Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Directed By: Marc Webb
Written By: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan.
Genre: Action / Fantasy / Thriller
Reviewed by: Mike Huntley (The Dark Knight)
In 2002, director Sam Raimi took the superhero movie genre to the next level after Fox’s 2000 smash hit X-Men by bringing everybody’s favorite neighborhood friend, Spider-Man, to the big screen. With a big cast consisting of Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Willem Dafoe, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, and J.K. Simmons, Spider-Man raked in a blockbuster success for Raimi and Sony. A sequel was an immediate yes. Two years later in the summer of 2004, Spider-Man 2 opened and at the time was considered the best of the superhero genre. That was quickly changed the following summer when acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan resurrected the long dead Batman movie franchise for Warner Bros. with Batman Begins. After having such a huge hit on their hands with Spider-Man 2, Sony thought it would be great to bring Spider-Man’s most menacing villain (aside from Green Goblin of course) Venom to the big screen. Unfortunately, director Sam Raimi hated Venom and wanted to use Vulture. After many ideas were shot around, Sony decided to use Venom for the finale of Spider-Man 3 and use Harry Osborne and Sandman as the villains. In May of 2007, Spider-Man 3 was released to theaters with mainly negative or mixed reactions.
For a few years, Sony had started developing Spider-Man 4. Sam Raimi would return to the director’s chair. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst would return. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view), Sony decided to scrap Spider-Man 4 and decided to take a que from Warner Bros. and Christopher Nolan by rebooting the franchise and make it more realistic and closer to the comics. In 2010, Andrew Garfield was officially announced as being the new Peter Parker/Spider-Man with Marc Webb helming the new Spider-Man movie franchise. Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy), Sally Field (Aunt May), Martin Sheen (Uncle Ben), Dennis Leary (Captain Stacy), and Rhys Ifans (Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard) were also cast. The reaction to a Spider-Man reboot only 5 years after the previous franchise ended got a lot of mixed buzz. Even after the teaser trailer debuted, fans didn’t know really what to think about this new Spider-Man restart. But, the first full length trailer actually had more bite to it and got fans (myself included) more pumped to see the film. Then, a second trailer came about and made people even more interested. And we also got a few clips where a lot of fans really started to get into Andrew Garfield’s performance as Peter Parker as well as his relationship with the beautiful Gwen Stacy. So, last night at midnight, I went to see The Amazing Spider-Man with some friends in a decently packed movie theater. There were lots of people wearing their Spider-Man shirts (me of course in my Batman shirt) and then theater workers were even giving away prizes that consisted of Spider-Man action figures and posters. Then, the movie came on and the theater got silent with the occasional laughing or reactions to the movie. So was The Amazing Spider-Man the kick in the pants that the Spider-Man film franchise needed after falling with no safety net back in 2007 or should the franchise have stayed dead? Well, I am happy to announce that The Amazing Spider-Man is not only amazing, but it is the Spider-Man movie that I’ve been craving to see since I was just a little kid!!!
