Comics Movie Reviews
The Amazing Spider-man – Great but Humourless
By Hervé St-Louis
July 5, 2012 - 09:53
Studios: Columbia Pictures, Laura Ziskin Productions, Marvel Studios
Writer(s): James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary
Directed by: Marc Webb
Produced by: Avi Arad, Laura Ziskin, Matt Tolmach
Running Time: 136 minutes
Release Date: July 3, 2012 (USA)
Rating: PG13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Distributors: Sony Pictures
When Peter Parker is bitten by a transgenic spider, he develops powers and starts using them to stop petty crimes in New York City. But his actions also help create his most dangerous nemesis, the Lizard, a man with a connection to Peter Parker’s dad.
The reboot of the Spider-man franchise by Sony Pictures was important in many ways. It was the first Spider-man movie since arch-competitor Disney bought struggling Marvel Comics and thus created a rift between the two companies for a while. Disney is trying to get the rights back but so far Sony’s contract seems rock solid unless it skips the deadline to release another film. Chances are Sony will not. This rebooted Spider-man looks at a much younger Peter Parker and replaces perennial love interest Mary Jane Watson by Spider-man’s first chronological girlfriend, Gwen Stacy.
This film was technically impressive and well done, but it did not have the downtrodden unlucky Peter Parker life aspect nailed. It was much darker than previous Spider-man films and had a vibe similar to the current Batman franchise. It’s a bit odd for Spider-man who usually lives in a bright world even if he’s the unluckiest man alive. You’ll notice that many of the scenes happened late at night and that the bright daylight scenes of Spider-man jumping on buildings and hoping on spider web vines were all at night. In contrasts scenes with Peter Parker discovering his powers were often happening during the day.
I felt that Spider-man’s spidey sense powers felt more like they explained Daredevil’s radar than the sense of urgency and danger that Peter Parker goes through when harm is near. That was odd. In this film they also switched from the natural spider webs produced by Spider-man in the 2000 franchise and went back to the comic book accurate artificial webbings. One thing that would have made the film more interesting, since they choose artificial webbings would have been to show how much they costs, as has been done so many times in comics. There are many stories where Peter Parker just cannot afford the chemicals to create the webbings or he runs out of material at the least convenient times. Predicaments like that have always humanized Spider-man and played the working man with limited budget aspect quite well. There was none of that in this film. Peter Parker had access to a lot of gadgets and never had to worry about their costs. Even his costume made of a new high tech costume seemed quite affordable as he never complained about not being able to afford such new material.
Instead the story focused on making Peter Parker, played by a very young looking Andrew Garfield a real hero with real motives and a personality. The geekyness was turned down in favour of a guy with principles grounded by his uncle and aunt. The scene where he stepped out to protect a kid being bulled was priceless as a character defining moment even if he did get beat up by Flash. The choice of Gwen Stacy played by Emma Stone was a good call, although the actress doesn’t look like a teenager anymore, unlike Garfield. There was no memorable kiss scene like the upside down kiss from the first Spider-man film that became its own meme. The cast had a much more big name roster than the previous Spider-man films. Putting Sally Field in as Aunt May ensured she would deliver the overacted drama she’s known for. I’m not sure if I’m rooting for her or not. She tends to overpower the other actors she plays with her drama queen acting style. It really was a contrasting Aunt May than Rosemary Harris’ muted and fragile aunt.
I still like the film very much but would say it shows different sensibilities than the previous ones and are less geared for the entire family. The first and the second Spider-man films drew crowds from non super hero lovers and people who would not bother with such a film because the screen romance between May Jane Watson and Spider-man was much more potable. Here, the budding romance between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy is not at the core of the film. It’s not a love story, it’s an action film.
I’m hoping that in the sequel to this new franchise, the classic Peter Parker down on his luck life will come back and perhaps some of the crazy cast members that have always made his entourage so interesting – I’m talking about James Jonah Jameson. As for the Lizard, he was scary and that grin in his face was priceless.
P.S. The Stan Lee cameo was the best I've seen in years and of course, don't leave when the credits start.
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