The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) Review (PG-13)
I can NOT be objective about this movie. I am a lifelong comic book reader and Spider-Man is one of The Big 4 superheroes (the others being Superman, Batman and the Hulk, of COURSE). This was a reboot, and I guess in order to justify that (or something), they made significant changes to the origin story…. and I just can’t accept the changes they made. Sure there were changes in the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maquire take on the character, but it was mostly with making Spider-Man’s ‘web shooters’ organic (and THAT came from Jim Cameron’s take, but I digress). I could accept that. it actually makes more sense than having a high schooler gain sooper dooper powers AND be a boy genius who just decides to make this revolutionary polymer adhesive that he can use to mimic a spider’s web. This new film asks its audience to swallow much more, but I guess I’m getting ahead of myself. I also don’t want to say the entire film is crap, though, because it’s not. I just want to remind you of what I said: I can NOT be objective about this movie.
Ahem… WARNING: SPOILERS ABOUNDING… PLEASE DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE THE FILM SPOILED. THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS HERE> YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The reboot begins with young Peter Parker being dropped off by his parents at the house of his aunt and uncle after The Parkers’ house is broken into. The parents then die under somewhat mysterious circumstances (my blood pressure is already rising at this point). The film then skips ahead to Peter’s high school years. He is mostly happy, even if he’s a little shy… A little, mind you… One day he’s snapping photos (from afar) of his dream girl Gwen Stacy and then involves himself in an unfortunate incident featuring another nerd and target of the school’s local meatheads, Flash Thompson. He gets slightly trounced for it before Gwen steps in to shame Flash.
Later, at home, while helping his uncle diagnose some problems with the utilities, Pete discovers his father’s suitcase. That soon leads him to Oscorp where his father had worked… CONVENIENTLY… where he meets Curt Conners, his father’s former colleague… CONVENIENTLY… And discovers Gwen works there, too… VERY CONVENIENTLY. He soon finds out his father was working with Conners on replicating the regenerative abilities of some reptiles, only in mammals (namely lab rats). Parker begins snooping around and VOILA! He runs into a guy that has paperwork with the same logos as the paperwork that was in his father’s briefcase. What are the odds? This leads him into a room where some kind of weird thing is going on with genetically altered spiders and you know what happens there. I have to wonder why no one else had been bitten by one of these before Peter. If you work with bugs, you’re eventually going to be bitten/stung. I also wonder why when these spiders chow that they aren’t transferring their spider powers to their prey. Or why they think making the spider that tranfers its abilities to Peter genetically engineered makes it more believable than a radioactive spider. Just askin’. Anyway… Minutes later, Peter has already developed the proportional strength, speed and agility of a spider, along with its ability to adhere to walls. And on his way home, Peter takes on some some sort of subway gang for… pulling a woman’s top off.
To be honest, going any further with the plot is unnecessary. You know Conners will become the Lizard in short order. Even if you didn’t read the comics, you probably saw a trailer with a humanoid reptile running around. I didn’t like the way it was done, having Conners doing the wrong thing (and injecting himself with what transforms him into the movie’s villain) because of pressure from his superior. In the comics, Conners was a friend of Peter Parker. In this, he’s written a little more sinister. His actions make hima little less noble here than in the comics.
You also know Gwen and Pete are going to hit get together at some point. You know Uncle Ben’s going to die, but how it transpires here is a little irritating and I’ll get into that later. There’s quite a high level of predictability here. Although the film is ‘professionally’ made for the most part, there aren’t any surprises… And I mean NONE. Not even the segment after the credits surprised me. The writers didn’t seem to want to strain themselves. As I said, the contrivances and story convenience moves the story along, but you’ll get the feeling that if you looked at the writers at any one plot point, they would be shuffling their shoes… looking up at the ceiling… not making eye contact. If I had directed this, they all would have been fired, but that’s just me. The promise made near the end is probably the most egregious. Who says things like this when they’re dying? You’ll have to see the movie to see if you agree with me or not.
Right out of the opening credits, the writers overcomplicate the origin, by making the parents of Peter Parker more important. And they go to the cliche of having his dad be a genetic researcher. They did this probably because they thought it would be more ‘logical’ than the chance occurrence of the comics. But, it’s WRONG, because by doing this and by having every character in the story being connected in some way or another (Curt Conners worked with Pete’s dad… Peter’s girlfriend not only is the police chief’s daughter, but she also works with Curt Conners at Oscorp… They also get the BLEEEAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!! added bonus of girl empowerment by making her the smartest girl in the school as well as being the hottest… The coincidences hve no bounds in this film, either. Spider-Man at one point when looking for the Lizard somehow knows he’s dwelling in the sewers, because when he’s not devising a high tech scheme to change the populace of New York into lizards, he likes to hang out where New York’s poop goes. On top of that Spider-man just creates a web at one particular intersection in the sewers and get this… He waits for the Lizard to wander by. The crazy thing? As large as New York City is… Peter picks the right tunnel. Must be the Spider Sense.
