Scene It All Before: Spiderman 4…Wait, its not? Its a new one? They’re rebooting the series? Didn’t the last one come out 5 years ago?
It is impossible to not compare The Amazing Spider-Man to Spider-Man which has a 10 year difference in release date. It is a bit frustrating watching the entire origin story retold when most of America already knows what occurred. But here we are re hashing an old story. But to the credit of the movie’s stars, director, and creative team they are able to create an interesting and engaging story. The Amazing Spider-Man is a solid summer blockbuster that has enough energy and fun story-telling to hold you off till The Dark Knight Rises comes out
This first part will hopefully answer the question as to why this movie is coming out and it all has to do with money. Had Sony decided to do a fourth movie with the entire crew they had on, a sizable chink of the movie’s budget would have gone to the movie’s stars including 50 million to Tobey Maguire and far more creative control to director Sam Raimi after having Venom shoved down his throat despite not wanting to deal with that villain. So it was cheaper to go out and get a new younger staff of up and coming actors that are bordering on the A-list if not already there and a director who has only done one other movie and that being (500) Days of Summer.
The other factor being that Sony was about to lose the rights to the character. Back in the 90’s Marvel was hemorrhaging cash so they sold off their characters to various movie studios. Had Sony not made a new movie by this year the rights to the character would have reverted back to Marvel and they could have made their own movie. So that is why this movie had to be made.
So they went out and they got their younger cast crew. First off and this is an easy point to get past but how do Andrew Garfield, who is 28, and Emma Stone, who is 23, look like they belong in high school? But no movie high schoolers ever do. The next problem is that Garfield is a good looking guy, and doesn’t really get the same nerdy image we got from Maguire when he played the young teen. But a credit to his skill Garfield is able to get at the awkwardness that any out of touch high school student may feel, making the character believable. Emma Stone may have been the best piece about this movie, and far better portrayed than Bryce Dallas Howard throw away part in the third movie. The chemistry between the two actors, who are dating in real life now, pops on the screen and drives the story forward. I loved Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and thought he played a very strong mentoring figure, but there was no way that Sally Field was going to be better than Rosemary Harris for the role of Aunt May, Harris was perfect for that part just look at the difference.
But with a remake and re imaging of the series they have the opportunity to go in whatever direction they like, but when retelling the story that seems to be all they do, retell the story. Even if Uncle Ben is now played by President Bartlett how can anyone continue to feel for him if we know he is going to die every decade or so. Both Batman series got it right, with Tim Burton’s he didn’t feel the need to start Bruce Wayne out before he was Batman; everyone already knew he was. Christopher Nolan recreated the origin story when he rebooted the series because he took his Batman in such a different and grittier direction.
In Spider-Man we still see Peter Parker as a dweeby high school student who gains his power when he is bit by a radioactive spider and understands his responsibility after his Uncle dies. The only more depth we get is the audience watching Peter’s parents walk out on him and the burden that leaves on the boy. He even reappears in a wrestling ring and lets his Uncle’s killer get away, nothing has changed. To their credit, the creative team does a great job retelling the origin story, and connects you with who this Peter Parker is going to be. But it takes up the whole first half of the movie, and you almost wish they just could have skipped all that and gone straight to the action.
It is unfair to always comparing the two franchises, if you can judge this movie on its own merits it really is good. Garfield and Stone carry this movie and Webb writes towards that strength. It is easy to see just why Emma Stone is all over the place in Hollywood as she has become such a versatile actress. And Garfield does great with teenage angst. The on-screen chemistry bursts off the screen and you get a real sense of first love all on top of a gloomier timeline for Peter Parker. The visuals are stunning and there is a solid use of 3-D specifically in the fight sequences and inside the lab. It was also nice seeing our hero doing some live stunts instead of going straight to CGI as soon as the mask comes on. I didn’t need the first person point of view as Spider-Man flies through the streets, but I respect Webb taking a chance and going for it.
The Lizard wasn’t an especially daunting villain and his motives seemed too crazy and illogical even for a mad scientist. I really wish that the physical threat of the Lizard could have been what they made the Venom character into. Despite a darker tone, as the movie reaches its climax the characters get a little campy. That is understandable as that is always how Spider-Man was written, even though it appeared he wasn’t that way at all until the movie reached its last few fight sequences.
There is a good movie in here and walking into The Amazing Spider-Man with low expectations helped. You expect to see the same thing, and unfortunately they show you the same thing. It is very similar to hearing your friend tell you the same story again and again, but you don’t mind hearing it because it is a really good story. But in the back of your head you already know how this one is going to end. B-