Movie Review - The Amazing Spider-Man
The version of Spider-Man with Tobey Maguire was like Tim Burton's Batman in tone, whereas this version with Andrew Garfield is like Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. This is of course part of a trend. Many are trying to ape Nolan, if not in style than certainly in tone. There is even a TV series on the CW called Arrow, which basically re-booted the comic book character Green Arrow but with a bend more toward Nolan's sensibilities. Thankfully, director Marc Webb's film doesn't make his take on the web slinger too dark a ride. Yes, Spidey does cradle two mortally-wounded, bleeding bodies, but he does have numerous funny quips, so yay!
A lot of people quibble over the fact that we have another origin story so soon after the Sam Raimi origin, but I don't care about that. What matters is the character study aspects of the hero and the ingenuity of the villain to challenge the hero mentally and emotionally. Unfortunately, on both those two criteria, this movie fails.
I'll tackle the character study aspects first. The writers have certain beats in the story they have to chart. For those who don't know or don't remember how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man, we see those steps depicted, but we're teased with the potential for more and never get it. From Shakespeare to Eugene O'Neill, actors have performed things that have been done before all the time. I'm not taking away from Garfield because he's doing what Maguire did. I think Garfield is good in the role.
However, the writers introduce details about Parker's father with implications that this story could go the route of Ang Lee's Hulk with a father-versus-son showdown. Aside from one scene, Parker isn't able to address the fact that his father abandoned him. There was ripe drama there that hadn't been explored in the previous incarnations, but the writers punt the ball till presumably the sequel. Garfield is good but denying him these ripe dramatic opportunities denies him from making his version of Peter Parker stand-out.
Lastly, the ingenuity of the villain leaves much to be desired. Rhys Ifans plays Dr. Curt Connors. How Connors becomes Spider-Man's enemy and his actions following his bad guy status is pretty much the same as the first two villains in Raimi's movies. They're all scientists whose experiments back fire on themselves and turn them into monsters whose aggressions are taken out on New York City. The fact that Connors mutates into a green lizard is too close a call. His color almost makes Connors interchangeable with the Goblin.
It also doesn't speak well of the writers when the plan of their villain is more lame than the plan of a villain on a soap opera. Connors in a move that's highly un-original decides to gas the city, poisoning everyone. If I'm not mistaken, that was the same plan by the Scarecrow in Batman Begins. I feel like it was also the plan by the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman as well as in various cartoon incarnations. This year, however, on the soap opera General Hospital, a reoccurring villain named Jerry Jacks poisons the city but he doesn't use gas. He compromises the water system. Given that Connors hangs out in the sewers, this would have been a better direction for him than the hackneyed gas scenario.
Martin Sheen and Sally Field who play Peter's Uncle Ben and Aunt Mae aren't well used, but I love every scene they have either together or alone with Peter. Both Sheen and Field have such charm and gravitas that they make their brief moments enjoyable. The same goes for Emma Stone who plays Gwen Stacy. Unfortunately, her role is pointless.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 16 mins.