The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)


You Seriously Think I’m a Cop in a Skintight Red and Blue Suit?

Another week has come when I’ve been able to secure a free Tuesday and used it to get to a movie theater for a double feature.  If I had planned it better, I might have been able to make it to three movies, but I don’t plan things.  I just showed up for the first show of one movie I wanted to see and then found out what the nearest other movie I wanted to see.  That problematically meant that I’d have to sit around outside for an hour proofreading old reviews, but I’ll get to that second movie later.  The first one is a movie I was first not excited to see because they were just rereleasing a comic book movie origin story with a different set of actors, but then trailers for the movie won me over.  And it’s a comic book movie, so I was going to see it either way.  Let’s find out if you should go as I review The Amazing Spider-Man, based on characters created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, and Steve Kloves, and starring Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Campbell Scott, Embeth Davidtz, Chris Zylka, Irrfan Khan, C. Thomas Howell, and Stan Lee.

Richard (Campbell Scott) and Mary Parker (Embeth Davidtz) dump their young child off with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and leave, seemingly in a hurry and never to be seen again.  Later, he grows into Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield).  Well, he was Peter Parker before he grew up, but you know what I meant.  He’s in high school later in the movie, where he’s a nerd who is bullied by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) is the object of his affections.  At home, Peter finds a briefcase owned by his father, and in it finds paperwork from his studies with herpetologist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans).  He goes to OsCorp to see what Connors is working on and, while he’s exploring the facility, gets bitten by a genetically modified spider, which helps him develop spider-like abilities like wall crawling, enhanced strength and agility, and a danger-sensing spider sense.  No one could have seen any of this coming.  Well these powers will invariably bring great responsibility, ones that he chooses to ignore when he decides not to stop a robbery because the clerk was a dick and that leads to Uncle Ben being shot and killed.  Peter embarks on a vigilante crusade to find the killer.  Meanwhile, Dr. Connors takes his experiments to help regenerate his arm to the next level by testing on himself, and it winds up turning him into a giant lizard.  Can this man-spider put aside his own quest to defeat this lizard-like creature?  Yeah, probably.

I liked this movie, but some of the stuff fell pretty flat with me.  The story was fine, but I think a lot of the dialogue needed a lot of work.  The story is a bit of a reimagining of the classic Spider-Man story that the majority of us – and certainly the nerdiest of us – have heard numerous times.  Peter Parker gets bitten by a spider that’s been tested on somehow, he gets special powers, his uncle gets killed in some way that is arguably Peter’s fault, and he becomes Spider-Man.  That’s all the same.  This time the story was a little more modernized as genetic engineering is more of a today thing than radioactivity.  That was a big deal closer to the time Spider-Man was created and that’s why that was 90% of their origin stories.  They also go with a common store robbery to get things started instead of having Spider-Man be ripped off by his wresting promoter.  I have a feeling the store robbery is a more common thing there too.  The only problem with that is that I’m with Peter: I would’ve let that dude rob that douche hole of a store clerk too.  Sure, it worked out poorly for him this time, but the lesson needed to be learned.  But I’m not the kind of nerd that thinks things can’t be changed because they’re gospel, but I am still pleased that they stuck to the basics.  The Tobey McGuire movie stuck more towards the story I knew, but this movie also had the web shooters instead of Peter making webs out of his own wrists.  It was perhaps a little shaky in how they made Peter intelligent.  He was indeed smart, but he also left his camera with “Property of Peter Parker” written on the back of it for an enemy to find, so I’d say he’s not quite smart enough.  He also takes off his mask far too much for my liking.  I’ll take your word for it that it’s still Peter, but what’s the purpose of wearing a mask if you can’t go five minutes without taking it off in front of a kid or the police?  They also didn’t go for the Mary Jane character in this movie, probably because Kirsten Dunst already uglied up that role a while ago.  Gwen Stacy is an acceptable substitute.

