After the abomination that was Spider-Man 3, I hoped that we would never see another Spider-Man movie again. Even when I first heard rumours about the new Spider-Man being a reboot, I had absolutely no hope for it and expected it to be trash.
I’m glad I was wrong.
The Amazing Spider-Man (TAS) pretends that the first three Spider-Man movies never existed. With this in mind, TAS is essentially an origin movie. The story opens with Peter as a child, playing hide and seek with his father. While searching for him, Peter discovers his father’s office has been ransacked. His mother and father take him to stay with his grandparents and they disappear, never to be seen again. Time moves forward and we are reintroduced to Peter in his final year of school. He’s a nerdy guy who’s bullied by the local jock Flash Thompson. Peter has a bit of a (creepy) soft spot for Gwen Stacy, a pretty blonde girl on the debate team. One day Peter returns home to find his Uncle Ben clearing the basement. Peter joins his Uncle and soon finds his father’s old briefcase, which contains some of his father’s research hidden inside. It’s this briefcase and it’s secrets that starts Peter on the journey to find out the truth about his parents disappearance.
For a comic book fan like myself, there’s a lot to like about TAS.
Firstly, great choice on the lead actor. While Tobey Maguire is a good actor, I always felt his casting as Spider-Man was a little bit off. Tobey pulled off a pretty good Spidey, but his build, overall look and inability to pull off the cocky one liners with his soft spoken voice did detract a bit from the character. Andrew Garfield is perfect in the all the ways Tobey Maguire isn’t.
Emma Stone as Gwen Stacey also doesn’t disappoint (but does she ever?). Her character is more than just a damsel in distress, which is quite quite unusual considering she doesn’t have any kind of special abilities.
Secondly, they take a step back from the “mutant” Spider-Man of the original movies. In the first three Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire, Spider-Man could generate web from within his own body. In the latest movie, as in the comics, Peter Parker develops and builds web shooters which he straps to his wrists. In the grand scheme of things this doesn’t mean that much, but it does allow the fights to have a bit more unpredictability.
Thirdly: 3D and effects. Avengers, Avatar and How to Train your Dragon, eat your heart out. This is the new king of 3D. I almost always skip movies in 3D since it’s rarely worth the money, but TAS once again proved me wrong. The only reason I went to see the 3D show was because it was in a slightly later time slot, but I’m really glad I did. The director clearly wanted to portray what it would be like to be Spider-Man, and he succeeds completely. Some of the 3D shots in this movie are mind blowing! The other CG effects, such as the Lizard, are also outstanding, with only one shot that sticks in my mind as average by Hollywood standards. The budget for CG effects in this movie must’ve been huge!
The last thing that really stands out is the first half of the story. The portrayal of Peter Parker as a smart, slightly weird loner is perfect. As someone who’s been through similar experiences (minus getting bitten by a genetically engineered spider), I really empathised with Peter. Even after he gets his spider powers and becomes a bit of a dick, I still empathised with the guy! Why? If I was in the same shoes as Peter Parker, I would probably do exactly as he did. The way the various themes, such as secrets, being an outcast, or having a sense of responsibility beyond yourself, are also very well handled.
The main problem with the movie is the way the the second half of the story and specific elements of the characters were handled. I always felt that the Lizard storyline was very much a Jekyll and Hyde scenario, which is why Spiderman usually tries to talk the Lizard down in the comics. In TAS they try to make the threat of the Lizard into something more, and to be honest, I don’t really think it works. There’s also a moment at the end of the movie where a single line destroys a lot of what has been said and done by Spider-Man. I can see what they are aiming for, but it could have been done in a subtle fashion, or in any way that preserves the character’s integrity. The scene in question could have been shot without any dialogue, so I wonder why they chose to put in a line that actually detracts from the character. Tying in with this is how they tend to be a bit too on the nose with the way certain things are handled. Instead of leaving certain things open, or acknowledged but unspoken, characters will say something that will bring down the overall effectiveness of a scene.
Movie rating: If you’re a fan of Spider-Man, either in the comics or the first two movies, or a fan of superhero movies, go see this. It’s not quite as good as The Avengers, but it’s pretty damn close!