I know that most of this weeks’ focus is pointed directly at The Dark Knight Rises but I’d like to take another moment to look back and reflect on the Amazing Spiderman. I know we just had a conversation about Adaptation versus original, and I understand that a lot of what I’m going to say may imply that I’m contradicting that. There’s nothing wrong with making changes to a story at the benefit of a story, but there is a sake of making changes just for the making changes. I enjoyed the Amazing Spider-Man and there was a lot that was fun within the film and on screen. It was enjoyable to see a film where they didn’t make Spider-Man seem incompetent or corny, but the film failed to meet some of my expectations. The film isn’t the worst thing, and I’ve definitely seen worse comic-book related films (Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider). It’s not in that category of films but instead the problem with the Amazing Spider-Man is that it wasn’t as good as or better than any of the comic related films in recent memory. As the flagship character for Marvel I expect more.
Let me start off with what I think I enjoyed:
I enjoyed Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter Parker. I didn’t think I did at first but the performance is subtle and subdued which shows us something very different than any interpretation of the character that I’ve ever seen in a comic. He gave us something unique and stamped his own brand of Parker all over the role rather than rehash something used in the past. I thought that was great. It was a more modern take of an introvert and the nerd outcast of the school. It’s not traditional but it wasn’t bad and it was new and fresh and in hindsight you can appreciate that a lot actually. Kudos to Marc Webb and Andrew Garfield for creating and carving out their own Peter Parker to deliver to us in film. I enjoyed the duality of the spider-tendencies and humanity they added and delivered to his character. Seeing him soon after he got his powers seeming to have instincts to capture and devour a fly was a fun and humorous scene. Seeing him web a villain in a cocoon was awesome as well, and in the sewer when he created a web to track the Lizard was awesome. The money shot in that scene was him sitting down playing a cell phone game while waiting.
I loved the web shooters. Their inclusion in the film was a great sight for fans of the comic and it was one of many signs that this is not like the Spider-Man we’d seen in the past. It was a great way to showcase that underneath the mask is the mind of a border-line genius. Peter Parker is a very intelligent young man and that definitely gave the sense that there were some brains behind the Spider-Braun.
I liked Emma Stone a LOT. I felt like that she was, honestly, the highlight of the film performance wise. As an actress she’s got potential to act circles around a lot of the cast in the film and she delivered an innate, wholesome, quirky quality to the Gwen Stacy character that seemed extremely suitable for Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker that you could feel the heat searing from the screen when they shared a scene. The chemistry between those two could not be ignored and the film benefited immensely with their romance each time they locked eyes.
I enjoyed Dennis Leary and thought he was a great Captain George Stacy. He gave off all the right impressions of a police officer with firm opinions. He was a strong character and a good inspirational speaker as he assumed the responsibility of inspiring Peter to be a hero. You can actually believe him to be a leader in the way he spoke but I felt he lacked a certain level of ‘bravado’ that comes with being police captain of New York City. I am nitpicking because it wasn’t completely authentic, but I’ll admit that I found him very entertaining in the role. I enjoyed Martin Sheen and Sally Field in the roles of Aunt May and Uncle Ben, but not more than the previous incarnations of the characters. I thought they were very serviceable and believable despite the attrition to their roles over the course of young Peter’s life. They weren’t Peter’s moral compass but they were his loving aunt and uncle and I truly believed they cared for that young man in a maternal and paternal fashion. They acted just fine but part of me felt they were a little underutilized in the film. Wasting talent is a detriment to any film and part of me wished they had more participation.
I initially enjoyed Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors. I thought he was great and portrayed a scientist pretty well. He was able to emote that yearn for the restoration of his missing limb pretty well and seemed like a grounded and smart man.
Now onto the things that I didn’t like:
I felt like the film made changes just for the sake of making changes. I felt like the filmmakers wanted to be different visually and marginally in the story but didn’t improve. There’s nothing wrong with making changes but make changes that are meaningful and appreciable. I felt like the filmmakers made a checklist of things to do in order to differentiate themselves and patted themselves on the back when they reached the bottom of the list. They didn’t inject any character or personality into the changes which made the film seem tonally deaf. This film has Peter creating the web shooters. I thought that part was a great inclusion and a real treat for fans of the comic but I didn’t like how some of the elements weren’t used to their capacity. It was something of a footnote in the film and while not a major detriment I found disappointment that we didn’t see spider-man run out of web fluid in mid fight or mid-air while swinging. Just having him use web shooters for the sake of being a footnote bothered me a lot more than it probably did others but it did bother me.
