The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The Amazing Spider-ManI was very, very against the making of this movie from the first moments I heard about it.  I had several objections, but the largest one was that I really didn’t feel that Spider-man 3 had failed so terribly that we needed to revisit Peter Parker’s origin.  I felt that was covered perfectly in the first movie.

Sure, Gwen Stacy wasn’t there, and Mary Jane was, there were organic rather than home-made webshooters… but they weren’t… aren’t… the main focus of Peter’s origin.  The main focus is Uncle Ben, the acquisition of great power, and the consequences of a lack of great responsibility.  That’s all handled brilliantly in Raimi’s masterpiece.

So to hear that we were going to visit that again so soon, while attempting to make it more “realistic” and “grounded”… my FGWG feathers rustle.  I avoided this movie for a long time.  Almost six months exactly, apparently.  I guess that’s not really that long… but it felt like it.  If 13 year old me knew that 33 year old me was avoiding a movie about Spider-man, 13 year old me would have a cow, man.

I didn’t wait a specific planned amount of time, or anything.  Teletoon was running a Spider-man cartoon marathon yesterday, which got me thinking about this movie.  That combined with the (on average) good things I’ve heard and a post about fanboyish prejudice of entertainment at williamjepma’s blog, got me thinking about how I should give it a chance.  I love movies.  I love Spider-man.  I should love even a mediocre Spider-man movie.  So, I kept my expectations low, and gave it a shot.

I didn’t hate it.

 

That’s some glowing praise isn’t it?  I didn’t hate it.  There were things I hated about it, but on the whole The Amazing Spider-man is a nicely polished turd.  I enjoyed the effects.  I enjoyed Spider-man’s dialogue.  He felt like Spider-man.  That’s a bonus, because after the clusterfuck of Spider-man 3, it is apparently entirely possible to have a Spider-man on screen that doesn’t feel like Spider-man.  I enjoyed the action sequences (all both of them).  I enjoyed Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield.  I enjoyed Martin Sheen as Ben Parker…. and that’s about it.

The story was boring.  I found it boring for two reasons.  Mostly, because I don’t need to be told how Spider-man became Spider-man.  I don’t.  I know it.  Not only have I seen it play out in a movie and at least five cartoon series, it’s also retold in a flashback practically monthly, in almost every goddamn book Spidey has appeared in for the last 50 years.  It really, really, really shouldn’t have been retold here.  I  understand the need for a reboot.  Spider-man 3 was awful.  But this should have been a soft reboot like The Incredible Hulk.  Roll opening credits with some reshot sequences that mirror the original saying “Yeah… that other movie didn’t really happen like that.  Here’s where we stand now.”

Secondly, The Lizard is a terrible villain.  The only compelling thing about the Lizard as a villain is that Curt Connors is a very close friend and mentor to Peter Parker.  That’s it.  This movie completely removes that connection.  He’s an old family friend who used to work with Peter’s father.  Parker and Connors don’t grow close working together in this movie.  They barely exchange any lines with one another.  Gwen Stacy has a deeper connection to Connors in this movie.  Add to that problem the fact that here, the Lizard comes off looking and feeling more like the Scorpion.  Going with a more humanoid head was a really poor choice in my opinion.

The Lizard

Okay… with his mouth open, he’s more like the Scorpion with Venom’s mouth.

 

Here’s the thing… I can forgive a boring story, given enough action.  I need real action sequences.  This movie has two.  There’s the bridge scene, and the school.  The sewers barely register.  Oscorp is more about tension than action, and pretty poorly done in that regard, I thought, without getting all spoilery.  I don’t need every superhero to have a deep meaningful connection with the villain he’s facing.  In fact that’s one of the flaws of Spider-man 3.  But I do need a helluva lot of action.  Not training montage action either.  Throughout the warehouse training scene all I could think about was Kevin Bacon’s angry dance in Footloose.  Unless John Lithgow is playing the Vulture, if I’m watching a Spider-man movie and I’m thinking about Footloose… we’ve got problems.

The  movie has a problem handling of the origin story itself.  There is no good reason, for example, to have avoided the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility.”  It’s important, goddammit.  That phrase shapes who Peter and Spider-man are… who they have to be.  Martin Sheen does an amazing job as Peter’s loving guardian.  He’s more of a focus in this movie than Aunt May, who comes off almost as an afterthought, to be honest.  He’s loving, responsible, even-handed and understanding.  Honestly, he’s one of the most accurate representations of a loving father-figure I can think of ever being put to screen.  But they never have him say the actual words that become Spider-man’s credo.  I’m not saying you have to say it in every single Spider-man movie… but if you’re telling his origin story, you’d better fucking well say it.  I don’t mind that you kinda, sorta take wrestling out of the equation.  That makes sense.  But if you’re going to have a special voicemail message that Uncle Ben left on the night he died… what do you think he should say?  If it’s not “With great power comes great responsibility,” then it had better be “Excelsior!  ‘Nuff said, true believers!”

