The Amazing Spider-Man

There’s a solid argument to be made that this is the best “Spider-Man” movie we’ve gotten yet.

I’m not sure that I’m going to be the guy to make it… but it’s immediately obvious to me that the potential is there. I can totally see it.

Spider-Man of the “Amazing” variety has a more serious tone, a great cast, and some fantastic fight scenes. It’s a first-rate summer blockbuster, a top-notch superhero movie, and well worth your ticket dollars and a trip to the theatre.

This incarnation of Spider-Man begins with Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) as a young boy being brought to stay with Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) by his parents, due to the dangerous nature of the research that his father has been doing. Their home had recently been burglarized in an attempt to steal his work, so it’s decided that Peter would be safest at his Aunt and Uncle’s. Of course, tragedy soon befalls his parents, and Peter winds up living with Ben and May permanently and being raised by them.

Flash forward to the high school years, and Peter is a super intelligent, but scrawny teenager with a great sense of right and wrong, but lacking the muscle to stand up for himself. When he discovers some of his father’s work, it leads him to Oscorp and Dr Curt Connors. Connors worked with his father trying to solve scientific issues related to cross species genetics. If humans could be given the regenerative capabilities that lizards have, for example, then amputees like Connors himself could regrow limbs.

While at Oscorp, however, Parker is bitten by a genetically modified spider. Within hours, he’s manifesting super powers akin to being a human spider. A Spider-Man.

If all of this sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is. And to me, that’s one of the major (yet few) drawbacks to “Amazing Spider-Man”. A great deal of time in the film is spent on the origin story, and since the Raimi “Spider-Man” was a mere ten years ago, the origin story doesn’t feel that original. Yes, they put their own spin on things, yes, different actors and actresses are playing the parts, but the broad strokes are still the same: Peter Parker is still an awkward teen, he gets bit by a spider and gains super powers, he spends time sneaking off to develop them, his new strength allows him to stand up to the school bully, his new confidence attracts the attractive girlfriend, Uncle Ben meets with tragic consequences, and a mad-scientist from Oscorp who’s been transformed into a monster threatens the city.

The movie is able to overcome the familiarity with the highest quality production values and a much more serious tone. This is the “darker, edgier” Spider-Man. Not that there aren’t humor beats, there are. But over the long haul, “The Amazing Spider-Man” feels far more serious than its predecessors. Peter pays a price for his choice to be Spider-Man, both emotionally and physically, and the movie seems to spend more time there than prior incarnations chose to.

But it’s also an extremely well made and well acted film. The cast is great. Garfield is an excellent new Peter Parker, and Emma Stone has never looked lovelier than she does as Gwen Stacy. Denis Leary is a nice addition as Captain Stacy, her father, and the cop in charge of all things Spider-Man. Martin Sheen is always welcome in any movie, as far as I’m concerned, and no one is better at projecting empathy than Sally Field. And Rhys Ifans generates enough audience sympathy to make for a well-rounded villain. Together they all give “The Amazing Spider-Man” a high calibre feel to its dramatic segments. This is a cast of heavy hitters, and they help lend the concept – which could be very silly when you think about it – gravitas.

They’re supported by some great, great special effects work and some incredible fight choreography. This Spider-Man features the best fight scenes the character has ever had. He twists and flips and slides and uses his webbing in imaginative ways. It’s the closest thing to how Spider-Man actually fights in the comics that the big screen has ever seen. Of course, the movie also fills its quota of web swinging sequences, and the 3D helps them shine like they never have before.

The biggest knock I had on the movie (aside from the too much “familiar ground” aspect) was the Lizard. As Curt Connors, he was fine. Ifans was great, and his desire to be made whole again was understandable. It made for a well motivated and well set-up adversary. Once he became the Lizard, however, the character design and some of the CGI work was a bit disappointing. He looked more than a little goofy to me on a couple of occasions, and lets just say that his larger “plot” (the one that took his threat to a city-wide level) was poorly conceived.

Still, I had no difficulties in overcoming that as an obstacle to enjoying the movie. It may be a story that’s been told before, but they do tell it very well. Garfield is excellent in the central role, and it will be fun to watch him put his stamp on the character as the inevitable franchise unfolds. There’s tons of action, but it’s supported well by a solid framework of well written characters and dramatic elements. Fans of the character will not be disappointed, nor will fans of movies.

A

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87 thoughts on “The Amazing Spider-Man

  1. Okay Fogs’. As promised, here is a further exposition on my thoughts on the “Raimi-ology” and relation to The Amazing Spider-Man.