And the contrivances and convenience in the story… It’s one after another. Like Conners recording everything on video, so Spider-Man can just hear the Lizard’s plans instead of having to figure it out on his own. It’s a stupid plan, anyway. Or having the Lizard discover Spider-Man’s identity by finding Parker’s camera (on auto) with his name written on the camera. Or how about the little kid on the car hanging off the bridge? Why did C. Thomas Howell (what the hell is he doing in this?!) leave his son in the car while the Lizard is rampaging? Well, so that Spider-Man could have a cheeseball moment with a little kid. Ordinarily, Spider-Man would just grab the kid, leap to safety, etc… But, here, he has to ask to talk the kid through it. Take off his mask (because all movie kids are terrified beyond the ability to perform simple tasks in these situations) and let the kid wear the mask because making it harder to see by putting on a mask at night always makes dangerous situations safer. AND it allowed Andrew Garfield to take his mask off… Yet again. The thing that happens later with C. Thomas Howell, though… The part where he too displays uncanny intuition about where a final battle is going to occur and that Spider-Man is going to need his help… And that they’ll need cranes…. Was I the only one that was having to keep both hands over my mouth and even bite my fingers so as to not keep repeating “WTF?!” audibly (and I mean the actual words, not the acronym). I just couldn’t handle all of the interconnections and jumps in actual logic. And while I’m on it…
Is it just me, or do you, too, find it easier to accept the more fantastical elements in a story like this, more so than the ‘moments of realism’ that aren’t done realistically. For instance, I have no problem that Superman can fly. Under his own power. And shoot lasers from his eyes. And lift buildings. And have bullets bounce off. But when he puts on a pair of glasses, his REPORTER girlfriend doesn’t recognize him? She’s a REPORTER for God’s sake. A REPORTER. And that’s the same sort of trouble I was having with this movie. Sigh. Anyway. There are good things about this movie.
The appropriately named Marc Webb directed The Amazing Spider-Man. I did like a lot of the things he did with the film. Sam Raimi directed his trilogy with the trademark hyper-kinetic slapstick quirkiness of his horror movies and I didn’t have a problem with that per se, but the tone of this movie is more in line with a big screen film instead of resembling one of Raimi’s television endeavors Sometimes his version got a LOT too goofy, not just a little. There were some fairly well done action scenes in this version, too, especially just some of the acrobatics of the main character. This does have the same problems that Raimi had with CGI, though. There are quite a few times where both Spider-MAn and The Lizard look like video game characters and that aggravated me quite a bit. That’s just me, though.
I think the cast is closer to the comic book characters, other than maybe Sally Field (!?!) as Aunt May. Emma Stone looked far closer in both appearance and manner to my idea of the character of Gwen Stacy than Kirsten Dunst ever came to resembling Mary Jane. She looks closer to the right age than Bryce Howard, too. I think she would have been better with a quality script, though.
The character I was most disappointed with in the movie was the ‘villain’, The Lizard. Everyone who’s a comic reader knows that Dr. Curt Conners and Spider-Man were pals, Parker was even a teaching assistant to Conners at one point if I remember right. The Raimi films had established the link between the two much more diligently even without the Lizard making an appearance. Dylan Baker was a lot more likable as Conners. Rhys Ifans comes off kid of creepy no matter what he’s in. When he has a Roy Batty moment in this, it feels like it’s out of left field. Marc Webb didn’t earn that moment. I preferred Baker as Conners. And much like Raimi made a mistake in his first Spider-Man film, the director made a major error in the design of the villain. I needed the white lab coat and purple pants.Worse still, was that the Lizard didn’t look like the Lizard. It’s like the same people who f’ed up The Abomination in The Incredible Hulk worked on this.
On the other hand… Andrew Garfield makes a pretty good Peter Parker. Like Stone, he looks close enough to the part and can act ‘geeky’ enough. He pulls off playing someone who’s supposed to be at least a decade younger than he is. His Peter Parker is far more accepting of what’s happening to him (and takes to the idea of it instantaneously) than Maguire’s, but that’s the writing and the director. Garfield and Stone work well together, but that isn’t a surprise, since they’re both decent actors and Webb proved that he could already handle the young love/relationship stuff in the slightly overrated (500) Days of Summer. As I said, he did a good job with tone, the action and the cast, but I do think Sam Raimi is a better storyteller. There were times where corners seemed to be cut just to ‘get to the good parts’ and then the film dwelled upon the ‘cutesy’ moments that really didn’t add much and slowed things down. Some of them even made me cringe (like when Gwen and Peter part ways early in the film). I do think Raimi ‘got ‘ Spider-man and if the producers had not gotten too involved and let Raimi do what he wanted to do, we might even have a fourth film by the Evil Dead director instead of this… reboot.
The thing that I hated the most about this movie is as I said, the ‘mucking’ with the origin. No wrestling match, that’s fine. No short-lived entertainment career. Okay. But, making it all about the guilt instead of the responsibility involving the death of Uncle Ben… Well, it’s unacceptable. Sure, everyone knows the twist when Spider-Man catches up to the gunman, but it’s a very good reveal. And it illustrates the point of the story far better than having Spider-Man never catch up to the perpetrator. I have MANY problems with this movie, but that one alone would not allow me to give this a passing grade (I told you about the objectivity thing).
Overall, this was just a disappointment for me. I had lowered all expectations for this, and still found it lacking in excitement. It rarely was even interesting. I think the one thing that best illustrates that for me is this. When it comes to watching movies, I have a steel bladder. I never go to the restroom during movies, nor do I go to the concession stand during a movie. Only three times in the last 15 years have I had to go to the restroom while watching a movie. Two of those times I was sick. Very, VERY sick and would have caused a ‘situation’ had I not. But for probably the first time since I was like 7, I actually got up during the movie. And I’ve literally seen over a thousand movies at the theater in the last decade and a half. This is the one that so disinterested me, that I allowed myself to willingly miss a couple of minutes of the movie. So, if there’s anything to say about The Amazing Spider-Man that is truly damning, it would have to be that I relieved myself during its showing. I don’t think I could make a stronger statement about it without having walked out midway through.
Still, as I said, despite all of my… misgivings about the film, I still think that if you’re NOT a life long comic book fan, then you may like it more than I did. You may like it more, anyway. Or you’re probably one of those people at the San Diego Comic Con that will applaud ANYTHING that’s put up on a screen in front of them… But, maybe I’m not being objective.