When they announced the reboot of Spider-Man, I took it upon myself to act as a spokesperson for the film and defend it to all of the critics. For the record, the critics included every person I know. I took on this role for a few reasons. Primarily, it was because I am a huge fan of Andrew Garfield, and I quite desperately wanted this movie to be a success for him. Throw Emma Stone and Marc Webb into the mix, and I was fully invested. Beyond that, I felt that the last Spider-Man franchise had finished on a terrible note and had left a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted a reboot, and I wanted it badly, because I wanted to forever forget the image of Toby Maguire dancing.
Is it too soon for a reboot? Of course. And that’s what accounts for the flaws of The Amazing Spider-Man: at several points, the plot felt too familiar. By all other accounts, I argue that it is a better film: better performances, a better script, better direction. I only wish that it had come first. There were things about the original trilogy that I didn’t even realize were poorly done until I saw what it looked like to actually get them right.
Andrew’s performance throughout the film is the perfect combination of snarky and funny and sometimes, heartbreakingly sad.Andrew Garfield gets it all right. He’s incredible as Peter Parker. In the interviews leading up to this film, he has said countless times that he worshipped and identified with Spider-Man from a young age, and in seeing this film, I believe him. He fully gets it. The best parts of the film are watching Peter get used to his new powers. Unlike the Sam Raimi films, this process is demonstrated to be as awkward as it should be – this is a teenaged kid who has no idea what to do with these sudden changes, and it takes time to navigate them. Andrew’s performance throughout the film is the perfect combination of snarky and funny and sometimes, heartbreakingly sad. The scenes that lead up to and follow the death of his Uncle Ben are poignant and moving and yes, I choked up several times in the theatre.
What really makes The Amazing Spider-Man work is his chemistry with every character in the film. The obvious example is Emma Stone – they’re so cute and charming on screen I want to punch myself in the face. I love that through all the awkwardness of, you know, getting bitten by a radioactive spider and developing strange spider superpowers, Peter still deals with the awkwardness of liking a girl, asking her out, and meeting her parents. Beyond Emma, though, he has an incredible rapport with Martin Sheen, Sally Fields, and Rhys Ifans. Particularly Martin Sheen. His performance as Uncle Ben is sadly short-lived, but it’s so damn good that you dread his death from the moment he delivers his first line.
The first half of the movie – much of which covered familiar territory – was the strongest, and somehow felt like fresh material. Watching Peter Parker slowly become Spider-Man is what makes this film worth watching. There is a scene, right after Peter has successfully asked Gwen out for the first time, where he goes to a skateboarding park and just has a blast with his new powers. Coldplay’s “Til Kingdom Come” is playing in the background, and it is perfection. Marc Webb somehow managed to make this movie a balance between an epic superhero flick, and a little indie film about a hipster’s high school experiences. As Webb said in an interview, Spider-Man is arguable one of the most cinematic superheroes: his wall-climbing and web-slinging are pretty much made for the big screen. The camera-work on those scenes is impressive and exciting, and absolutely worth seeing in 3D.
It’s in the last act that the film becomes stale. As much as I love Rhys Ifans, the Lizard as a villain does not really do it for me. To be honest, none of the Spider-Man villains ever seem to do it for me. To bring this franchise up to par with the other superhero movies out there, they are going to need to find more interesting antagonists. It’s difficult to compete with the Batman villains, which are always incredible, and more recent performances like Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in The Avengers. That being said, I do appreciate that The Amazing Spider-Man makes its villains sympathetic, including both Dr. Connors and Flash. I don’t think audiences are willing to settle for one-dimensional evil anymore.
There are some incredibly cheesy and unnecessary moments that had me rolling my eyes in the film. The first includes an awkward and horribly placed line in which Spider-Man says something like “Someone’s been a bad lizard” that made people laugh out loud in the theatre. The second is a dramatic and lengthy scene involving cranes and some brave construction workers that really didn’t need to be in the film at all. I understand that cheesiness has to be built in to a movie about a guy who swings around in blue and red spandex, but there is a time and place for it.
The film has, thank goodness, had a successful opening weekend. I hope it’s seen as enough of a success that they continue this retelling. The world needs to see more of Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker.