This week, I had a chance to watch The Amazing Spider-man starring Andrew Garfield as the new Peter Parker/Spider-man directed by Marc Webb.
I don't think I need to go into any details when it comes to the origin story of Spider-man. We've all seen it before. Heck, we saw it not so long ago with the Sam Raimi directed franchise starring Toby McGuire that ended a mere 5 years ago. I know it's been said elsewhere but it bears repeating here; this movie was made entirely too soon. This is not linked to the previous franchise in any way. This is, essentially, a reboot of the first Spider-man film that was released 10 years ago. If it seems a little odd to reboot it that quickly, that's because it is. There are reasons, though, that I'll touch on quickly.
First off, Sam Raimi apparently had a falling out with Sony Pictures (the company that owns the movie rights to Spider-man...more on that in a bit) over the direction of Spider-man 4 and who the main villain should be. Raimi wanted the Vulture as the villain with Sony wanting the Lizard instead. Already sore about having to shove Venom into Spider-man 3, which ended up being critisized for having too many villains sharing screen time, Raimi voiced his displeasure. Sony, in their infinite wisdom, decided to move on without him. Now you might be thinking that 5 years since the last Spider-man film is awfully quick to introduce new actors in the same roles that we'd all just watched and you'd be right. However, there's a rights issue at stake here. Sony owns the movie rights to Spider-man, not Marvel (the comic book company that created him), which is why you didn't and won't see Spider-man in The Avengers or Ironman or any of the Marvel shared universe films. Marvel sold the movie rights to Sony before they got into the movie making business. There is a stipulation to these movie rights, however. If the companies that own these rights do not begin production on a movie with said characters within a certain time frame, they lose the rights and they revert back to Marvel. Since Spider-man has made a truckload of money for Sony Pictures, there was no way that was ever going to happen. So we get a Spider-man reboot 5 years after Spider-man 3.
Now that the details are out of the way, on to the movie itself!
I had a hard time with this film. I found myself mostly looking for the differences in the two origin movies and not really giving myself a chance to just sit back and enjoy it. It was very hard not to notice that a lot of the changes that were made in this outing were likely made to make sure this movie kept it's distance from it's predecessor. A few examples of this are basics in the Spider-man mythos. There is no Mary Jane Watson in this film, played by Kirsten Dunst in the first franchise. There's no J. Jonah Jamison either, Peter Parker's boss at the Daily Bugle. Oh yeah, there's no Daily Bugle! In this film, we get to see Peter going to school, then Peter becoming Spider-man. No part-time photography gig for our new wall-crawler. There's no Norman Osborne, though we do get a glimpse into Oscorp and he is referenced in the film, if never shown. No Harry Osborne either. We even get to meet Peter's parents at the beginning of the movie. See what I mean? Other than Peter himself, his Uncle Ben and his Aunt Mae, everyone is either brand new or missing entirely.
His new love interest is Gwen Stacey, played by Emma Stone. One thing I will say for Garfield and Stone, they have good onscreen chemistry. In fact, I should point out that Garfield does an admirable job strapping on the web-shooters and giving us a very unassuming take on Spider-man. As the movie progresses, and especially once he's been bitten, he seems to get all caught up in what's going on and it's pretty clear things get above his head and out of his control rather quickly. Garfield portrays this flawlessly. As I said, his chemistry with Stone is great and his interactions with his Aunt and Uncle are very genuine. Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Connors/The Lizard and while his performance isn't bad, it isn't anything to write home about either. Overall, the acting and casting in this movie was fairly well done. I should also point out that, unlike the Raimi films, the action involving Spider-man is almost entirely live action and not CGI. This is great at first as Raimi over did it on the CGI effects in the first outing, making Spider-man look entirely too cartoony for my tastes. However, this mostly gets taken away since the villain in the film is all CGI. You win some, you lose some. None of these issues are my biggest gripe about this film, however.
My biggest gripe is the story itself. I just found myself not really caring one way or the other. The main plot of the film is rather boring for an action/adventure movie. They tried to make it interesting with some very vague kind of conspiracy thing involving Peter's parents, capped off by one of the worst end credits scenes in a comic book film ever. The conspiracy angle didn't really add anything to the film, though. I've since read it was put into this first film so the thread could be picked up by the sequels. Shouldn't they have found a way to make it compelling then? Shouldn't I be sitting on the edge of my seat with baited breath just waiting for The Amazing Spider-man 2: The Return of Mr. and Mrs. Parker? Because I'm not. Not even a little. No, the story just never grabbed me. That could be because of my bias at having scene the previous films. But then again, who hasn't seen the previous films?
All in all, a failed effort at rebooting a franchise. Perhaps they'll do better with the second film, already confirmed to be taking place. The 3 stars I'm going to give this film is almost entirely due to Andrew Garfield and the job he did as Parker and Spider-man.
3 out of 5 stars
The Amazing Spider-man (2012)
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on Oct 31 2012
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on Oct 31 2012