Superhero flicks are facing stiff competition, both in movies and in videogames. When you read reviews of films like The Avengers, or even now with Amazing Spiderman, you’d be blind if you didn’t come across the name “Batman” in certain aspects. With The Amazing Spiderman in particular, both the game and the film have been judged rather harshly. On the game end, Spidey was judged for sporting a very similar combat system and stealth patterns to the Caped Crusader. What about the film? The film is being judged for carrying much darker overtones; something that one would easily compare to the Batman series. So I understand its a tough life for superhero movies of today. Rocksteady did it best with the Batman Arkham games, and Christopher Nolan has delivered the Batman trilogy that will be talked about and remembered for years to come. So why compare everything we see to Batman? I think that’s a topic for another piece, but today, I’m not going to be making any comparisons to the Caped Crusader, because this review was meant only for The Amazing Spiderman.
Now this is a reboot flick, so Sam Raimi and crew have nothing to add to this film. We have ourselves an entirely new cast, right down to the key grip. The Amazing Spiderman is directed by Marc Webb, most familiar for his film (500) Days of Summer, a romantic comedy. This film is also Webb’s first shot at a summer blockbuster, so not only did he have really big shoes to fill in directing the reboot to one of the most popular superhero characters of all time, but its also his first shot at a summer blockbuster. The film also brings in a new face to don the Spidey mask: Andrew Garfield, who is probably best known for his portrayal of Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network. Emma Stone plays blondie Gwen Stacy, the love interest of Peter Parker/Spiderman in this film. Uncle Ben and Aunt May are portrayed by Martin Sheen and Sally Field respectively. Denis Leary plays Captain George Stacy of the NYPD, and Gwen’s father. And finally to round out the ensemble cast we have Rhys Ifans, who takes the role of Dr. Curtis Connors, aka the Lizard.
The Amazing Spiderman is told as an origin story, bearing similar traits to Raimi’s first Spiderman film, but told in a more down-to-earth, contemporary style, with a new twist. We are introduced to Peter Parker’s parents, Richard and Mary Parker (Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidtz) in a flashback scene, who abandon their son Peter one night after his father’s study has been broken into. Peter’s father gathers up scattered documents and with his wife, drop their son off with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, where the story then picks up. Desperate to find out the truth behind the disappearence of his parents, Peter searches for Curt Connors, a man who may know what happened to his parents, and also worked with Richard as a scientist at Oscorp Industries. After sneaking into Oscorp labs faking as a high-school intern, Peter uncovers a room full of biocables and spiders, where he is ultimately bitten and slowly begins to develop spider-like abilities. Peter reveals himself to Curt Connors as “Richard Parker’s son”, and from there, the two characters develop a strong bond, with Peter even helping to finish a difficult equation to a cross-species experiment that has baffled Connors for a long time. Pressured by his superior, Dr. Ratha (Irrfan Khan), Connors injects himself with the cross-species serum, and is able to grow back his missing arm, but not only that, is transformed into a Lizard creature that threatens to terrorize Manhattan.
Now of course I have to stop myself because I feel I may start to give too much of the story away, but that is the just of the synopsis, and any more information, one shall have to discover for themselves.
So what did I think of the movie? Before I go ahead, I have to mention that Spiderman is a superhero I hold near and dear to my heart, and anyone who knows me personally would agree. I carry around a Spidey keychain, and have the most collectible items from just Spiderman….even an actual Halloween costume. But seriously…
Well as one is before any important information is unveiled about the film, I was a little nervous when I found out Marc Webb was chosen as director. He’s had no prior experience with action films and was to fill big shoes (like I mentioned earlier). But I have to say he did a fantastic job of telling the origin story in a way that we’ve never seen before. This stellar cast of characters really brings life to this story in a way I wasn’t expecting, and to be honest, I have a newfound love for this darker, more modern-contemporary Peter Parker. He’s so relatable; most of the characters in this movie are relatable. The performances by Martin Sheen and Sally Field were magnificent. They bickered like an old married couple and they cared so deeply for Peter, and I could even see traits of my own grandparents in them which made me smile. I was a little upset that the Uncle Ben character didn’t say his famous “great power, great responsibility” line; it was re-worded, and fans knew it too. But whatever.