    The Raimi films, having come out 10 years ago, really helped The Amazing Spider-Man in telling the “untold story” by not having to focus on the origin as much because, since it did get shown to us 10 years ago…most people know it.

    Yes, they still show some of (They have to), but there was no Wrestling Spiderman, there was no physical transformation, there was no revisiting of the hijacker getaway, there was no “girl involved” as to WHY he began wrestling/webslinging. It focused more on his origin and reason being developed through the character relations and the “untold story” was not just his parents, but also his relation with Gwen Stacy. That remained highly untold from Raimi’s films.

    The Untold Story tagline was more of a marketing use to distinguish this one from Raimi’s. I liked what they did with the origin story here, because, yes…we all know the origin story, but they told it in a way we have and haven’t seen. Webb was able to pick and choose what to include since Raimi had already done that, and it just helped to strengthen the story he wanted to tell. Didn’t have to include a bunch of frivolous plot points.

    I will have to say that the origin story from Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man are probably pretty close in time, but they focus on a couple different things through a diff lens.

    Not sure if my thoughts all make sense, but I will sum it up here:
    Webb utilized the legacy and story left by Raimi to take advantage and not insult viewers and readers’ intelligence/memory. Allowing The Amazing Spider-Man to tell its own story by hinting/reminding audiences of Spider-Man events yet introducing its own by saying “This is the Untold Story that Raimi SHOULD have told you…yes, he was close…but this is better.”

    -okay, I’m done. For now. :)

    • Ok. Well, I see what you’re saying, but I think a lot of that gets lost.

      Just the fact that it includes the same high level bullet points is going to be enough to make most audience members feel like they’ve “seen it before”.

      Sure, as you point out, they spent more time here investing in the relationship between Peter and Uncle Ben and Aunt May (although, I’d have to revisit the first Raimi… I never felt like they skipped any of that in the first go round) But overall, even though they spent less time here and more time there – I think that this one probably spent just as much time overall on the origin element as the first movie did.

      I’m not going to do a runtime breakdown or anything to support it, but…

      I hear you, it doesn’t have to spend as much time on some of the details, so it has more time to build the characters, and that does come across. I guess I would twist what you said to read “This is the differently told Story that Raimi DID tell you…yes, he was good…but this is good too.” :D

  2. Aaah I thought you were never gonna review this movie!

    Did the lizard really look goofy to you… I thought he was pretty scary, and the CGI was quite believable.

      • food for thought…it woulda been worse if the Lizard had a snout and they made him talk. worked for the cartoon but woulda been way too cheesy in the movie.

        I thought it was just fine.

      • Well I liked that you can see emotion in the Lizard’s face, whether it looks goofy or not… That’s why Spider-man (or Iron Man) gets their helmets ripped off in all their movies, I think when you see the actor’s face, that’s when you can relate to them.

  3. So I went full bore for this. Imax, 3D, the works. My determination: Meh. Parts were good, nothing was great. Nothing was really bad either, so I’d qualify that as Meh +. It was certainly a pleasant enough movie going experience (except for the rather severe headache the imax 3D caused), but it all felt rather shallow to me. As far as the cast goes, they were all pretty good, except for Garfield who I kept getting this very strong Daniel Radcliff vibe off of. It felt to me like the Harry Potter version of Spider-man for some reason. Emma Stone looked absolutely great as Gwen Stacy, but I never got a real sense of why she fell for Peter in the first place, Martin Sheen may be the exception to the “nothing great” ruling though. He was pretty awesome as Uncle Ben, although if he ever said the words “With Great Power comes great responsibility” I must of missed it. Sally Field was pretty much a wash for me. The lizard guy was pretty good, but you’re right that his fiendish plan was the weakest part of the story, and felt really out of character to me. Definitely took me out of the movie.

    I do think the CGI, especially on the web slinging and fight sequences looked flawless. Except for the lizard in a couple of spots.

    One other point which probably doesn’t trouble others as much as it does me, but I was born and raised in NYC, roamed the mean streets for all my formative years, and even once had a subterranean trip into NYC’s sewer system, and never once saw a lizard the size of a rat. As a matter of fact I never once saw a lizard of ANY size. That was another “Takes me out of the movie” moment.

    So, all in all, didn’t hate it, didn’t love it, def not an “A” grade from me, but a decent enough couple of hours spent in a cool dark room when the outside temp was well over 100 degrees.

