The Amazing Spider-Man is not a perfect movie by any means and there was one scene in particular that had me cringing (you’ll know it when you see it), but it gets more right than it gets wrong. The actions scenes are well done, the new costume is less awful than I thought, and the movie is more about Peter Parker than it is about Spider-Man. Which is exactly how it should be.
Andrew Garfield has a different take on Pete than we’ve seen in a movie thus far, but it works here. He’s not the biggest loser in the world, he’s just a little awkward. Spider-Man mouths off like Spider-Man is prone to do, but there’s no real differentiation between his Spider-Man persona and his Peter persona so he mouths off as Pete too. That was jarring at first, but in the end that was a minor complaint. His dialogue is closer to smart ass Spidey than Raimi ever pulled off, so kudos on that. Emma Stone is fantastic. Her Gwen Stacy steals almost every scene she’s in. You get why Peter is love struck immediately because you’re right there with him. I’ll stop gushing before I start sounding like Jim Carrey, but she really is great. Aunt May and Uncle Ben feel like fully realized characters as opposed to two dimensional caricatures of nice old people. In fact, all of the characters feel more fully realized this time out. Even Flash comes off as a real person, not just The Bully. The best casting choice by far is Denis Leary as Captain Stacy.
“We need someone to be a gruff father figure who does nothing but give Peter shit.”
“So we need a Denis Leary type?”
“What’s Denis Leary doing?”
Fish in a fucking barrel.
Even Rhys Ifans does fairly well with the limited role of Doc Conners. Yeah, the main villain feels pretty limited in both scope and screen time. I think a lot of people are going to complain about the Lizard and he’s certainly not a great villain. But he does the two things this movie needed from its villain, be physically threatening to Peter and don’t take up too much screen time.
I do think that his limited presence was intentional as they decided to tell a much bigger, longer origin story. Peter doesn’t get into the Spider-Man costume for a long time and Conners doesn’t play much of a role in the first act of the movie. His story is very simple and quick. He wants his arm back, he goes too far to get it back, and he lets his compulsion consume him. Superhero movies tend to be ABOUT the villain with the hero just reacting to their antics. That’s not always a problem. The Dark Knight is the second best superhero movie ever and it only works because Ledger’s Joker is so damn interesting and he gets enough screen time to capture the audience. All three of the previous Spider-Man movies fell into the villain-as-headliner trap with varying degrees of success. Peter was intentionally played as the boring, generic do-gooder hero while the first two movies gave great actors a chance to ham it up as Spidey’s most menacing villains. Hell, Alfred Molina was so good that it completely masked the rest of the second movie’s incredible mediocrity in every other facet. Then the third movie lacked that talent level in its villains and it turned into a steaming pile. The dancing didn’t help. Neither did recycling the Mary Jane gets kidnapped plot for the third movie in a row, but mostly it was that there wasn’t an actor on set capable of distracting us from Tobey McGuire and Kirstin Dunst’s wooden acting and lack of chemistry. This movie goes the other way and relies heavily on Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone to carry the movie and they do it well.
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I want Disney to get their hands on Spider-Man. I think that Marvel Studios would do the best Spider-Man movie possible. That doesn’t change the fact that this is a mostly solid flick. Thumbs up.
Side note, anyone bitching about this being “Spider-Man meets Twilight” needs to pick up a Spider-Man comic because his stories have always been soap opera marketed for teens and wrapped in spandex. Also, as a nation we need to stop singling out Twilight like it’s the only piece of crap that does good business and won’t go away. There’s a glut on the market of unstoppable crap. Transformers 4 is coming, for fuck’s sake. How is it that terribly written, poorly acted, teen angst vampire crap our go to bad movie series when three hours of obnoxious, headache inducing, Micheal Bay directed scraps of metal flying at each other won’t stop coming out every two years like clockwork?