July 3, 2012 by Paul Curtin
With Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man revitalizing the superhero movie genre back in 2002, many would argue that it’s still too soon to already be rebooting the iconic webslinging franchise. Sony’s marketing has promised to tell the untold origin story in The Amazing Spider-Man, yet the real story that most people don’t already know is that Sony’s latest take on Spider-Man was made in order to keep the rights to the character from reverting to Disney/Marvel. Even with the series ending on a poor note just five years ago with the train wreck that was Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man‘s origin story swings too closely to the original and just barely does enough to justify a complete reboot so soon.
Director Marc Webb’s (500 Days of Summer) action debut and retelling of the classic comic book story almost tells the exact same origin story we’ve all already seen in 2002’s amazing big screen debut of the lovable neighborhood Spider-Man. If you’ve seen the first film, then you’ll have already been spoiled and the events of Webb’s film are all far too similar: Peter is bitten by a unique spider, given superpowers by said spider bite, loses his uncle because of his poor choices, begins fighting crime due to said loss of uncle, falls in love with Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) instead of Mary Jane this time, and ends up having to defend the city from a villain with said villain being the only big difference from Raimi’s take by switching from the Green Goblin to a giant green lizard.
Being an origin story, there’s not going to be too much in terms of what could have been done differently, and it’s hard to compare Raimi’s classic to Webb’s update. Some parts are done better, some worse, and some are about the same, if not better, but ruined because you already know what’s about to happen. Going into the film I was somewhat expecting this; however, I was still hoping for more Dark Knight and less Twilight with the film ending up being somewhat in between in order to please audiences of all ages and bring in the most profit for Sony. The film could have used more of Parker’s struggle to become a hero through trial and error as opposed to a cheesy skateboarding scene set to Coldplay and other various cheesy NBA Jam-style backboard-breaking, goalpost-bending, and crane-moving moments.
Andrew Garfield’s casting as Peter Parker before his role in The Social Network was ever seen by the public seemed like a risky move by Webb at the time with nobody even knowing who he was, but it was clearly a good choice as Garfield’s more slender and wise-cracking portrayal of Spider-Man with mechanical web-shooters is one that feels more like the real Spider-Man that fans will definitely appreciate more. Fans will also appreciate the slight update to Spider-Man’s fighting style that focuses more on spider-like maneuvers all while Parker toys with his enemies as any teenager with such power would.
Industry vets Martin Sheen and Sally Field also do a great job taking over as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and the rest of the cast (Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, and Dennis Leary) is superb. There’s not a single actor who feels out of place, and everyone nails their role and helps bring a ton of emotion to the movie to keep viewers invested when Spidey isn’t slinging through the city in stunning 3D CGI sequences. Even the Lizard looks believable, and while the action scenes are a little on the weak side and I would have appreciated more first-person shots while watching in IMAX, like the first trailer had hinted at, there are plenty of beautiful shots and memorable moments, including one of Stan Lee’s best and most hilarious cameos yet.
It’s unfortunate that Sony was scared to take the risk and bring the Spider-Man series to a darker or different place that we haven’t been to before, similar to the far better recent reboot of the now legendary Batman series from Christopher Nolan. Even with Sony being under the circumstances they were with potentially losing the franchise, it’s a shame that they decided to play it safe and promote the film as if it were something different that we hadn’t already seen before when in reality it was more of the same that sets up what could be the true untold story in the next film.
That being said, as long as Andrew Garfield doesn’t leave the franchise (hopefully Sony lawyered up and made him sign a big contract), forcing yet another reboot in the next five years, we should get a very good and much darker sequel that has the freedom to take the franchise in a new direction now that the origin story is out of the way. The Amazing Spider-Man is the film we deserved ten years ago, but not the one we really needed right now, yet it still manages to be a very satisfying summer blockbuster that will have you caught up in its slightly different tale and excited to see where it goes next as the extra scene during the credits teases. The Amazing Spider-Man gets 4 out of 5 stars (Great but not Amazing).
- Great acting from the entire cast and especially Andrew Garfield
- Tons of beautiful shots of Spider-Man swinging through the city
- Solid action sequences with an interesting new villain
- Does a great job of setting up a potentially darker sequel
- Similarities with the original cause dramatic scenes to lose their effect
- Cheesy scenes and music shouldn’t have made the final cut
- Plays it a too safe when it could have been so much darker and more serious