The chemistry between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy was a little awkward at first, and of course it still was by the end, but you could tell it had “Marc Webb – (500) Days of Summer” written all over it. This film captured the essence of heart that the original Spiderman trilogy was lacking. Though told in a similar fashion with subtle changes to the origin story, these characters were so relatable that it made this film even more enjoyable to watch. To see Peter and Gwen try to hold a proper conversation while studdering over their words was adorable, and to listen to Uncle Ben and Aunt May talk about little things like not liking May’s meatloaf, or asking Peter where he goes out to every night, or even to apologize for not picking up Aunt May like he was told, Peter Parker’s character was treated like a normal teenager living a not-so-normal teenage life. The dialogue and the heartwarming performances were definitely much better in this film than in Raimi’s original trilogy (at times).
Now how about those fight scenes, and the Lizard? Off the bat, I have to say that I’ve been routing for the Lizard to make it to the big-screen for a really, really long time. If Raimi had put out a Spiderman 4, Lizard should have been their top choice. In fact, Dr. Curt Connors had been around since Spiderman 2, played by Dylan Baker. And the character had a missing arm, so when the 4th film got cancelled, and a reboot was called, I felt as though I’d received a strip tease from the character and been strung along way too long. But now, I feel that Dr. Connors and the Lizard were the perfect choice for a first villain in a new series of Spidey films. I have to say sadly that the interactive chemistry between Peter and Curt Connors wasn’t as strong as I was expecting. In the comics and even the original Raimi trilogy, Peter Parker was Dr. Connors’ top student, and Parker looked to Connors as a mentor and father figure. Sadly in this portrayal I didn’t feel that chemistry at all, in fact they treated each other like mere acquaintances, and when Connors finally became the Lizard, there was no real tension coming from Peter when fighting the Lizard. That being said, it made it a lot easier to enjoy the fight scenes, which for a first time summer blockbuster director, Marc Webb did a really good job. There was just enough to satisfy my tastes, and in a variety of locales including the sewers, Peter’s high school, and Oscorp tower.
I also really enjoyed (well not enjoyed, but admired) how intense the death of Uncle Ben scene was. This was the first time we had seen Uncle Ben’s character die in real-time, and right in front of Peter’s eyes. It was gripping and quite emotional, given how much Peter felt responsible for his death. Spoiler alert: I also thought it was great that they didn’t tie up the loose ends with Uncle Ben’s killer, as he is not caught by the end of the movie, hinting at a future encounter with him in a later film. So not only does Peter live with feeling guilty over the death of his uncle, but also continues to seek out his parents and find out why they disappeared.
So in the end, what are my complaints on this film? Well like I’ve already mentioned, the chemistry between Peter and Connors wasn’t really there, and if it was, I just couldn’t feel it. To be honest, I really didn’t care much for Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors, but I much rather enjoyed him as his Lizard counterpart (as weird as that sounds). It must’ve been the accent, it felt out of place for me. No I’m kidding. But I did feel his descent into madness was a little too quick, as it didn’t even appear like he was struggling to cope with his changes at all. I really enjoyed the scene when his arm grows back, because I was excited to see him try to fight the change into the Lizard, but instead he gives chase to Dr. Ratha to stop him, and the anger seems to come out of him at a much quicker rate. I also didn’t care much for Dr. Ratha’s character, especially since he has no connections to the comics and was just created as a fuel to light the fire in Connors, so to speak. I was also expecting a lot more spontaneous, witty humor from Spiderman, but there wasn’t a lot of it. I guess because it wasn’t the right time and place, but a lot of reviewers and news sites have been discussing a more humor-filled, full-of-witty-comments Spiderman. The only scene where that remains true is during the carjacking scene where he pins a carjacker with a knife to a wall with webs.
So what else can be said about this reboot to my favorite superhero character of all time? It was a fantastic start. Not a lot of plotholes, more-so a problem in certain characters’ developments. But I feel we definitely are going to be seeing a lot more from this franchise, which has definitely made a name for itself as an outstanding opening film. Will people still be comparing this film and its game to Batman? Of course. But in the end, they really shouldn’t be, because then that way they wouldn’t really be drawing their own conclusions and opinions to the film. Love it or hate it, Amazing Spiderman is here to stay, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Peter’s character continues to find himself, and hopefully discover what really happened to his parents.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10