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Film Review: 'The Amazing Spider-Man'

This article is a tribute to all the brave men and women who are their household's designated spider squisher.

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When this movie first came out, I was not interested. The studio had dumped Tobey Maguire, and I thought, why should I care about a Spider-Man movie without him? Turns out I was right. Nothing about Amazing Spider-Man lives up to the charm of the previous Spider-Man movies. The good part of the movie is the climax, but the beginning half of it is dull, taking more than 50 minutes before we even see this new Spidey shoot a web, swing from one, or wear a Spider-Man costume. They don't even say the word 'Spider-Man' until an hour and twelve minutes into the film. Even though an image like the one above is likely what got you to go to, or click on, this movie in the first place.

Plot

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Peter Parker in this version is a high school student. He lives with his uncle Ben and aunt May, as an orphan. He becomes interested in science because his father was a scientist, studying the possibilities of using cross-species DNA to enhance human life and human capabilities.

While he's trying to sneak into daddy's mad science lab, he runs into Gwen Stacy, his crush, who works as an intern there. He ends up going into the "seriously kid don't go in here" vault, which is how he gets bitten by one of their many glowing spiders.

At first, his power seems to be that his hands are sticky - selectively, and for a length of time that is not given. Sometimes things sticks to his hands, when they bother to do that effect, and sometimes they just don't. He somehow uses this to stand up to a bully. The main problem is, of course, holding onto a ball is against the rules in basketball, and it's sad that even I know that. The scene culminates with him doing a big, dramatic dunk, breaking the glass base board, which is very similarly drawn out and comically over-exaggerated, like a similar scene involving the Harlem Globetrotters in Little Nicky, but not as funny.

Obviously for the plot to escalate more, Uncle Ben has to die. Parker puts his hands into Ben's blood and does his "big no" in a moment of cheesy melodrama that doesn't' feel real for a second.

Spider finally dons his iconic costume and uses his newfound powers to fight a lizard-man who was the head of the lab where Spidey's powers came from. This man had worked with Parker's father, and he was forced to use himself as a guinea pig even though his work was still theoretical. Because you also need, cheesy, cartoonish supervillainy, the bad guys want to spread super-powered mutations to all of humanity. Which is a common thing in superhero movies and comic books - they want only the hero to be special for narrative purposes, so they make the concept of sharing the power in an egalitarian manner appear either dangerous, evil, or both.

Review

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As I was barely able to give a neutral plot summary without that devolving into a rant, you can tell how I feel about this film. Such an effort was put into marketing this one, I felt for a while that the studio was waving it in our collective face. As a result of that, and the fact that I liked Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man so much, I was not interested in this movie. Its marketing was like Christmas music to me, how by following you around everywhere, it makes you go from apathetic about the thing its pushing to actively hateful.

So I only gave this movie a chance recently, and I was not impressed even slightly. There was absolutely nothing that this movie added to the Spider-Man franchise, and it felt insulting to see a reboot just ten years after the first one came out.

The first and second halves of this movie are bad for complementary, opposite reasons. The first half is dull, introducing characters that are boring, with nobody getting a witty or unexpected line. The banter between uncle Ben and aunt May is painfully boring, or boringly painful.

There are other movies that blend action or fantasy elements with comedy much better, and this one's forced, stilted attempts at being funny in the beginning half only served to remind me of other movies that have done it better - The Mask, Little Nicky, The Nutty Professor, and so on. Even those movies weren't great, but at least you could say they were funny and their main characters were interesting. It's always a bad sign when a movie reminds you of a litany of similar, but better, movies you've seen.

Another thing that annoys me about this movie is certain actions by Parker make him less sympathetic than the original Parker was. Specifically I mean two actions. First, when he infiltrates Scary DNA Corporation, he does it by stealing a random intern's badge, and that intern is shown to have caused a lot of trouble with security because he doesn't have a badge. Not only does this scene make no sense (you expect a company with that much interest in security to not ask everyone entering for a photo ID to prove they are who they say they are?), but it psychopathically plays an innocent person's suffering for laughs. Also, in a later scene, Parker as Spider-Man boosts himself by shooting a web at a helicopter, which would undoubtedly kill the person flying it. He also has no affinity for Mexican wrestling, so the explanation that he got the idea for his mask and costume from a Mexican wrestler poster seems like a complete ass pull.

The romance between Gwen and Peter that the movie tries to get me to care about is lukewarm and not believable. It's not even clear why she invites him over for dinner, other than that the plot of the movie requires him interacting with her family and having a private romantic moment with her before rushing off to save the day. When he awkwardly tries to confess being Spider-Man to her, he says "I've been bitten..." which makes me wonder if this screenplay was lifted from an early draft of Twilight. Also, it's startlingly convenient that Gwen's dad is the head of the police, at a moment when Spider-Man needs to talk to such a person.

The villain calls Peter "all alone" to taunt him, which seems like a big slap in the face to aunt May, who is still very much alive. And I find it hard to argue that anyone who tries to help sick people regenerate cells is automatically bad. It's just that this person is a villain because they needed a villain.

Everything in this movie feels contrived. He's even saved by a steel girder ex-machina in the climax. Nothing in this movie has a reason to exist at all, other than for the sake of the movie's convenience. It feels like watching a bad magic act, where you know how all the tricks are done, and have also seen other magicians do them better.