    Grade: B-

    • Meh + LOL. I could take the “Meh” effect and lengthen it with a pitch raise at the end. :)

      Sheen never did utter the famous phrase, which was a bummer to me. Maybe Peter will twist the words in the sequel, misremembering them or something… I dont know. I was let down there, I wanted to hear it.

      LOL. What, there’s not salamander colonies in the NYC Sewers? WTH? I thought there was everything down there!

      Anyways, sorry if I got your hopes up unreasonably or anything and contributed to your disappointment glad to hear you still liked it enough at least.

      • I think one telling point to me was that I saw it in a sold out theater, full of excited people and there wasn’t one moment of spontaneous applause from the crowd.

        And dont worry about raising expectations, I’ve learned that, by my standards, you tend to grade high anyways. I tend to take your grade and drop it a full mark in my head. ;)

      • I wrote my grading system up – I’m sure you’ve seen it.

        Perils of rushing out reviews and whatnot, this one definitely should have been an A- (after revisiting my own definitions) but I’m locked in now, so… to the parapets!!

        *Fetchez La Vache!!*

      • I wrote my grading system up – I’m sure you’ve seen it.

        Perils of rushing out reviews and whatnot, this one definitely should have been an A- (after revisiting my own definitions) but I’m locked in now, so… to the parapets!!

        Fetchez La Vache!!

    • My first repeat viewing, on Blu-Ray, at home, and I came away enjoying it much more this time. Maybe it was the lessened expectations, or the ability to just focus more on the fun parts (there are plenty) but I liked it a lot this time.

      • Cool.

        I miss that.

        The ability to like… change my mind about a movie. LOL. I wish I could review a flick after I’ve seen it twice and its had six months to settle. You know? LOL

        Its not the greatest superhero movie or anything, but its solid and entertaining. It also sets up the second Spidey franchise pretty well, I think. :)

  4. So close…so close…

    I was definitely in the Raimi camp and was NOT expecting to like this and yet, I did–for the most part. In some areas it was better than the first–the origin story, Parker’s motivation and the romance–Webb wins. But the villain, scope and action sequences goes to Raimi (I also never felt like it was New York in the new one–felt very small in scale–and NYC is a huge part of the Spider-Man lore that it needs to be a character in itself.)

    This will go in the Prometheus camp of almost great…almost…

    • Yeah, it wasn’t great… but I did feel like it was really good.

      I’ll agree Raimi’s had the better villains, and better scope, but I thought the action here was way better than 1 and at least equal to 2, maybe better there, too.

      He didn’t do enough city-wide web swinging, I think that contributes to the smaller sense of scale you’re picking up on.

      All in all, I can agree with that Prometheus comment, with a few tweaks this could have been GREAT. But like Prometheus I still thought it was an excellent time at the movies, and much better than most movies that come out in a given year.

  5. I loved this version, and I just finished revisiting the Raimi trilogy backwards so I could see the origin movies back to back, and watching the same general plot points didn’t bother me a bit. I guess I’m more forgiving of remakes or I’d almost call this more of an origin remix. I liked a lot of the different roads taken in the new movie, and I was also so-so on the Lizard effects and the trail of Lizards that reminded me so much of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets “If someone were looking for something, all they would have to do is to follow the spiders, I mean follow the lizards.”

    • Cool Bubba. Glad to hear it passed the Bubba Wheat test. :D

      I can see how the origin revisit bothered people, but its difficult for me to try to weigh that in terms of what kind of grading I should have on the movie. Apparently it bothered some people a LOT. How does one account for that, when, like you, I was able to get by it…

      The Lizard was a big drawback to me… if they could have just done a little bit better on the character design and his plot… this would have been so great. So great.

      I can hear that Harry POtter callback now that you bring it up. LOL! :D

      Anyways, very glad it gets the BW stamp of approval.

      • I think part of it is that I’m much more used to it. One of my favorite stories is Alice in Wonderland and I’ve watched over a dozen different versions. I love seeing the differences and similarities. The same thing with my wife’s favorite story: Snow White. They all hit a lot of the same beats, but they’re still different stories. And when you think that superheroes are modern day myths or fairy tales, I’m glad to see them get retold in different ways.

  6. I thought this was better than Raimi’s Spiderman because it felt a lot closer to the Spiderman of the comics. The webshooters, the style of Spiderman and it was Gwen Stacy and not Mary Jane. I think the way to view it is to embrace the fact that you will be seeing the origin again but a different take on that, with different focuses.

    • I have to see Raimi’s first one again… it’s been too long for me to be able to accurately say whether this one tops that, for me. It might.

