Director Marc Webb took on a daunting task by agreeing to take the reins of a Spider-man reboot so close to the previous three highly successful films. Webb previously directed 500 Days of Summer, a romantic comedy that many liked, but I didn’t. Sony has a similar disease to many Hollywood studios; they don’t take these franchises seriously. Webb had some success with 500 Days of Summer so the studio decided to throw him a bone by allowing him to direct an action movie film with an iconic character that would definitely bring in some bucks even if the movie ends up being a disaster. Sony previously destroyed what could have been an amazing franchise with Fantastic Four by putting it in the hands of Tim Story, another director of comedy that had moderate success with a previous film.
Marvel and Disney have proven that these comic book franchises should be taken seriously and they can both tell compelling stories and be summer action tent pole films. Warner Brothers and DC have claimed to finally understand that with their success in the Batman franchise and failures with Green Lantern and Superman. So, Marc Webb does a few things right with this film and so many things wrong. The first thing that’s right about the film is the casting. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone do solid jobs of bringing their characters to life in spite of a script that needed at least one more pass. Dennis Leary also shines in what could have been a near invisible role in the film. Now with that said, Garfield and Stone do not look high school ages. They both look every bit of their mid-20’s.
The biggest mistake of the film may be out of Webb’s control, although he could have chosen not to do the film. That mistake is to waste what’s sure to be a planned trilogy with another retelling of the origin. Most of the films running time is spent retelling how Peter Parker became Spider-man. Everyone, EVERYONE, knows how Peter Parker became Spider-man by now. The writers did attempt to tell a slightly different version of the origin and they of course controversially left the organic web shooters behind in favor of the classic mechanical ones from the comics. Some of the new additions to the origin are quite dramatic but overall it just felt like a rerun. The origin story changes could have been made without retelling everything from scratch. Parker’s parents never played a role in the original franchise so this film brings them in with a little mystery to boot. The problem is that all of this mystery is just that, mystery. There’s no resolution to their story at all. It ends up being just a tease for what will surely be more installments in the new film franchise. These films each have to stand completely on their own and find interesting ways to tie together in order to be successful. The Marvel/Disney super hero films handled these connections with true finesse, although some would argue Iron Man two was a little bit of a hiccup.
The Lizard, the villain of the film has a plot that almost perfectly mirrors that of the Joker in Tim Burton’s 80’s Batman film that you might think it laughable. The ultimate solution to said problem involves Gwen Stacey knowing more than she should and the solution also being dumbly simple. A few years ago you could have just chalked this up to simple fun comic book writing but movies like The Dark Knight and Iron Man have taken the level of expectation for comic book films up several notches. At the same time though, if the action and energy of the film were solid enough these issues would not have mattered. The action just didn’t ring through as exciting as it should have been. Webb chose to utilize actual stuntmen and practical fx as much as he could and that’s a great thing except that all of the practical stuff made some poor CGI stand out too much.
Finally there are some character moments that are just insultingly bad. This paragraph gets into some mega spoilery territory so you may wanna just skip this one if you haven’t seen the film yet. At the end of the film Peter and Emma can’t be together for a reason that’s really only been said to Peter. Gwen shows up at Peter’s house crying and flush faced. He rejects her and she walks away but just before she gets off the sidewalk she turns and basically recites the reason they can’t be together to him. This knowing of her character totally crushes what started as a successfully dramatic scene. The destruction of one scene ends up being simply for the purpose of a stupid joke at the very end of the film too. Now as she leaves Aunt May appears and says to Peter “What a pretty girl. Did you ask her out?” Now if she could see that the girl was pretty surely she could see that she was crying and extremely upset. Like I said insultingly bad.
The action scenes that work, really work, and Garfield is able to become the wise cracking Spider-man from the books that many fans have been hoping for. Some of the uses of his webbing are more in line with classic Spidey moves and that’s a lot of fun too. Spider-man is one of my favorite characters in comics, always has been, but I’m not so locked to the character that I can’t except some changes for film. For example I still think Spider-man 2 is the best representation of the character on film and that version of the wall crawler is still different than the comics. I just need a great, or dare I say it, amazing Spider-man film and this one isn’t it. The script needed a second pass and the action needed a more experienced director to make them exciting. This flick isn’t all bad though. There are many great Peter Parker moments and some solid Spider-man one’s too. The Amazing Spider-man ends up just being a good not great film that I liked but didn’t love.