When he was only 4 years old, Peter Parker was mysteriously dropped off at his Aunt May and Uncle Ben’s house by his parents who were in a hurry to get as far away from New York as possible after Richard Parker discovered that his office at home had been broken into. We then jump to years later where Peter is in high school. Peter is an outsider who feels like he doesn’t belong due to his parents abandoning him when he was just a child. He’s shy, very intelligent at science, and is constantly picked on by basketball jock Flash Thompson. Peter also has the hots for Gwen Stacy, but is too shy to ask her out. One day while helping Uncle Ben clean out the basement, Peter finds a bag that belonged to his father. Inside it, he finds out that his father used to work for Oscorp as a scientist and was business partners with Dr. Curt Connors. Wanting to know more about his father and why he ditched him, Peter sneaks into Oscorp posing as an intern. Coincidentally, Gwen Stacy happens to be working there under an internship. During a tour, Peter impresses Dr. Connors with his fascination for science. After the tour, Peter decides to snoop around and finds a room where Oscorp is doing research on spider DNA. One of the spiders happens to get on the back of Peter’s neck and bites him. Soon, Peter begins to realize that he was bitten by no ordinary spider as he has really quick reflexes, can walk on walls and ceilings, has a lot of strength, has a sense of danger, and has gained the knowledge to make spider webs from scratch. Having fun with his new super abilities by humiliating Flash Thompson at a game of basketball or just playing around too much, Peter breaks a promise he had made to his Uncle Ben. After a huge fight, Peter takes off to a late night convenience store to get something to drink. The cashier is being an ass to Peter because he lacks like two cents. The man standing behind peter in line reaches over the counter and grabs a bunch of money, gives Peter a soda, and runs out while the cashier runs after him and asks Peter to stop him. Peter refuses, feeling the guy had it coming. Uncle Ben left the house to find Peter and happens to bump into the man who robbed the store, causing a gun to fall out of the man’s coat. In a struggle to get the gun, the man shoots and kills Uncle Ben. In a rage, Peter decides to use his new abilities to beat up street thugs including the guy who killed Uncle Ben. Realizing that he needs a disguise, Peter begins to make a costume based on a painting he saw in an abandoned wrestling rink. Meanwhile, Peter has been working with Dr. Connors at Oscorp helping him to create a drug that will regenerate lost limbs, which Connors wants to use on himself due to only having one arm. Connors tests Peter’s formula on himself, which at first seems to work as his arm grows back. Unfortunately, the formula also mutates Connors into a giant lizard/Human hybrid monster and he begins attacking New York City. In his public life, Peter Parker begins to grow close to Gwen Stacy. Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy, however is on a man hunt for Spider-Man, which also kinda puts him and Peter in a weird place when Peter meets his new girlfriend’s father. Things take a wild turn when The Lizard discovers that Peter is Spider-Man and comes after him and Gwen, leaving nobody safe. Spider-Man must stop The Lizard to save the citizens of New York and be the hero that the city desperately needs.
I fucking loved The Amazing Spider-Man! This is the best Spider-Man movie ever made as far as I’m concerned. Going into this film, I knew I was going to love it, but it even exceeded my already positive expectations. Rebooting Spider-Man was a smart move on Sony’s part even though they are also the ones who helped kill the previous trilogy. The screenplay by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent (who wrote Spider-Man 2), and Steve Kloves was great. This film had three big things that every Spider-Man film should have a good mix of. Drama, comedy, and great action. I could really get into the characters in this film more than the two leads in Sam Raimi’s trilogy. Peter Parker in this movie is the Peter Parker I knew growing up as a Spider-Man fan. He was a teenager who while was an outcast and an orphan, was a kid who had a tough edge. This Peter Parker is a smartass and sticks up for the underdogs. There’s a scene where the school bully Flash is picking on some kid and Peter stands up for him even if it means getting a black eye and bloody nose. Peter just came across a lot stronger and more awesome in this film whereas he was just a whiny and clumsey dork in the 2002-2007 series. A lot of Peter’s issues come from the fact that his parents just up and abandoned him when he was really little. He’s a kid who has no parents and so his Aunt and Uncle become the only people in his life that he can see as parents. And then when his Uncle Ben is shot and killed, Peter feels like he has lost the only father he has ever known. It really fucks this kid up inside. It’s bad enough being ditched by your biological father, but then having the man who raised you senselessly killed is just too much. Peter’s anguish comes from a real place that we can all understand. He’s not just going through teen angst, he has great reasons for what he does.
Once Peter gets the spider abilities, it’s something that he doesn’t fully understand yet grows to love. At first like any teenager in Peter’s situation, he uses his abilities to have fun since the guy has no real friends, that is until he starts hanging out with Gwen. Oh and he doesn’t turn all emo and dance like a fucking ass either, THANK GOD! I like that they made him more of the loner unlike the Raimi films where Harry Osborne was his only friend even before becoming Spider-Man. We also see that the reason he loves science so much is because his father was a scientist and you see that they looked a lot alike. Another thing this movies does that we never got in the other films was actually seeing Peter make his Spider-Man costume. Like in Batman Begins, The Amazing Spider-Man gradually builds Peter Parker as a character before he gets his abilities and iconic costume. Instead of having webs shoot out of his wrists due to mutation, he actually builds web shooter devices that wrap around his wrists like in the comics or the animated series from the ’90s. Gwen Stacy was not only really hot, but made for a fun friend/love interest for Peter/Spider-Man. Unlike Mary Jane Watson, Gwen doesn’t come across as the damsel in distress at all. She’s just the fun girl next door that you want to sneak into her bedroom window and just hang out with. Unlike the very meh Peter/MJ relationship in the Raimi films, Peter and Gwen actually have great chemistry with each other. They make a great couple and are totally compatible. So compatible in fact that Peter actually tells her the truth that he is Spider-Man, something Maguire’s Peter couldn’t even do with MJ. And then we have Gwen’s father, Captain Stacy. He obviously is just a good man doing his job as head of the Police and at first sees Spider-Man as a masked outlaw. This is to be expected, but then when Lizard shows up, the cops actually kinda start trusting Spider-Man. The Spider-Man in this movie is awesome. He is always cracking jokes while fighting in true Spider-Man fashion and is a really fun superhero. My favorite Spider-Man moments are the one you see in the trailer with the car thief and the one where he saves C.Thomas Howell’s son from a burning van. And of course you gotta love the scenes where Spider-Man takes on The Lizard!
I really dug the portrayal of Dr. Connors and The Lizard in this film. Connors is just a man who wants to have the use of his arm back. By studying reptile genetics, he plans to use the formula on himself, thinking that the lizard’s ability to regenerate lost limbs will help him grow his arm back. But then the experiment goes horribly wrong and causes not only the re-growth of his arm, but turns Connors into a giant monsterous lizard creature that takes control of his personality and wants to turn everybody in the world into giant lizard monsters. While a lot of The Lizard is CGI, the actor playing Curt Connors actually wanted to do his own stunts and so they designed the Lizard’s face to resemble actor Rhys Ifans, which looked fucking cool! The Lizard was one kickass looking villain! I like that they took an unrealistic villain and yet made him believable. I even dug the new Spider-Man suit, which also looked pretty slick and cool.
Uncle Ben was also a pretty great character in the first act of the film. I thought he was portrayed just as good as he was in Spider-Man (2002). His purpose is to shape the man who Peter ends up becoming and is one of the sole reasons why Peter accepts responsibility for his abilities and uses them to make a positive difference. Although, I could have used the line “with great power comes great responsibility”, but what Ben says to Peter is in the same direction of that but worded differently. Aunt May was done a lot differently here than how she was portrayed in the previous trilogy. For starts, she is younger and comes across more like a mom than a grandma. I do wish that May was given more character time especially with Peter, but I guess that might happen in the sequels. And even Flash Thomspon who begins as a douchebag and typical bully has some character development. Unlike the Flash Thomspon in Spider-Man (2002) who was MJ’s boyfriend and was a douche throughout the whole first act of that film, this Flash Thompson actually feels bad for Peter after Uncle Ben is killed. Flash is even seen later in the film wearing a Spider-Man shirt. So I love that Spider-Man’s world was well developed not only with the characters that inhabit it, but how one orphaned kid can make a difference with his special gifts.
The acting was top notch. Andrew Garfield IS Peter Parker/Spider-Man. I don’t think they could have found a better suitable actor to play the most iconic teenage superhero. Garfield is perfect from his looks to his American accent and of course the strong emotion that he brings to a character like Peter. He can display anger, depression/sadness, and sarcastic humor very well. My issue with Maguire was that he came off way too dorky and whiny. Garfield has a much better grasp on the character and it helps that he is a mega Spider-Man fan. Emma Stone was fantastic as Gwen Stacy, a billion times better and way more likeable than Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane. I’ve been a fan of Stone ever since I first saw her in the 2007 comedy Superbad and have loved her in Zombieland and of course in Easy A. Emma is such a beautiful young woman and is every comic book geek’s wet dream. She’s not only hot, but is a really funny and talented actress. Plus, she also looks pretty good as a blonde, which is actually her natural hair color. I loved her in this film! Rhys Ifans was brilliant as Dr. Curt Connors and The Lizard. Ifans gives the character a really relatable and Human quality, whether he is the man or the monster. It’s nice to finally see The Lizard in a Spider-Man movie. Dennis Leary was great as Captain Stacy, playing both protective father and good cop. Martin Sheen played Uncle Ben equally as great as the late Cliff Robertson. I was unsure of the casting of Sally Field as Aunt May at first, but she was actually pretty good for a younger version of the character. I guess I’m just used to May being a very old woman and looking more like Peter’s grandmother than his aunt or mom. I do wish the character had been given more screen time though. Chris Zylka was good as Flash Thompson. Campbell Scott and Embeth Davidz were decent as Peter’s parents Richard and Mary Parker. Stan Lee’s cameo in this film has got to be his best cameo in a Marvel movie period! So hilarious! And ’80s teen star C. Thomas Howell makes a cameo as the father of a kid who Spider-Man saves. And Michael Massee who is best known as Funboy in the 1994 classic The Crow makes a very creepy cameo as a mysterious man who talks to Dr. Connors. Is he actually Norman Osborne? I guess we’ll find out in the definite sequel. I’m really curious who they get to replace J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson later down the road in a sequel. He isn’t in this film, but The Daily Bugle will probably come into play in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Personally, I’d love to see R. Lee Ermey maybe give it a shot. I heard he was considered for the role when they originally were going to use Jameson in this movie. All in all, amazing cast!
The direction by Marc Webb was absolutely amazing. Webb gets these character and understands the Spider-Man mythos very well. He may have tweaked some things to make them work for the film and not come across as a blunt copy of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man but it works and it works very well. So Webb had a huge challenge of re-inventing a character only 5 years after the previous film franchise and in my opinion he succeeded big time. When the audience cheers and claps at the end, it is usually a great sign. Now, I know there’ll be those who go see this movie and rip it apart because they were mega fans of Raimi’s trilogy. Hey, that’s fine. You can keep your Raimi Spider-Man trilogy because I have my Spider-Man right here. Although, I am a fan of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 mainly because of the characters who surround Maguire and Dunst, but The Amazing Spider-Man was the film I had been waiting for the past 11 or so years and I got it. This is the template of what a Spider-Man film should be like. Webb has saved this character for me and I hope he spins out at least two sequels and this time we get a great trilogy instead of a so-so one with a disappointing finale. I have a great feeling that Norman Orsborn/Green Goblin will probably be the villain in the sequel. Just call it a hunch. Anyways, Marc Webb is great in the director’s chair and gives the film a lot of heart and development that was much needed.
I do have two minor complaints though. The first is that we didn’t get enough Aunt May like I mentioned before. Her character could have been developed more and I could have used more scenes between Aunt May and Peter especially after the death of Uncle Ben in which they become even closer in a mother and son kinda way. The other small issue I had is that the music for the film while not bad was not all that rememberable like the great Danny Elfman score was for the previous trilogy.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man was a great new beginning for Spider-Man. I had so much fun seeing this movie last night at midnight amongst a decent crowd of Spider-Man fans that I want to see it again really soon. Oh and by the way, make sure to stay during the end credits. While The Avengers was a lot of fun back in May, I was more into The Amazing Spider-Man since I’ve been a huge fan of the character ever since I was a little boy. This film and The Dark Knight Rises will more than likely be my top favorite films of the year. Just simply amazing. So until Spider-Man swings his web into a sequel in probably 2-3 years, go see The Amazing Spider-Man! Excelsior!