On second thought… scratch that.

The things that worked, though, worked well.  I felt like it was well put together, directed, shot, edited, acted, etc…  The effects were done well, and at no point was I thinking, “That just looks like shit.”  Those two action scenes were fantastic.  There was a good amount of humour in the movie.  I laughed several times.  Stone and Garfield played their characters well.  Garfield did a great job as Parker in and out of the suit, even though I felt the character itself was written in such a way that he made some largely out of character decisions and actions.  But even that worked, in the end.  For example…  Peter takes of his mask, or has it taken off, repeatedly.  He doesn’t even remotely try to hide his identity.  Even though this has been driving me absolutely fucking insane ever since the train sequence in Spider-man 2, it’s still out of character for Parker, and the biggest reason I never brought myself to read Marvel’s Civil War.  

Every movie has had him losing his secret identity, though.  The interesting thing about that occurrence throughout this movie, is that they finally fucking address the issue.  This Peter Parker hasn’t discovered why his anonymity is so important… not to protect himself, but those closest to him… and doesn’t figure it out until (arguably even after) the end of the movie.  The shirking of that responsibility could definitely be a great setup for future films.

 

Spider-man

I don’t need a mask, I’m the goddamn Spider-man.

 

There’s not enough good, though, to save this movie from mediocrity.  Like I said, I didn’t hate it, and I’m extremely glad about that.  I enjoyed it much more than say, The Dark Knight Rises, but that’s not saying much, since TDKR was my biggest, most disappointing movie surprise of 2012.  I am cautiously optimistic about the future of the franchise.  If they can maintain the characters’ feel while not necessarily sticking to their past like its the bible, there could be good, even great, things in the future.

2/5

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14 comments on “The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

  1. Thanks for the shout-out! And I totally agree with your points here, however I think I liked it a little more than you. I think the re-telling of his origin was dumb and unneeded, and the Lizard looked retarded and was a mostly boring villain. Besides that though, I liked it. Garfield is great as Spider-Man, and I loved his chemistry with Gwen. But at the end, all I could think about was where they were going to go from here now that they have the apparently mandatory origin story out of the way. And that has me cautiously excited.

    • Judging from the casting news they’ve revealed lately, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to go in the direction I personally think they should (Green Goblin next, to teach Spidey a lesson about anonymity, and breaking promises.) But I’m not opposed to them holding off on the Goblin, and the lessons that come with him, until #3.

  2. Great review, Bruce. I’ve held off on viewing this one as well, for pretty much the same reasons. I’ll get around to it eventually. (And yes, 13-year-old me would be similarly flabbergasted.)

    • Thanks, Morgan. I think being the fan of Spidey (and Raimi’s first movie) that I am, I might have come off being too harsh on it. It’s worth viewing. There’s some value in it. That’s what 2/5 means for me. It will be particularly worth viewing, I think, in the months prior to the next one. Now that I’ve seen it, I could have definitely waited that long.

      I think I need to work on one of those pages that explains my ratings. I’m feeling like the average person is going to see 2/5 and think I thought it was particularly bad.

      • Probably… 2/5 does look more “bad” than “good”. But if you’re operating under the assumption that only a 1/5 isn’t worth watching, then it makes some sense.

  3. I thought this post was a great read. I have avoided this movie, too, mainly because I felt there was no need to reboot the character. Just get a new actor, like Batman or James Bond, and go from there. Anyway, your review confirms what I had assumed all long: that this movie is trash. And yeah, why does Spider-Man have such a hard time keeping his identity a secret? Superman doesn’t have that problem, and he doesn’t even wear a mask.

    • I think a lot of people shared our reasoning for holding off on this one. I really didn’t get the need of the reboot, either. Still don’t. But it is what it is, and they’ve laid groundwork here for an actually good movie in the future. Here’s hoping.

      Peter Parker being exposed is a pretty recent trend. Outside of the Goblin, and Venom, there weren’t many villains in his gallery that knew who he was. Then slightly before Civil War, and in the first couple movies, it started to seem like his mask would fly off in a stiff breeze. It drove me insane. Now, I think it was trying to set us up emotionally for the stupidity of his stance in Civil War… and they’ve just kept the trend going.

  4. No reason to exist whatsoever, but it’s still a fun, superhero flick that’s being released at a perfect time. However, I kept on being reminded of the original series every single time the film would touch on a plot-point. Too distracting for me at times, but I still had fun none the less. Solid review.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      It definitely has its moments. The more I hear from people the more I’m sure that this one would have been praised so much more as a Incredible Hulk-styled soft reboot.

      Hopefully they, whoever “they” are, have a good reason for going this route, and have learned any lessons they needed to, moving forward.

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