I didn’t like the montage to learn to use powers. The scene where Peter goes to the warehouse and masters crawling on walls and swinging from chains is a great allusion to him crawling up buildings and swinging from webs but I was disappointed that he seemingly mastered his abilities in mere moments of screen time. If the montage scene ran for 5 minutes, with the exception of his minor troubles with swinging when being chased by police, Spider-Man got really good really fast at using his powers. Having the moments when he created the web shooters and first reacted to his powers while riding the subway was great and implied some character into the film but it wasn’t consistent and never happened again. In fact I think that may be the only scene I remember in which Peter noticeable reacted to his Spider-Sense and the seeming absence of that particular power for the duration of the film was bothersome for me.
I didn’t like the rehash of the plot from the first Spider-Man movie. A scientist is working on an experimental formula and becomes a mentor to Peter Parker. Said scientist takes experimental formula and injects himself during a moment of desperation with disastrous results and it is now up to our hero to save the day. Now, which Spider-Man film am I referring to? This is the exact same plot from the first Spider-Man film right down to the Oscorp building being the source of all this craziness. This isn’t a reboot, it’s a remake.
It bothered me that Aunt May and Uncle Ben weren’t a bigger influence on a young Peter’s life but what bothered me more was the needless death of Captain George Stacy. Now I know people will argue “Tony, you have to kill him because he dies in the comics!” Now think about any other part of this film that follows anything in the comics other than killing Uncle Ben and I guarantee you’ll come up with slim pickings. Sure, it’s almost necessary to kill George Stacy but with him being one of the strongest influences and developed character in the film it didn’t seem necessary. But then again the filmmakers did have their checklist on deck and not killing Captain Stacy was not an option, so they shoehorned it into the end of the film. Who else was killed in this movie? I saw people dangling from a bridge and saw Spider-Man save a kid from a burning car but I didn’t notice any fatalities caused by the Lizard with the exception of Captain Stacy, which was so deliberate in its intent to get an emotional response from the audience that it came off as “cheesy”. Sure, he had to die but if you’re going to change stuff how about preserving one of your strongest characters until the next movie, eh?
I hated the Lizard. I didn’t like the way he looked, I didn’t like his lack of character development, and I certainly didn’t like that he wasn’t used to his potential. Somewhere along the line of the film they developed this sub-plot that a new species of lizard was infesting the city. Somewhere along the line the sub-plot was thrown to the wayside. Now it is entirely possible that it was more of a setup for a future film and we learn what it is that’s intended by their appearance but it alluded that there would be more. I thought the Lizard was gonna have a brawl with spider-man in the sewers and his telepathic powers to speak with and control the lizards would be utilized but instead the opportunity was ignored and missed and to a larger extent I wasn’t a fan of the action in the film. I was really grateful that there was as much action as there was in the film but I didn’t like that Spider-Man got his ass handed to him at any point when confronting the Lizard. Yes, he’s a giant lizard. I get that. Yes, he’s hyper strong and fast with that tail of his. Spider-Man has spider-f’n-powers and a Spider-Sense that usually helps him hold his own against the Lizard. Instead we were provided some animalistic thing where Spider-Man mostly scuttled to escape the larger predatory threat. I understood what they did they I just didn’t find it entertaining. The most bothersome fight was the last fight in the movie and I felt it was downright stupid. The plot to turn the whole city into lizards was great, the execution and presentation was lacking and borderline camp.
I won’t retread too much on the cranes but I was let down by the audacity and blatancy of the ‘cheese’ factor in that scene.
It’s like they just wanted to be the antithesis of the Spider-Man films prior but still knock it to Raimi by using the villain he had been clamoring to use but was denied. Raimi had Mary Jane, this film has Gwen Stacy. Raimi had organic webs, this one has web-shooters. Raimi had Norman Osborn prevalent, this one just alluded to him. Raimi used the Spider-Sense, Webb had it but didn’t use it very often. Raimi pivoted on the emotional attachment that Peter made with his friends and family, this one pivoted on Peter wanting to discover details on his parents… at least for the first half of the film anyway. That got dropped too and is probably another plot setup for sequels to further explore. The list goes on and on but the fact that it was different didn’t make it good, it was just different and in my opinion it certainly wasn’t better.
Don’t just change for the sake of changing, change to appreciate the story. The difference between what this is doing versus our discussion about Miles Morales is that Miles isn’t a re-imagining of Peter he’s a completely different character that’s aiming to be as good as peter. This is just cherry picking the best qualities of Peter just to antithesize some of the Raimi ideas, and thrown together with some lackluster fight scenes and calling it a great movie. Just because this film falls in the super-hero genre I shouldn’t have to lower the bar as to what I think is a good film. The movie had some great qualities to it, and I don’t mind that they rebooted the franchise but at the end of the day I want to see a good if not great film and this, unfortunately, was simply serviceable. In my hierarchy of comic-book films this movie falls somewhere above Spider-Man 3, and below X3: X-men United.
Ryan I can go on and on about this all day but now I’d like to see what you think at this point.