Well, The Amazing Spider-Man ended up being as much of a departure from the Sam Raimi Spidey trilogy as I expected. Tobey Maguire’s series was crazy and fun, almost on a cartoonish level. The Andrew Garfield entry was remarkably less comic, but full of unsuspecting levels of heart and emotion. I think both Spider-Man films have their values and work in their own ways. Frankly, I’m just happy that the new Spider-Man movie didn’t completely suck.
I wasn’t expecting The Amazing Spider-Man to take the Jaws approach to the action. Spider-Man doesn’t show up in his Spidey suit until like an hour into the movie. That’s not entirely a bad thing, as we get a hefty dose of character development and back story. Only, we already knew who Peter Parker was; from the first set of movies. And he’s not really different in this movie. He’s still awkward. He’s still a nerd. He still has a creepy, far away crush on a girl. He still looks too old to be in high school. If anything is different about Peter this time around, it’s that he’s played by an actor that’s more capable of acting like a real teenager. Don’t get me wrong, I liked what Tobey did, but Garfield had a more natural performance. Of course, the tone of the first series didn’t exactly lend itself to a real performance, to Tobey’s credit. All that said, I still think the best portrayal of a teenage superhero was in Kick-Ass. Just sayin’.
If rebooting this series lays its validation in the fact that they told the “untold story” of Peter’s parents, then it wasn’t worth rebooting. That was the worst part of the entire film. Or at least the most boring, and the least redeeming. Actually, the story of Peter’s parents didn’t do *anything* for me. It only moves the story along a little bit, by giving Peter a direct connection to the film’s villain. Ultimately the parent’s back story is best used to make Peter a broken man. But that could have been the case without actually showing his parents on screen. And that would have cut down on some of the film’s slightly too long running time, while at the same time getting the film’s main action occurring quicker in the process. Actually, now that I think about it, there really was no resolution whatsoever with the story of the elder Parkers. Probably saving it for a sequel… typical…
But obviously the parents aren’t the only validation to reboot the series. There’s also the tone of the film, which I loved. Definitely a more serious approach, but not so serious that it kills it. A lot of remakes/reboots that take the “dark” approach often implode on their own grim material, but Amazing Spider-Man was a brilliant blend of extremely dark material and lighthearted humor, none of which seemed forced. One of the best examples of this is the scene where Peter is discovering the potential of his new powers. On paper, if you told me that there would be a scene of Spider-Man doing skateboard tricks, I would cringe. But the way the scene plays out in the film was beautiful. I think a lesser director would have been tempted to blast Korn or Nickelback or something over this scene, but Marc Webb had the restraint to use a Coldplay song, which worked brilliantly, and I don’t even like Coldplay. It captured the correct levels of adolescent discovery and superhero whimsy, and this scene just plain worked for me. It surpassed the superpower discovery scenes in the Tobey version tenfold.
The cast was pretty decent this time around. As I already said, Garfield did a good job being natural and actually being a teenager, despite being 28 in real life. Emma Stone doesn’t really do much, and didn’t have much of a comedic/romantic presence in the film, for me. She wasn’t all that special, but she did what she was asked. Uncle Ben got a serious upgrade, now being played by Martin Sheen. And who knew Sally Field was still acting? (just kidding, I know she is [was?] on some recent TV show, I just never watched it) Rhys Ifans wasn’t anything special as Dr. Connors, who becomes The Lizard. Just sort of there. Could have been played by anyone. Dennis Leary was decent as the chief of police, even if he made one too many jokes about being mayor of Tokyo in that one scene.
The special effects were good, maybe not great. Or at least they weren’t really anything I hadn’t seen before. I’m being a little more cautious with my 3D viewings, and I ended up seeing this one in 2D. I could tell some of the shots were probably pretty awesome in 3D, but I’ve also heard that overall the 3D wasn’t that good. So I’m fine with only seeing it in two dimensions. Plus, a few moments (particularly the final shot of the film), looked like cheesy Home Improvement 3D episode levels of forcefully jabbing things toward the camera and saying “WHOOOOAAAAA”.
The Lizard wasn’t a great villain, in my opinion. And his head looked like a Goomba from the Super Mario Bros Movie. But he’s still better than Sandman from Spider-Man 3.
I think the ultimate compliment I can give this movie is that (aside from a few wisecracks here and there), the film was never really hokey. It did what it wanted to do, and it did it fairly well. It does have a handful of shortcomings, and there are some things I would have liked to have changed, but I’m surprised to say that I’m actually happy that they rebooted the series. I left the theater feeling like I’d just seen a decent movie. It’s no Spider-Man 2, but I might go as far as to say it’s as good (or slightly better?) than Tobey’s first Spider-Man.
7.5 out of 10