I’d say the biggest problem I found with this movie is the dialogue.  Spider-Man had a good couple of one-liners in him that were amusing, but much of the dialogue just falls flat.  I feel like it’s most evident whenever Peter and Gwen were talking.  I understand that they’re supposed to like each other and probably be nervous with each other, but it just seemed like no one actually wrote dialogue sometimes, telling the actors to go out there and make it up as they go along, but neither one had anything to say.  The best example is the scene they show after the credits, where a hidden figure asks Connors if Peter knows about his father and Connors just says, “No.”  Good one, bro.  I did like the use of Peter’s cell phone to listen to the voicemail from Uncle Ben posthumously.  It felt like Superman listening to the message from his father, Jor-El, after his death.  Maybe it’s just because Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando were in Apocalypse Now together.

The look of the movie was also great times.  There were no parts of the movie that were horribly computer generated as in the first Spider-Man movie, so crawling up the walls looks great.  The suit looks just as good as always, and I really liked how they unveiled it slowly, piece by piece, until the full reveal after seeing Spider-Man through a first-person perspective that finally revealed it by having him land on a reflective building.  They use reflection to good effect later on too when Connors is standing by a glass door and looking at his reflection in a way that looks like he has both of his arms.  I didn’t like this door later because seeing “Curtis” in a reflection apparently makes me read “Citrus” for a while and get really confused.  There’s also a part of the movie where Spider-Man is trying to find the Lizard in the sewers and shoots webs down all the different tunnels and waits in the web until one of them vibrates to tell him something is down there.  I thought this was a really clever idea on the part of the writers, taken straight from nature.  I liked all of the action scenes in the movie too.  Spider-Man never used his webs so well in a fight in the other movies.  He balls up the lizard with them, pulls himself through the lizard’s legs, and pretty much uses his webs in every imaginable way.  It was all very exciting.

I liked all the performances in this movie, but it seems like they got some pretty solid actors to do this stuff.  I think I prefer Tobey McGuire, but Andrew Garfield did a commendable job.  He had all the wit and charm as Spider-Man, and all the nervousness and lack of confidence as Peter.  I much prefer Emma Stone to Kirsten Dunst, though.  I’ll go into it more when I get around to the first three Spider-Man movies, but Mary Jane was supposed to be a supermodel whereas Gwen Stacy was just a regular girl.  I suppose they went with Emma Stone because they couldn’t find many actresses uglier than Dunst.  Yeah, I said it!  Maggie Gyllenhaal was probably unavailable.  Well they just got tired of looking so they hired someone good looking instead.  And she’s incredibly cute and charming in this movie.  I also liked how she used every man’s weakness against her father when she was trying to hide the fact that Peter was in her room.  Women probably already know this, but if you start talking about cramps and menstruation stuff, most men (myself included), will curl up into a ball and start humming to themselves while crying.  I really liked Denis Leary as her father too.  He was funny while still being intimidating to Peter in every way.  I think the Lizard was a great villain to go to, the other big ones already having been used in the other movies.  I was also a fan of him because my dad was a herpetologist, which makes them the best kind of people.  Rhys Ifans also does a great job at it.  One could expect that Stan Lee would also be popping in for a bit in this movie.  I say make sure you look out for his scene, because it’s phenomenal, and quite possibly the best scene he’s ever been in for one of these movies.

Though I don’t necessarily feel that Spider-Man required a reboot so soon, they did a pretty good job of it.  The story is the same one we’ve seen in the comic books for the most part, but the changes they made were welcome and added a little bit more modern feel to the Spider-Man story.  The look was great, the action was fantastic and exciting, and I liked all of the performances, some even better than the original movie (Kirsten Dunst!).  The only complaint I have about this movie is that there is a large amount of dialogue that falls flat.  Altogether, I was satisfied with the rebooted Spider-Man, and I think you will be too.  It’s worth catching in a theater, but I’m guessing it won’t blow your mind.  The Amazing Spider-Man gets “I think he’s trying to do something maybe the police can’t” out of “Your father and I were going to change the lives of billions.”

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