Movie Review: “The Amazing Spider-Man”

 

Since I am leaving for my Asian adventures on Thursday, I will not be able to join Galo in the podcast later this week for The Amazing Spider-Man. I have seen the movie though, and I still wanted to let everyone know my thoughts on it.

The Amazing Spider-Man (TAS) is a reboot of the much loved Spider-Man Series (except for 3 of course) created by Sam Raimi. Andrew Garfield replaces Toby Maguire as the lovable nerd Peter Parker who gets bitten by a radioactive spider to become the titular superhero. Unlike the original, Mary Jane (played by Kirsten Dunst) has been replaced by Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as Spidey’s new love interest. With Marc Webb at the helm, did this revamp of the series soar Spider-Man to new heights, or did it leave us as grounded as the finale to Raimi’s efforts?

Let me start with saying that I am a big fan of Marc Webb. 500 Days of Summer is probably one of my favorite movies of all time, so when I heard that he was brought on board to direct, I was very interested in seeing how he would direct a superhero film. Webb’s strength from 500 was his creative use of the camera and the engaging way he created the relationship between the two main characters. In TAS, I found that he only succeeded in depicting the magical first love relationship between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker.

Before I get into the relationship I just mentioned, I would like discuss Webb’s use of 3-D and the lack of camera creativity that I expected from him. Like 99% of the movies I have seen in 3-D, TAS gives you no reason to spend the extra money to view it in an additional dimension. Many of the flying shots were  very similar to the original, so I felt a little underwhelmed when viewing them again. The first person shots, which I am assuming were specifically created for the 3-D viewers, were actually annoying to me. I didn’t feel like I was flying. Other than that, most of the camera shots were nothing different from your average blockbuster. I understand that with so much money on the line, Webb’s creativity had to be somewhat stifled by the studio, but nevertheless I was disappointed to see many of the trademark shots that I loved in 500 go missing in this film.

To call TAS strictly an action movie would be highly inaccurate. There was significantly less action than I expected for a Spider-Man film and when presented, the action scenes in this movie were not incredibly memorable or interesting. The best part for me was watching Spider-Man utilize his spidershot wristbands he built to help him fight (One of the biggest differences between TAS and the original is that Parker creates the spideyshot so he can fly around. The web slinging is not part of his actual transformation like in the original). Still, most of that had been seen before.

The strength and focus of the story that Webb creates is not between Parker and Dr. Connors, but between Parker and Gwen Stacy. Webb was brought in to direct a love story between the two characters and this is exactly where the movie shines. The chemistry between Garfield and Stone is palpable and they left me smiling in every scene they were in together. Their relationship was the film’s driving force and may be one of the few aspects of this film that trumps the original Spider-Man. This film felt more to me like a love story that just so happened to have a superhero in it where as the original was a superhero story that happened to have a love story in it.

Throughout my viewing of TAS it was hard to not compare it to its predecessor. Other than the opening scene of Peter as a child, most of the first 30 minutes was eerily similar to the original. It felt like I was re-watching the same origin story of Spider-Man (which I basically was). I couldn’t help but be a little bored. I was excited when it finally got into the story of Dr. Curt Connors (played by Rhys Ifans), a one-armed scientist interested in using genome splicing to regrow his arm. I was intrigued by the fact that he also happened to be good friends with Peter’s father before he disappeared, but the movie fails to go much further into their relationship.

As a villian, Dr. Connors was a character that I could sympathize with. On a mission to cure the ailments of those suffering from both mental and physical afflictions including his own, Dr. Connors is strong-armed (pun intended) into testing his own regenerative formula by Oscorp. Hijinks ensue and he becomes the self-healing and incredibly strong Lizard. Ifans performance wasn’t bad, but with such strong acting in this movie, his performance seemed the weakest. The Lizard was a worthy foe for Spidey, but I still found myself wishing it was the Green Goblin or Doc Ock on the screen.

Based on everything that I have written thus far, it would be fair for you to assume that I did not enjoy TAS. The truth is, however, I did enjoy it. Emma Stone absolutely kills it as Gwen Stacy and Garfield’s smart-ass version of Parker was refreshing. Add in Martin Sheen, Sally Fields, and Dennis Leary, and I believe that the caliber of acting was superior to the original. The love story might be the most enjoyable one I have seen in any recent superhero movie.

Now we come to the final question of how it measures up as a whole to the original Spider-Man. The problem for me is that I fell in love with the original Spider-Man 10 years ago and I just find myself struggling to put TAS on the same plane as it. The Amazing Spider-Man is far from a bad movie but it just had too big of shoes to fill.

Is this movie worthy of dropping $10 at the theater (NOTE: Saying $10 because no need to see it in 3-D)? Despite it’s failure to live up to the original, the love story between Parker and Stacy is enjoyable enough for me to recommend it.

See it.

P.S. Emma Stone, I have loved you since I saw you in Superbad. If you ever read this please contact me <3. [Editor’s note: This love for Emma did not affect Justin’s ability to review the film.]

So what did you think of The Amazing Spider-Man? Let me know in the comments below!

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