Matt’s Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ is Far From Perfect, But Definitely Warrants Plenty of PraiseBy
I have a feeling this film will be a polarizing one — I have already come across hot and cold opinions all over the web (zing!). I was actually hot and cold on The Amazing Spider-Man throughout its duration. There were parts of sheer triumph like the exhilarating action sequences, the POV shots, the palpable chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, and even the 3D (but to be fair, I did see the film in IMAX 3D, one of the absolute best ways it was presented). But then there were scenes and pieces of the film that left me shaking my head in sheer disappointment. Despite those sour moments, and Spider-Man 3 being a mere 5 years ago, this reboot is completely justified.
The story started very slow, similar to Raimi’s Spider-Man — don’t worry, I’m not going to do a side-by-side comparison of these two first chapters. I thought this 2012 version did a great job at establishing the characters and all their relationships, especially the one between Peter and love interest Gwen Stacy. Director Marc Webb has a strong affection for building love stories and The Amazing Spider-Man was no different.
The relationship between Peter and Gwen was one of the strongest pieces of the film. There is no doubt Emma Stone is a better female lead than Kirsten Dunst. Not only that, but every scene Garfield and Stone had together was captivating. I had a desire to see the blooming relationship continue to unfold, especially in the last third of the film. There was one powerful rain soaked scene that put their relationship to the test that I absolutely loved.
While I don’t think Garfield’s version of Peter Parker fit the mold of the uber-nerd like the first trilogy and most of the comics, this character was clearly an outcast in school. He wasn’t as dorky looking or soft-spoken, but he clearly was not one of the cool kids. This alternative version of Parker may upset some of the fan base, but I think small changes like this were necessary to manufacture a fresh take. Garfield’s Parker pre-spider bite was more daring and bold, willing to stand up to the bully picking on the weaker students — I liked this Peter Parker quite a bit and a lot of that should be credited to Andrew Garfield.
Garfield also forged a strong bond with Sally Field and Martin Sheen, the pair charged with playing Uncle Ben and Aunt May. The death (Ben, spoiler alelrt!) that leads to Parker’s life-changing decision, to use his abilities for good, was powerful. It wasn’t overly emotional and didn’t leave me choked up, but Field and Garfield together created a profound sense of loss and despair — with Ben’s death, there was a chasm between them. It was nice that Marc Webb spent so much time developing his characters and not just swinging on rooftops.
In terms of the villain, The Lizard, that was one area I was mostly disappointed in. Rhys Ifans played Dr. Curt Connors, the man looking to regrow his arm but ends up turning himself into the reptilian beast. The character was so similar to both Dr. Octopus and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin it was uncanny. All change themselves into monsters with experiments, all face trials of fighting voices in their head induced by the experiment, and all have previous relationships to Peter Parker. For a franchise that is trying to seem fresh, using The Lizard was a bad choice.
It’s not that the villain didn’t work within the context of this story, but it just felt all too familiar. The parallels between this green villain and Raimi’s green villain are many — this never dissuaded me from enjoying the character during the film, this is all retrospective thinking. The imposing force of The Lizard is a more than worthy test for the nubile Spider-Man. His superior strength, menacing size, and freakishly scary look are chilling. While the CGI that manufactured the look for The Lizard wasn’t photo real, it was never distracting. I never was taken out of the moment with the thought of how fake The Lizard looked — within the context of the film, he looked awesome.
The biggest demerits came from some campy scenes and cheap plot devices to progress The Amazing Spider-Man to the finish. Anyone who has seen the film knows of one extremely stupid crane sequence that seriously cheapened the last minutes of the film. There were a handful of other examples of misguided content within I won’t reference in this review, but those moments stole from The Amazing Spider-Man being so much more. This film really had a chance to become much more than Raimi’s more playful take on the Spider-Man franchise.
Lastly, I will reference the 3D. I’ve noticed a vast improvement in this presentation recently — the last few times I’ve seen 3D flicks I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them (Brave, The Avengers). This film was shot in 3D and that really radiated in the action sequences. As often as possible, Webb and his team used practical effects, meaning a guy in a spider suit was really swinging on wires. These Spidey web-slinging moments were amongst the best ever seen on a big screen. The voyeurism Webb empowers the audience with was breathtaking. These durations of web-slinging action were worth the price of admission alone. Towards the last half of the movie the effects got more CGI heavy, but it was still a lot of fun to watch.
Overall, Marc Webb, Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield, and the rest of the talented supporting cast were a strong enough team to merit rebooting a franchise that started a mere ten years ago. As a couple, Stone and Garfield made for a strong reason other than the superhero drama to enjoy this film. The action in 3D was awesome, the web-slinging was off the charts, and the movie was entertaining start to finish.
What Should You Do? Even though most of us have seen this story many times before, The Amazing Spider-Man has more than enough new pieces and fresh idea to make it theater-dollars-worthy.