PG Cooper: The Amazing Spider-Man Review

Posted: July 10, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: July 3rd, 2012

Running time: 2 hours and 16 minutes

Written by: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves

Based on: The character Spider-Man, created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko

Directed by: Marc Webb

Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifans

When the announcement that a Spider-Man reboot was coming, the internet was ripe with disappointment. People said that a reboot was not needed, that Raimi’s series had only ended five years ago, and that director Sam Raimi handled the origin fine. Others said that despite Spider-Man 3 going off the rails, the series could still be salvaged. I was the vocal minority actually excited for the reboot. I was never the biggest fan of the Raimi films. I wouldn’t call the first two bad, but I wouldn’t call them great either. So when I heard of the reboot, I thought it was a great opportunity for someone else to breathe new life into the series. Maybe I’d finally have a Spider-Man film I would consider great. The choice of director being Marc Webb worried me slightly, given I wasn’t a fan of his previous effort (500) Days of Summer, but I didn’t hate the film either, and I would not condemn him as a director based off that one work. Besides, I liked the cast, and the trailers seemed alright too. But now that I’ve seen The Amazing Spider-Man, I can say with certainty any and all excitement I had was unwarranted.

The film opens with a young Peter Parker (I’m taking like, six years old) finding his father’s office completely trashed. His dad comes in, sees the damage, and realizes someone was looking for something, though both Peter and the audience are unsure of what that thing is. Peter is then taken to live with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May (Martin Sheen and Sally Field) for a few days. But a few days turn into several years when Peter’s parents are killed in a plane crash. The film then cuts to Peter when he’s a teenager and in high school (and Andrew Garfield). One day, Peter stumbles across his father’s notes and it leads him to Oscorp and Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). But Peter’s time there will lead to the spider-bit which will turn him to Spider-Man, as well as scientific breakthroughs which will turn Connors into The Lizard. So as expected, Uncle Ben is killed and Peter becomes Spider-Man and starts fighting crime. And Connor becomes The Lizard and starts causing trouble in New York. Also, Peter romances local hottie Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), whose father (Dennis Leary) is the police captain and he doesn’t trust Spider-Man.

Probably my biggest problem with The Amazing Spider-Man is the characterization of Spider-Man himself. Simply put, I did not like this iteration of Spider-Man at all. I thought he was an unlikable, selfish, and creepy character. He throws a bad attitude throughout most of the film and does not seem to possess any of the innate goodness that I associate with Peter Parker. Another big issue is I never felt like Peter started to care about his fellow man. With Spider-Man, I always felt like the character genuinely cared about the well-being of others. This isn’t the case in The Amazing Spider-Man. He becomes Spider-Man out of vengeance and remains Spider-Man because that’s the title of the movie. There were a few moments where some of the traits that I love about Spider-Man started to shine through, but for the most part I just watched an insufferable and inconsiderate jerk prance around in Spider-Man’s costume. I don’t blame Andrew Garfield, who seemed to be really trying, but the script just was not on his side.

Another major flaw is the relationship with Uncle Ben is completely ruined. Peter treats Uncle Ben horribly throughout and I never felt any love between the two of them. So later on, when Uncle Ben dies (which is a horrible scene), it doesn’t have any impact. Say what you will about the Raimi films, if there’s one thing they got perfectly, it was the relationship with Uncle Ben. There was tension sure, but there was also a lot of love. After Uncle Ben died, it genuinely felt like Peter was haunted by his own carelessness. The same can not be said for The Amazing Spider-Man. Uncle Ben’s murder feels more random and stupid then dramatic and poignant, and I got no sense that his murder would motivate Peter at all. This scene is where the movie really started to fall apart for me. I know it seems like I’m being too harsh over when scene, but the murder of Uncle Ben is such a pivotal part of Peter’s character and the overall mythology, so getting it so completely wrong is a big deal.

A lot of this movie is a retread of the origin story already covered in Raimi’s 2002 film. The Amazing Spider-Man brings nothing new to the origin of Spider-Man and is inferior to how Raimi told the story in every way. I’ve already mentioned how horribly wrong Uncle Ben is, but there are more problems then just that. First off, most bits of the origin story are pretty much the same. The changes that are made feel so arbitrary. For example, Spider-Man now uses mechanical web shooters instead of organic ones. Does it add anything to the film? No, not at all. Another unnecessary change is the omission of the immortal line, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Instead, Uncle Ben goes on a little speech about the responsibilities of people who can do good things. Why? Solely to be different. And that’s the crucial problem with all the changes, they’re all for their one sake. They don’t actually have any bearing on the overall film. To the film’s credit, it tries to go through the origin as quickly as possible, but that just leads to the pace feeling rushed.

Once the film leaves the origin and gets to its own devices, it doesn’t fare much better. The overall plot of the film is pretty basic: The Lizard must be stopped, so Spider-Man needs to stop him. The Lizard’s character was pretty boring and his motivations were clearly not well-thought out by the writers. The CGI used to bring The Lizard to life was also pretty dodgy, and the whole design felt off. I also wasn’t very fond of the love story between Peter and Gwen. Emma Stone brought a certain charisma to the screen, but the character herself was not very interesting. The action scenes here, while solid, don’t even come close to topping the train fight with Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2 or the sewer fight in Spider-Man 3. The only new thing that The Amazing Spider-Man brings to the table is the questions it raises about Peter’s parents. While I do think this was a good idea, the overall execution of the film is so poor that I don’t care.

At the end of the day, The Amazing Spider-Man is a completely passionless affair. For all my problems with Raimi’s films, the first two at least had heart and soul. Even in their worst moments, I could tell Raimi and everyone involved really cared about what they were doing. Were the films flawed? Sure, but at least they were inspired, which is a lot more than you can say about The Amazing Spider-Man. I can’t dismiss The Amazing Spider-Man as a complete failure though. The action scenes are entertaining, and the cast does their best, despite the quality of the material they have to work with. I also acknowledge that a lot of my problems stem from my own personal opinions on the Spider-Man character. That doesn’t mean I’m going to completely excuse the film for what I see as huge mistakes, but it does mean I will grant some leniency. If nothing else, the film made me seriously reconsider my previously lukewarm feelings to Sam Raimi’s first two films.

Rating: D

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Fine look at this one, Daniel. I probably liked a little more than you, but I certainly hear you concerning your issues. Reiterating what I commented it over at Ruth’s Flixchatter site:

    What I Really Enjoyed
    • low hanging fruit – it’s way, way better than the crap-fest that was ‘Spider Man 3′ (though I don’t blame Raimi but Sony for that one)
    • Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone – they’re great on-screen together, and I wanted more of them
    • SFX – again, this was to be expected since the tech in ten years time has improved dramatically
    • Dennis Leary – I was prepared to not like this character, but he won me over

    What I Didn’t Enjoy
    • since I grew up with the original Spider Man origin story in comics, this alternate version that hinges on 1) newly introduced parents with a future story arc you know is coming doesn’t really grab me right off
    • 2) way too many people know Parker’s secret identity (and abilities), and too quickly, for my taste
    • SFX – even with better tech, you end with more instances of CGI use, which then over relies on it, which in turn delivers more animation than live action in the film — not a good thing
    • Rhys Ifans and the Lizard – because of the point right above, the villain comes off less than those in Raimi’s first two films in the series; plus, Ifans kind of overacts and doesn’t exactly displace Willem Dafoe or Alfred Molina for their excellent work, IMO
    • way too long — Marc Webb tells a great couple story, but only an okay super-hero tale (your point on editing is a valid one, too)
    • and way too soon for another Spider Man origin story

    I’d only add, as others have noted, this Parker (Webb & Garfield’s version) is of the geeky variety, versus Raimi & Maguire’s decidedly nerdy one. I prefer the latter, and definitely his relationship with Uncle Ben.

    Great review that covers a lot of ground and makes good points. Thanks.

  2. brikhaus says:

    Nice review. I haven’t seen this turd yet, but I your review sums up my impressions based on the advertising and other reviews I’ve read so far.

  3. ianthecool says:

    Yeah totally agree with you on the characterization. He was unlikable. And its Spiderman! One of the most likable superheroes out there!

  4. reel411 says:

    yeah, i was disappointed with this one too. i didn’t mind spiderman was a little unlikable at times, but why was that the most interesting thing about him? very dull to me

  5. Ipodman says:

    At least it’s better than Batman & Robin o.O

  6. r361n4 says:

    Definitely an interesting review to read, I was also disappointed in many ways by this movie but overall I actually enjoyed it better than the 2002 version in a great deal of ways. I understand some of your problems with Garfield’s spiderman, but I didn’t really get the sense that you did of his being a selfish jerk. I mean, he wasn’t exactly a noble protector of the people of New York but he is a teenager who suddenly has the ability to have the upper hand on the people who have made him feel inferior his entire life, I’d be a little dickish to those people too if I was in his shoes. I actually felt like he had more dimension than Maguire’s spiderman, but In my opinion sir Tobey is an oversized man-boy with the emotional range of a teaspoon so maybe I’m biased there, lol. I guess my point is that from the perspective of someone who’s read the comic books and understands the “alternate universe” setting of The Amazing Spiderman I feel like this version was closer to what the original Peter Parker was intended to be.

    Anyways I was definitely turned off by the been-there-done-that feel of the story and I completely agree that it felt about half an hour too long, but I’m optimistic for the next set of movies once the new cast gets the chance to explore fresher territories in the plot department

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