One of the only things I could think when clips and screenshots from the Spider-Man reboot began to emerge was “HALLELUJAH!”. It seemed as if they were finally gonna do it right – get a guy who actually resembles Peter Parker, include the villain which the Sam Raimi trilogy completely overlooked, do a more accurate adaptation of the comic’s continuity and, well, just refrain from having a squeaky crybaby as the protagonist in a superhero film.
Now, was HALLELUJAH the way I reacted upon finally seeing The Amazing Spider-Man in the theater? Can’t say that it was. It wasn’t great or up to par with The Avengers but it was, I think, as good as it needed to be and it succesfully out-classed the Tobey Maguire travesties and I’d say that’s satisfying enough.
Based on the Marvel Comics superhero, obviously, the film focuses on Peter Parker (played by Andrew Garfield, who is a better Spidey than Maguire in so many ways), a nerdy and socially dysfunctional highschool boy whose parents vanished under mysterious circumstances during his childhood, meaning he was raised by his uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and aunt May (Sally Field). In an attempt to discover more about his father’s story, by sneaking into a guided tour in the lab of one-armed scientist Curtis Connors (Rhys Ifans), an old colleague of his father, he is inevtiably bit by the genetically modified spider which renders him able to “do whatever a spider can”.
I don’t think I’m spoiling much, at least not for Spider-Man fans, when I bring up the murder of Uncle Ben, which is what promPts Peter to use his powers to fight crime and try to find Ben’s killer, who in this film sorta looks like Aphex Twin. He gets himself the iconic suit and attracts the attention of police captain George Stacey (Denis Leary), father of Peter’s crush Gwen (Emma Stone), who by Spidey-comic tradition, thinks Spider-Man is in fact a masked outlaw and a criminal, even though he only tries to help.
Spider-Man’s most dangerous foe in the film, though, is Lizard, a monstrosity created when Curtis Connors tries to use his genetic research to experiment on himself and re-grow his lost arms. The modified lizard DNA he uses instead transforms him into the villain every Spider-Man fan has waited to see since Raimi’s first entry. Was he worth the wait, though?
The sole aspect I missed from the previous films was J.K. Simmons‘ priceless performance as Peter’s boss J. Jonah Jameson (in fact, I don’t even think Peter works for a newspaper in this film). Even though Leary’s character kind of fills his role, not even a man as funny as Leary can top what Simmons did. But let’s talk about the characters who do show up.
Andrew Garfield and director Marc Webb (coincidence or fate?), thank you both for understanding Spider-Man. Yes, he is a nerd and an awkward one who sheds the occasional tear, but he is not on the level which Maguire and Raimi seemed to believe. Where was Spidey’s witty sarcasm in Raimi’s films? Where was Peter’s remarkable brilliance? Where was the confidence he develops when he finally becomes Spider-Man? Well, my friends, the wait is over – this is the film where all those elements went. This is where Spider-Man was done right. This is how it’s done!
Another strongpoint when it comes to character writing is the relationship between Peter and Uncle Ben. Martin Sheen plays a lovable, strict but caring father figure and unlike in the previous films, this film actually made me sad when Ben met his end, and in a Spider-Man film that’s important to get right. Gwen Stacy is likable and cute (plus unusually intelligent and useful for a female Spider-Man character) and the villain is sympathetic and a bit tragic, even though I would’ve liked to see more of a Jekyll & Hyde story, where he is only evil as Lizard but a good man when in the form of Curtis Connors. Instead, the experiment somehow makes him evil altogether. Also, do Spidey’s adversaries always have to be good guys turned evil but still capable of going back to good depending on what curses them or controls them (Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, New Goblin, Venom, Sandman – all the same) and not someone who is truly evil and dangerous? Make Baron Mordo the villain next time, or something!
The Amazing Spider-Man is fun and refreshing but let’s be honest and admit its flaws here and there. Sometimes the editing is unnecessarily quick and shoddy. They even decided to cut that first-person long shot of Spidey crawling up buildings and such, which I think is the one time the film’s 3D could’ve been at least mildly impressive. Instead it’s cut into three slightly shorter shots, which ruins it. It would’ve been a tedious sequence to sit through, sure, but I wanted to see what it looked like in 3D. It’s like they were just teasing me instead of simply scrapping the scene entirely. The rest of the film’s 3D might as well not even be there.
But let us not be harsh on this film. Let us remember Emo Peter from Spider-Man 3 and consider ourselves fortunate that we got something like this instead. A funny and well-made film, which keeps all the right elements from the source meterial whilst still making a few changes (Gwen as Spidey’s first girl and the web-shooters are exactly right, but his job at the paper and wrestling career have been cut), has good visuals, well-choreographed web-swinging scenes, a pretty soundtrack, likable characters and one of the funniest Stan Lee-cameos I’ve seen in any Marvel-film.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a nice way to reboot the franchise and I’d love to see more films to follow. Who knows? Maybe the Avengers will allow him to join eventually?