‘The Amazing Spider-man’ is not ‘Spider-man’ it’s just Spider-man

I don’t know why anyone would read  a review for a Spider-man movie unless the first words were “Free money” or something.  You’re gonna go see it no matter what anyone says.

Alright.  Alright.  I’ll give it a try.

All signs point unsurprisingly to another hit for the Spidey franchise.

The special effects are fantastic.  It might be the best-looking movie I’ve seen this year and absolutely embarrasses the rubber-looking play-dough CGI of the Sam Raimi directed Spider-man movies.  The Amazing Spider-man has…well…amazing cinematography, POV shots of Spider-man swinging through the city, jumping off of buildings and so on.  There’s a lot of action and it’s all fun to look at.

Peter Parker demonstrates his new-found spider-skills on a subway rapscallion.

Fortunately, that’s all it takes for a hit movie these days.

However, for the more discerning viewer there’s the story…

Helmed by (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, The Amazing Spider-man is a relaunch of a movie franchise that is literally only 10 years old.  Despite that, they felt the need to “revamp” Spider-man’s origin. But don’t be fooled, it’s like 85% the same story–from the 2002 Spider-man.  2002.

Photo: Haha!
A buddy of mine posted this on his facebook page. No comment. It’s just funny.

And that’s the main problem I had with this movie.  It’s so approximate to the Sam Raimi Spider-man films that I can’t help but compare.

It’s kind of like ABC deciding they didn’t like the way Lost turned out and relaunching the show a year after it ended–with the exact same premise, most of the same characters, and many of the same events, just told a little differently (in some cases simply filmed a little differently). How could you not compare the two?

Amazing rehashes the story of pasty nerd and teenage photography enthusiast Peter Parker who is hopelessly in love with a beautiful girl.  The girl, however, is only peripherally aware of his existence.  Parker is at some point bitten by a nuclear spider whence he acquires superhuman powers and proportionate swagger, a superhuman villain emerges, and yadda, yadda, yadda.

Actor portrayal of The Real Ken Jones @ The Amazing Spider-man

To tell the truth, I was bored during the first hour or so.  In fact, I almost fell asleep, not because the movie was horrible, but because I was basically re-watching the first hour of  Spider-man from 2002…only not as good marginally different.

I think the movie would have been better served to drop the origin story altogether.  We know who Spider-man is and how he got his powers.  Why force the audience to go through all that again?  I felt like I was waiting to get to the 2nd half of the movie (the actual new movie).

By the way, most of the revamped stuff  is about Parker’s past.  It’s different I guess, but I just don’t see a net benefit from changing things up.

The film also suffers from the modern movie plague of story via stuff just happening.  Characters go from happy to sad as the plot requires, driven by nothing intrinsic.  There’s no organic development much less collateral development out of causative events.  Again, a lot of stuff just happens to move the plot.

This is not aided by the mixed bag of a cast.

Andrew Garfield (wait, who?!) is serviceable in the titular role.  However, this Peter Parker/Spider-man is inconsistent and the performance suffers for it.  (He goes from awkward introvert–with a noble heart–to valiant hero with one-liners for everyone and no fear of heights, danger, or death…almost instantly. He also seems a little dim on the concept of wearing a mask.)

Andrew Garfield not quite hip to the idea of hiding one’s identity. The key is not having the mask, it’s wearing the mask.
Emma Stone plays Spider-man’s love interest, Gwen Stacy.

We have Emma Stone playing Gwen Stacy (supplanting Mary Jane in name and hair color only).  Emma Stone is good in pretty much everything she does and this case is no exception.  Gwen Stacy is a bit too perfect, but I think that’s from the character being written a little thin. Stacy fits a little too neatly into the story.  There should be more bucking against expectations for such a head strong, independent character.

Dennis Leary is also in the film which you will forget whenever he’s not on-screen.

Flash Thompson, the school bully, is absurdly inconsistent (He hates Parker, they’re buds???) and looks like an ever-so-slightly juiced-up Calvin Klein model. Preposterous.

The Villain–in a pathetic, uninteresting moment.

The antagonist–dubbed The Lizard and portrayed by Rhys Ifans–is hot and cold.  In his monstrous form he is fairly impressive.  The Lizard rarely speaks (when he does speak it’s comical) yet his intelligence, intentions, and actions are easy to understand and follow.  It’s well-executed visual storytelling.  In human form, however, he is unoriginal and painfully dull.

Ben and May Parker are played by Martin Sheen and Sally Field in perhaps the most blatant case of lazy casting in Hollywood history.  The characters are built on the reputations of the actors and do not exist outside of the story.  They are plot devices.  It’s a waste of two very good, if rather miscast, talents.  It’s like Jack Nicholson playing a hotel doorman who tries to convince Shia Labeouf to ask the cute girl at the front desk out on a date.

Ben and May Parker

Maybe I’m just eating a bitter burger exalting 10 year-old movies and 60 year-old actors.  For younger audiences  this may all be new to them.  Old people are old people; you see one, you’ve seen them all.  That seems to be the studio’s position.

And the studio knows what they’ve got: great effects, a pretty cool-looking villain, kids in high school, cute girls, skateboarding, lots of action, and Real 3-D.   If the greatest sins The Amazing Spider-man commits are that none of the characters jump off the screen and the plot is about as predictable as a Rocky sequel, I guess there are worse transgressions.

The audience I saw it with gave The Amazing Spider-man  thunderous applause at the end credits (of course several adults in the audience had to be told by theater staff not to climb around on the rails while waiting for the movie to start, so take from it what you will).

Objectively, The Amazing Spider-man exceeds the average comic book movie.  It just has the strange misfortune of being half-a-remake of a well done movie that came out 10 years ago.

Besides, this is all an exercise in hypotheticals anyway.  Anyone reading a review of The Amazing Spider-man has either seen or will see the movie.  What I say here means nothing…kind of like the plot.

A well-coiffed Peter Parker remains defiant in his refusal to wear a mask to protect his identity.