      I know that 2 is still one I like better than this, but this might be better than “Spider-Man”, I’m not sure.

      I’ll definitely say they did a good job with the web shooters. When I heard they were moving away from the organic web shooters, I thought they might be getting into trouble. Mechanical ones are much trickier to pull of in a story… but they did a good job with it. Definitely, Ben.

  7. I was extremely disappointed in this movie. Although it has me excited to see what they do next, now that they have this origin out of the way. But I really thought they didn’t try hard enough. Maybe its just me…

    • No, this has been a pretty divisive flick I think. Not as bad a Prometheus, I think most people settle in on it being OK… but there’s definitely a lot of people out there that didnt care for it Mark, you’re not alone.

      I liked it a lot, myself, but I’m definitely not in the majority on this one I dont think.

  8. On the plus side, they didn’t go for the standard damsel in distress climax. Garfield rocked it as Parker/Spidey. I dug the darker tone and Ponyboy was in it (See my latest GPS) Unfortunately there were a few bumps. What’s it going to take to just get a non-sympathetic villain who wasn’t accidently transformed into a monster. I just want an uber-evil badass from the get go! Give me Ian McShane as Kraven dammit!

    • Ohhhhhh.

      Wow.

      That concept just blew my %$#&ing mind. I’m seriously sitting here stunned. How about Malkovich as The Vulture (he was going to play the part once already) AND McShane as Kraven? Now that’s a 1, 2 punch!

      That’s a serious, serious casting suggestion man, love it. GREAT idea.

  9. I really liked the CGI effects. Pretty neat. But what disappointed me was the ‘reveal-myself-to-everyone-in-the-first-movie-itself’ attitude of the film. I mean, wtf? And the most important con of the film, just one kiss… JUST ONE KISS IN A SPIDERMAN MOVIE?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Anyways *snicker snicker*, I really did dig the web cartridges concept. It’s taken out of the comics itself. Really impressive. But they forgot to add the cartridge belt on spidey in the movie. Meh, it’s okay otherwise. It’s a B+ for me.

    • Yeah, lol, that IS pretty much true… This version of Peter Parker didn’t seem to care if anyone knew what was up. He practically pulled an Iron Man and announced it.

      You’re right about the kiss, too. Frankly, that’s the most iconic scene in the first Raimi movie, no doubt. Probably the most memorable moment of the whole first trilogy!

      Maybe this new one didn’t want to mess with it, maybe they were just like, there’s no WAY we’re topping THAT!! :D

  10. Finally saw this one last night and it was awesome. Not what I expected. I was a little disappointed when I found out it was going to be a reboot of the comic but it turned out great. They modernized the story line which I thought they did a great job. It is probably the best Spider-Man. Lots of action but the 3D was ok until closer to the end when they really brought out the special effects. All in all a great flick that is equal to the Avengers. It deserves the A you gave it but I might even give it an A+.

  11. (Ok, so as always, I’m late to the game…) So, Kimber, what did you do on the 4th of July? Well, as it turns out, I went to watch a movie I thought I was going to hate, but ended up being pleasantly surprised about & ended up really liking.

    I am a total Raimi’s Spiderman fan (let’s not mention #3 though, k?)…I loved Tobey & Kirsten, loved “the kiss,” loved Franco & DeFoe & J.K. Simmons. That being said, I really dug The Amazing Spiderman. Garfield, Stone, Leary & even Ifans (although I agree The Lizard was horribly cheesy) were solid. Although I wouldn’t call their performances incredible, I also enjoyed Sheen & Fields. The cameo from C. Thomas Howell was pretty cool & I enjoyed most of the CGI & 3D (would have liked a bit more “in your face,” like The Avengers, but y’know). The movie did drag at times, but overall I had a really fun afternoon! The teaser at the end was enough to make me interested in seeing the next installment as well.

    Great review, Dan & I’m catching up on posts at FMR, so don’t be surprised by late-comer comments from me. I’ve also seen a bunch of DVDs this past week, so I’m going back to some previous reviews!

  12. I aint worried, Kim, you know I dig that when people circle back.

    This time though I have to beg YOUR patience, as I’m just getting my feet back under me after Comic-Con. This has been my first day home after the show, so things got crazy for me here.

    I liked tAS quite a bit, I really liked it. after someone called me out on my grades, I should have given this one an A- and not an A, but live and learn. I still enjoyed it a lot, and to me that’s the most important thing. Looking forward to tAS2, definitely.

    Of course, The Dark Knight Rises, first though. LOL

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