Several comments on Slashfilm’s review of The Amazing Spider-Man stated that, while Marc Webb’s Spider-Man is fine, the Sam Raimi films were infallible. One comment called Doc Ock and Spidey’s fight on an elevated train in Spider-Man 2 one of the greatest action sequences of all time. Another said that while Webb made a great movie, Raimi made two “outstanding” movies, with “outstanding” typed out in all caps.
No, no he didn’t.
I’m as big a Spider-Man fan as anyone. He’s bar-none my favorite superhero, my favorite fictional character, and probably the reason I have loved comics for as long as I have. I really like the first two Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, but they certainly have their flaws. They are loaded with clunky dialogue, stupid villains (Willem Dafoe was great, but the Green Goblin was terrible), annoying performances, and fake-looking action scenes. They were far from outstanding.
Beyond that, I always had an issue with Spider-Man in those films. He never felt like a character in his own movie. I thought of him more as Peter Parker’s stuntman, a guy who shows up to do all the heavy lifting and then swings back out of the movie when the action dies down. Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker was also incredibly obnoxious, and a lot of his stuff with Kirsten Dunst as Mary-Jane Watson was borderline painful to watch. So while I can understand why some reviewers are arguing that it might be too soon to justify a retelling of Spider-Man’s cinematic saga, I for one have been dying to see a movie with my Spider-Man in it.
Well, Marc Webb has made that movie. Or at least the closest approximation of that movie that we’re going to get outside of Marvel Studios taking back the cinematic reigns to the character and making an Ultimate Spider-Man flick. It’s not a perfect movie. I doubt we’ll ever see a perfect superhero movie. The Avengers probably comes the closest, but The Amazing Spider-Man is 75 percent there.
In this movie, Peter Parker is a skater kid who sticks to himself, likes taking photos, and has a definite aptitude for gadgetry. He’s in high school throughout the film, and while he doesn’t really bother with making friends, he’s not a nerd either. In fact, he sticks up for the nerds. He’s smart, sensitive, and hip. He’s the kind of guy that I’d want to hang out with, which I never felt about Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man actually feels like more of a real character in Webb’s movie, rather than just a cardboard cutout. You can watch as Peter begins to overcome his shyness by making his nightly rounds as a wise-cracking superhero, and the funny, charismatic guy that he is underneath begins to come out.
This was a big part of how the character evolved in the comics, but we never saw it in the Raimi films. Spider-Man wasn’t even funny in those movies. He was just a bulky guy in a suit who jumped around a lot on a soundstage. Here, we got Spider-Man carrying around a backpack and a cell phone and promising his aunt he’ll pick up eggs on the way home. It’s not always easy for the audience to connect an actor to a guy who wears spandex over every inch of his body, and Webb made sure to take extra care in this film to make Spider-Man feel like an organic extension of Peter Parker.
Connecting the two characters together is Andrew Garfield, hands down the better Peter Parker and the better Spider-Man. Garfield nails the web-slinger’s voice and his mannerisms, and it never feels difficult to accept that being a hero is what Peter has decided to do with his new life. You see him make those choices on-screen, and more often than not they feel like pretty natural choices for his character to make.
The actor totally sold me on everything that was happening, and I was totally in his corner throughout the movie. It was very nice to see a Spider-Man actor who could emote without causing the audience to laugh hysterically, and it was especially refreshing to see a Spider-Man who had genuine chemistry with his love interest.
Garfield and Emma Stone are an absolute joy to watch together. Most of the movie’s best moments come from them playing off each other and falling in love with one another right before our eyes. It helps that Stone’s Gwen Stacy is also not the perpetual damsel in distress that Mary-Jane was, and is a more well-rounded character than just “the hot girl.” With the romance between Spidey and Gwen, Webb was able to catch lightning in a bottle, which is only going to make things more compelling later when Gwen meets the fate that we comic fans know must surely be awaiting her in the sequel.
To be sure, the movie is not without flaws. The Lizard is completely wasted as a character, and I’m not sure why he’s even in this movie. He’s not all that interesting or relevant, and really is only there to show up between the good scenes to do his cheesy little mad scientist thing and then provide the film with a third act. I was really expecting his presence in the film to be pretty interesting, considering his ties in the movie to Peter’s parents, but none of that was really there (although perhaps they’re saving a lot of that story for later).
The Lizard also didn’t have a wife or a kid either like he does in the comics, so he really felt like kind of a hollow character. Plus, I thought his evil plan was even dumber than Ra’s al Ghul’s plot in Batman Begins (but still slightly less dumb than Magneto’s plot to turn world leaders into mutants using magnetic waves in X-Men). I probably would’ve been fine if this movie was about Peter Parker growing up, developing powers and finding his first love, but this is a superhero movie, and they need a bad guy to sell more action figures, so we get generic-looking lizard guy shoehorned in there to threaten the city with some silly doomsday device.
(Jeff Cannata from the Totally Rad Show stated rather brilliantly in his review that it would’ve been more efficient and compelling for the showdown between Lizard and Spidey to take place underground and in back alleys, with no evidence of the brawl except for Peter’s photos, thus setting up his work at the Daily Bugle for the sequel.)
Despite all these flaws, I feel that the film is altogether a better adaptation of Spider-Man and, in my opinion, totally justified a reboot. The tone was dead-on, the visuals were stunning (especially in IMAX 3D), and the cast was terrific. The movie itself wasn’t perfect, but it’s meant to set up a trilogy, so I have a feeling that they’ll be saving the real meaty stuff for the sequel, like Batman Begins. They teased Norman Osborn quite a bit in this movie, so I’d say we have a pretty good idea of where the second film is heading. (If this was Spidey’s Batman Begins, we could guess what his The Dark Knight would be.) All in all, the film has me pretty hopeful for the cinematic future of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler.
One more thing (spoiler alert). Now that word is coming out that Sony intends to do at least a trilogy and at best a 6- or 7-movie series building up to the Sinister Six, I am pretty optimistic for the direction the sequels can take and my brain is all abuzz with who the “Man in The Shadows” was during the mid-credits bonus scene. (He didn’t look like any member of the Six that I could place, but he did disappear in a flash of lightning, which leads me to think it could be Electro, or perhaps just Mysterio being theatrical.)
Although a 7-movie series does sort of reinforce my speculation that they’re aiming for the Twilight and Harry Potter crowd, I don’t have the slightest problem with that, and in fact would encourage that direction for a film series based on the world’s premiere teenage superhero. (Plus, let’s not forget how badass the Potter movies got after they hit their stride.) I’m also excited at the notion that Spider-Man’s father not only connects to Oscorp, but to the Sinister Six in some way, and that’s how his rogues gallery will organically emerge into the story. They could even say that Venom was the roided-out test subject for an experimental super soldier serum called “Venom.” Err, wait, that’s how they made Bane in Batman and Robin. Damn.