset. I spend most of this review ripping those films…fair warning.
Let me say off the bat that I am not a fan of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. So when people were complaining about how it’s ‘too soon for a re-boot,’ my response was ‘this re-boot couldn’t come fast enough.’ One of the biggest criticisms of this film is specifically the origin: ‘been there, done that.’ And I say ‘like hell we did!’ This is an origin that needed to be re-told. Let’s revisit how Peter Parker got his abilities in the 2002 film, shall we? He’s standing in the science museum taking lame pictures of Mary Jane as actress Kirsten Dunst giggles horribly. Then a random spider dangles down and bites Peter…yay. Let’s take a look at how it’s done in this movie. Peter cleverly and amusingly sneaks in as an intern to Oscorp, wanders off from the group, intelligently figures out how to get into this high tech research room, observes this fucked up cold environment with all these genetically enhanced spiders, and then almost goes into a seizure after getting bit. And that right there in a nutshell is why this version of Spider-Man is 900 times better than the dumb, big cartoon that was Sam Raimi’s 2002 lackluster original.
What speaks to this film the most is that the relationship between Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacy is so damn good, I didn’t even need them to get to the superhero stuff. In fact, the superhero action is almost a distraction to all the great character moments going on. But comparing Garfield and Stone to Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst is like comparing the Dark Knight to Batman & Robin. This relationship is charming, funny, and you immediately buy their bond from the first meeting. You also buy Garfield as Peter Parker right away. What I loved here is that in the first scene, Parker is shown standing up to the bully, even though it means getting his ass kicked. The problem with Maguire’s Parker is that he only gains confidence after getting bit by the spider. Garfield already has it. But aside from the two leads, the supporting cast is just ridiculous. Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May…awesome! Sally Field may be my favorite performance of the movie. Whereas Rosemary Harris was annoying and cold in the Raimi films, you really feel for Field’s Aunt May. When Peter comes home late, beat-up, and doesn’t tell her anything, you really want to berate Peter along with Aunt May, because you really feel for her character. It also helps that the writing for Uncle Ben and Aunt May is so much better than it was in the original trilogy. Denis Leary was also surprisingly entertaining as Captain Stacy. He really sold you on why Spider-Man was a menace to his city, even though we have a natural inclination to side with the hero. One of the weaknesses of the film though is the villain, Dr. Curt Connors/Lizard played by Rhys Ifans. Ifans is fine in the role, and I really liked him pre-lizard, but once he becomes the bad guy, it’s pretty standard.
At the end of the day, I tend to elevate this movie a lot more because of how much I detest the previous series. This is just so much damn better. The biggest difference aside from the acting is that I simply cared about these characters as opposed to the Bugs Bunny cartoons from the original trilogy. We also get a real guy in the Spider-Man costume as opposed to the atrocious CG mess flying around New York. I can’t wait to see how this series progresses now that the origin is out of the way.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)
Category Rankings (Spoilers Throughout):
Best Performance: Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy
-This was a legit three horse race. I considered Sally Field, but she’s just not in it enough. As awesome as Garfield is, Emma Stone just brought something to this movie that not many superhero films can say they have: a female lead you care about. I thought her writing was strong, but I can’t envision anyone else in this role. She elevates every line of dialogue. She’s funny, compelling, and most importantly, she’s a strong character. She’s willing to make the antidote in the heat of battle, or walk right up to the lizard in the school hallway to try and save Peter, whereas Mary Jane would have screamed a lot before getting kidnapped. This movie doesn’t work without Emma Stone…period.
Worst Performance: Chris Zylka as Flash Thompson
-I couldn’t really find a performance I disliked. I even felt this guy was okay, but he did seem like someone who could morph into the Raimi movies, so that loses some points.
Best Line: “I’ve got to stop him, because I created him.” –Peter Parker
“That’s not your job.” –Gwen Stacy
“Maybe it is.” –Peter Parker
-The reason I went with this exchange is because it sums up Spider-Man so well as opposed to repeating, ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’ 500 times.
Worst Line: “Oh no. Somebody’s been a bad lizard.” –Spider-Man
-Spider-Man’s quips and lines are usually pretty funny in this movie, but this sounded more like a Tobey Maguire Spider-Man line.
-The fight between Spider-Man and Lizard in the high school was pretty solid. There’s a lot of web shooting, some jumping around…it’s all good.
-I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I HATE THE STAN LEE CAMEOS. And this was the worst one! We’re in the middle of this cool fight between Spider-Man and Lizard, and all of a sudden it has to get goofy and silly as they fight in the background while Stan Lee listens to classical music on his big head phones. Oh, isn’t that funny? He can’t tell what’s going on. How hilarious.
-I like when Peter Parker comes home after one of his early nights as Spider-Man, completely bruised and messed up. The look of horror on Sally Field’s face is heartbreaking. This is a dynamic we’ve never really seen in superhero movies. The worried mother (because that’s what Aunt May basically is) scared shitless of what this guy is doing. It was very well acted between both Field and Garfield.
-I absolutely hate when Curt Connors talks to himself as the lizard, ala Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn with Green Goblin. This makes no sense, and is just one of those, ‘Oh, we have to pay tribute to the 2002 film somehow.’ No you don’t!
-There’s a lot to choose from, but for some reason the way Peter wakes up and immediately smashes his alarm clock with his new powers gets me every time.
Bad Ass Moment:
-After Peter gets shot, he has to whip around the city and get to Oscorp. For some reason, these web slinging shots were the best I’ve seen in all four Spider-Man movies. Maybe it’s because Spider-Man had to fight through some pain, but they just looked awesome and heart wrenching.