Should I Watch..? 'The Amazing Spider-Man'
What's the big deal?
The Amazing Spider-Man is an action superhero film released in 2012 and is based on the Marvel character of the same name created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. The film serves as a reboot after the successful trilogy of Spider-Man films directed by Sam Raimi with Andrew Garfield taking over the role of Peter Parker from Tobey Maguire. The film depicts introverted student Parker discover his new-found abilities whilst battling a mysterious lizard creature terrorising New York. The film also stars Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen and Sally Field and was directed by Marc Webb. The film was a massive box office success with global earnings in excess of $757 million, making it one of the biggest earning films of the year. The film also received a warm reception from critics who praised Garfield's performance in the lead but had reservations about the film's narrative and the use of the Lizard as a villain.
What's it about?
High school student Peter Parker struggles daily with the abuse from bullies like Flash Thompson and his feelings for fellow student Gwen Stacy. Living with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben after his parents were killed, Peter discovers some of his father's scientific papers and learns that he used to work at Oscorp with Dr Curt Conners. Blagging his way into Oscorp, Peter is stunned by the scientific work on display with Conners' work with reptilian DNA to produce a serum to replace missing limbs. Realising that his father had the missing piece to complete the project, he doesn't notice a genetically-modified spider until it bites him on the back of the neck.
Before long, Peter begins to notice strange effects such as sticking to walls and enhanced senses and strength. Initially enjoying his new powers, Peter realises that he has a responsibility to do good after Uncle Ben is found shot dead in the street. Deciding to give Connor the missing formula, Peter fears the worst after reports come in of a giant lizard-type creature rampaging throughout the city of New York. But Peter has something else to consider - Gwen's father is Police Captain George Stacy, who considers Spider-Man to be a dangerous vigilante to be brought in at all costs.
Peter Parker / Spider-Man
Dr Curt Connors / The Lizard
Capt. George Stacy
Uncle Ben Parker
Aunt May Parker
James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent & Steve Kloves*
Release Date (UK)
3rd July, 2012
Action, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
As a fan of all three of Raimi's films (including the oft-maligned third film), I had big expectations for this one. And on a visual level at least, this is a real improvement. I especially loved the first-person perspective sequences such as the one seen in the above trailer, giving audiences a rollercoaster-style view of swinging through the streets of the Big Apple. Of course, such sequences are composed in CG but the majority of the action is done in good old-fashioned stunt work which pays off. The fight scenes are also imaginative and interesting, something which is often over-looked in films like this.
Garfield might look a little old to be in high school but he brings much more emotional depth to the role, Webb no doubt inspired by films like Batman Begins. He also delivers many of the character's trademark wisecracks and wit, something noticeably absent from Maguire's time under the mask. Stone feels a little wasted as Gwen, constantly seen in mini-skirts and knee-high boots but Ifans does well as Connors, a sympathetic villain who's sadly underwritten. But this is Garfield's film and he does enough to suggest that the role would be in safe hands going forward.
- When Peter searches for his father's name online, one of the options that appears is 'richard parker life of pi'. Not only is Richard Parker a character that appears in the book and film Life Of Pi but actor Irrfan Khan also appeared in that movie as well.
- The film omits a number of traditional elements of Spider-Man lore such as Mary-Jane Watson and the Daily Bugle, the newspaper where Parker works as a freelance photographer under the domineering J. Jonah Jameson. However, it does show Peter creating his web-shooters as opposed to being a natural reflex as shown in the earlier trilogy.
- Field later admitted that she only accepted the role as a favour to her friend and producer Laura Ziskin, who was suffering from breast cancer and who passed away a few months after filming finished. She also admitted that she couldn't develop a three dimensional character from the role, saying that "you can't put ten pounds of s*** in a five pound bag."
What's not to like?
Having read quite a bit of Ultimate Spider-Man recently, I can't help but feel that the tone needed to be lighter. The character is deeply rooted in comic book lore, much like his fellow Marvel team-mates the Fantastic Four, and therefore doesn't suit the dark introspection that is more associated with Batman. The Amazing Spider-Man should have been brighter, more colourful and much more fun than it is. As dazzling as the visuals and as great as the cast are, the film isn't what I'd call particularly entertaining. It's a long way from the joyous havoc witnessed in Spider-Man 2 which also had a much better baddie in Doc Ock as opposed to the fairly uninspired Lizard.
Speaking of the Lizard, I never bought the concept of the character who just feels completely at odds with this more serious tone brought in by Webb. The CG isn't especially great - the lack of Ifans' arm is more believable than the Lizard's entire face, which lessens the character's impact significantly. Worse, we never really understand his motives other than his inherent anger at the rest of the world, a stark contrast to the good intentions of poor Dr Connor. This points to a poor script and there are other issues I take umbrage with such as the apparently senior position of Gwen Stacy at Oscorp despite only being the same age as Parker. It also takes a long time going over the origins of Spider-Man which, lets not forget, we have already seen in a film just ten years earlier. Did we really need to go over such story details again? It makes the reboot feel unnecessary and given how much of the film is given over to the character's origins, it also underlines how underwritten the rest of the film is.
Should I watch it?
It's not a total bust but I'm afraid that The Amazing Spider-Man simply cannot live up to the promise of its title. Garfield does really well and the film will please people as a visual spectacular but the story feels underwritten and goes over material we are already familiar with. It also isn't as enjoyable as the Raimi trilogy, lacking a serious sense of fun that is inherent in the comics. Fans of the character might have their Spidey sense tingling but this left me feeling a little cold, to be honest.
Great For: Spider-Man fans, anyone who hated Spider-Man 3, arachnophiles, Andrew Garfield
Not So Great For: very young children, anyone looking for an escapist experience, scientists fed up of being portrayed as the bad guys in films
What else should I watch?
Much like DC's more successful characters Superman and Batman, it seems as though Spider-Man is one of those roles that appeals to different generations with each one having their own favourites. Maguire's debut as the wall crawler in 2002's Spider-Man was one of the film that renewed interest in comic book adaptations and possibly inspired Marvel to create their all-encompassing Cinematic Universe. But Spider-Man 2 was a revelation, a brilliant comic adventure with a fantastic baddie in Alfred Molina's Doctor Octopus and stunning sequences to everyone to savour. And while it was largely considered the death of the franchise, Spider-Man 3 still has plenty to enjoy as well such as the chillingly realised version of Sandman and the appearance of the Venom symbiote. Such a shame that they bungled the Venom character, something that Tom Hardy addresses in the stand-alone Venom released earlier this year.
However, Garfield's performance couldn't stop his tenure in the role ending in relative failure as well. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 still took a shedload of cash but was judged to be a misfire by critics with an unfocused narrative, a poor performance by Jamie Foxx as Electro and too many characters all contributing to a generally weak film. It signalled the end for Garfield as Marvel brought the character back into the fold with a tease appearance in Captain America: Civil War before Tom Holland took over and featured in the much-better Spider-Man: Homecoming which finally combined a baby-faced Parker with the right characterisation, typically brilliant effects and intelligently brought the character into the MCU. Here's hoping it lasts.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox